Having mentioned how hard it was to really see Johnny leave for his 6 months in Germany, I have had several guys share with me similar experiences. I think this is something that holds true for most of us when we hear the expression when our kids are young “Enjoy it while you can, they’re gone before you know it.” We all know there are times when we wish our kids would go- maybe for an hour, a day, or a week or two. Parenting can be testing but it is also the biggest gift/responsibility we have from God.

We know from our own behaviors how much we are influenced by our parents/parent/or other family members who have raised us. Some of those qualities are good ones and others we can spend a lifetime trying to break. Knowing this heightens our sense of responsibility in how we raise our children- the behavior we model and the way we relate as husband and wife and father/mother and son(s)/daughter(s). I realize in writing this that there are many children raised in single parent homes. This of course puts an even greater responsibility on that parent and my heart really goes out to them.

All I know today is that I really miss my son Johnny who will be arriving at Frankfurt at 5AM Saturday, then on a train to Hannover, then another train to Hildesheim. I am also grateful that Bo, our 14 year old, started Roosevelt High School and has 4 years there- the school is only few blocks from home. Quite a contrast and a gift to us.

We do know that in 4 years both boys will be in college and it will be a time when Heather and I can travel and rekindle the adventurous life that we lived prior to kids. Our favorite adventures are as a complete family so having adventures without bo_johnny_zack.jpgthem is the rekindling part. Of course we try to do that here and there, squeezing in a few days at Whidbey or home when the boys are away on short trips. Hawaii next week will be the longest trip we have taken without our boys so that will be a real gift, although if school didn’t just start I’m sure we would be taking Bo and a friend withus. The picture on the left is the boys with Zack several years ago as a contrast to the pictures of the boys below taken in the past year.

When I think about Johnny being away for 6 months, or traveling with Heather in 4 years, somehow the reality of time, or lack of tijohnny-malibu.jpgme does preoccupy me this week. Skip joined us for the appointment with Dr Barr and as I shared this with him he said ” Don’t wait, travel now, do those things you want to do now while you feel strong-you have nothing to lose.” And of course he is right- preaching to me what I have been preaching to you- live every breath/moment/day as if it were your last- Point well taken Professor/Pastor Li!

After my doctors appointments this week I would say I am more sober about the potential for beating or not beating this cancer. Even when I say beating this cancer I know it is not a cure, but rather a significant bo-malibu.jpgdeal now! extension of life here on earth- I have been thinking 25 years, but it could be 20, 15, 10, 5, 2, or 1. God only knows and we will continue to crawl through the rabbit holes, as opposed to running, within reason. If the rabbit holes get too tight or head off in directions that don’t feel right within our spirits, we will make sure we can turn around and head back to the sunshine/broken clouds/rain in Seattle. An important thing to remember is that God is good, all the time, and regardless of the physical outcome, your prayers/our prayers have been answered and are continuing to be answered in ways we will not fully understand until we view things from the other side- the heavenly realms alongside Jesus and many old friends/new friends and family.

I know for some of my friends this may seem like foolishness and maybe desperation that comes when you face death so closely. But my friends who have known me since we moved to Seattle/Starbucks in 1992/1993 or before in Sacramento, know that my faith has not wavered, but it has wobbled a bit. I have made some foolish choices I regret but I have also listened to God and had friends nearby whose counsel I sought (some gave it to me whether I wanted it or not!). With prayer and discernment the right choices were made- they were often the most difficult ones but ultimately the best ones.

Today my marriage to Heather has never been stronger and I think we would both attribute that to persevering together through difficult times. Our boys have experienced this with us and while they don’t like to talk about it, when they do it is astonishing what they have learned-not all good by the way! Johnny had to write an essay for his college admissions applications and he decided to write about my/our cancer. He talked about perseverance, attitude, hope and faith. He said that I taught him these things in how I have walked this cancer journey. He said things in his essay I thought he was clueless to. You have read in the past that given the chance to turn back a year without cancer, I would not do this. Johnny’s essay is an example of one of the reasons- the legacy I want to leave our boys, my wife, for them to know what it means to be a Valencia.

Back to faith and my friends- I think those of you who know me well enough, I tend to be very expressive and opinionated in my views. As a scientist I never, ever expected or desired to be a “Christian.” That was for losers- one look at the evangelists on TV told me that, let alone all the hypocrites I met who called themselves “Christians.” I thought I would never be one of those. I believed in the kind of God new agers like to call the “God of the Universe.” That is a very safe description of God and it’s hard to argue with. But something happened to me in Sacramento on December 20, 1992. We had been attending church to meet other “nice families” and I had this amazing out-of-body experience. I thought it was a nervous breakdown but at the same time had this intense desire to read the Bible and everything related to God I could find. One day Heather came home and was shocked to see me watching “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston as Moses. After about 3 weeks I realized I was not having a nervous breakdown but rather I was becoming one of those- a “born again Christian.” It still hurts me to think I am one of those- a total loser!

Well, flash forward 14 years and all I can say is I have never regretted becoming “one of those.” While I have a lot of issues with religion and “Christianity,” I don’t think there are many people who would oppose the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Everything he taught was about love and serving others. The only problem with his teaching is that he asks us to do one thing– and that is to “follow him.” While on the surface that may seem like an easy task, it involves something much deeper, and that is “total surrender.” Surrender takes us to a place we don’t like to go because it implies that we will relinquish control. As a type-A driven guy who feels he is pretty good at making decisions and using his God-given talents- this idea of surrender is a big loss, not a gain. But here is the amazing part: life only gets better- not easier, but better. It enables us to stare cancer right in the face and be joyful, it helps us to very practically make better decisions with people- to accept their weaknesses and celebrate their strengths. The most beautiful thing of all is that we receive this gift of eternal life from Jesus. If you accept the writings of those that lived at the time of Jesus, he died for our sins on the cross. As I face cancer and death square in the eye, I have this overwhelming sense that this is true- I can almost taste this eternal life at times, other times I am simply dancing on the edge of Heaven.

I am sorry that some of you might think I am getting “religious” on you. That is not my intent, in fact religiosity makes me sick to my stomach. I only share it because I feel especially close to Heaven this week and want you to know my thoughts- maybe they will help you, maybe not, but I would love to think of our being together for eternity. Don’t believe me, read the Bible- the New Testament- and decide for yourself. Before you read ask God to reveal the truth to you.

OK, thats enough for this blog. I have so many more thoughts, I will leave them for a future blog. Please don’t hesitate to leave your comments below- positive or negative. In the morning while we are still in bed, Heather often asks me to read the comments to her. They are always a blessing.

God is good, all the time, God is good!

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What was on my heart I wanted to share with Wes and Skip

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8 Comments so far

  1. lawerner on September 7, 2007 9:23 pm

    Reading your blog from El Salvador Don. Tonight’s was especially poignant and thought-provoking. Thanks for being willing to share with all of us. We just finished a Values- Based Planning workshop with new Agros staff and tomorrow I visit El Milagro and Nuevo Renacer. You are in my prayers, and I pray you and Heather have a blessed time in Hawaii!

    Laurie Werner

  2. Marilyn Vancil on September 7, 2007 10:33 pm

    Hi Don and Heather….I am continually blessed by your faith, hope, and perseverance! I was sick at the end of August with malaria…sick, sick…and I thought of you often Don (leftovers from our trip to Africa in May). Your good attitude in the midst of physical pain and agony was such an encouragement to me to rest in the Lord’s presence and to trust Him…in spite of the pain and the inconvenience of sickness. My admiration for you and the way you have lived the past year went way up! So, thank you for your honesty and your dogged determination to bring glory to God and live each day to the fullest. Aloha, Marilyn

  3. Randor on September 8, 2007 12:18 am

    Hi Guys! Greetings from the Johnson house! It has been a rough week following our return from Malibu. Debbie and Alise came down with
    tribble colds(Debbie pneumonia) and we have been under spiritual attacks from several sides, even so it is such an encouragement to read your blog. Debbie and I are also struggling with the leaving of Alise to Western and Jordan to Central and so we can relate to some of what you have been feeling with Johnny’s departure. Your encouragement that God is Good is just what I need to hear when it doesn’t “feel so true” right now; it helps me have the hope that someday I will look back and say that “God was in the process of doing a great thing in my life and the life of my family.” So thank you sooo much for pointing us in the right direction-to Jesus and helping us remember that God is Good All the Time!

    See you soon, Randy

  4. Mike Murray on September 8, 2007 6:53 am

    Good morning Don and Heather, I hope you are having a great day. The boys are upstairs sleeping and God only know what time they went to sleep. Deneil has been forwarding your blogs and this is the first one that I have taken time to read. Matt turned 15 today and man I am feeling ya on the boys moving on and what happens next. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience life, and feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to help raise Matt, and get to know all of the young people that have come into our lives with Matt (Bo, James, and others). Don, I am going to keep reading your blogs, and I really did benefit from reading your feelings on religion. I am 52 now and I am starting to feel some kind of a push to get closer to god myself. Have a great weekend. Mike

  5. Wes on September 8, 2007 9:25 am

    Well Don, in my opinion, this has got to be one of your best and clearest reflections since you’ve begun this blog. You have approached your current situation with decisive candor and heartfelt honesty. I know, you know that this comes from within and is an expression of His life. Your union life with Jesus is so refreshing. I was just reading about Jesus washing his disciples feet, truly an expression of knowing how to serve those whom He loved. In the same way, perhaps without your knowing it, once again Jesus is washing our feet through you in a powerful way.
    This is plain evidence of the life of surrender you’ve spoken about, and you’re right it doesn’t get easier, but it gets better. Thanks for helping Nancy and me see Jesus more clearly as you and Heather are leading the way.
    I’m excited about you and Heather, taking the opportunity now to go to Hawaii. We were there just a little over a year ago. I left those five Hawaiian shirts on your back porch, sorry it took so long to get them back. If some of these were your favorites, I didn’t want you to leave without them.
    Much love and continued prayers..
    Wes and Nancy
    I Thess. 5:16

  6. stan on September 8, 2007 10:08 pm

    Indeed, Don, thanks for your sharing today, as Wes said, the best piece yet….I echo so strongly with the “surrender” part….letting go of ourselves…for many, that’s the KEY……thanks for your unwavering faith staring down those challenges and such blessed messages from your expansive circle of brothers and sisters for so many more others to view & feel …….really, a nice book should be created out from your current phase of journey in the past year….Wow…just the thought of that brings so much excitement…..
    We will keep praying and submitting ourselves to be total vessels for our Lord…..


  7. gregu on September 9, 2007 4:15 pm

    Hi Don!
    I really, really enjoyed this blog posting. I’ve read it through a few times and it really got me thinking about my own struggles and “wobbling”. I especially find my weaknesses as I think about what I model for my kids. What an awesome and scary responsibility. We pray for you all daily and you continue to be such an encouragement to us all. My extended family in both directions (mine and Kristen’s) are really inspired by your journey. Thanks for continuing to share so openly. I’m back at the Soft after the 3 month sabbatical… Such a sweet time away.
    Love you – Greg

  8. danfiedler on October 6, 2007 2:41 am

    Hello Don, I have never personally met you, but I have heard so many wonderful things from Zack and Sarah. I have been receiving updates on your situation from them since the beginning, but I have only recently joined the blog. I decided to comment on this post to offer some insight on the other side of letting your kids go. As you probably know, I am currently studying in Finland. I’ve lived in Prosser all my life, and have always been with my parents. The longest time I’d spent away from them was when they went to Guatamala for two weeks and I lived with my aunt and uncle. Now I havn’t seen them for two months, and I know I wont see them again until next July. It is difficult to say goodbye to the ones who have always loved me and supported me and helped me stay close to God. I agree that sometimes I wished I could be somewhere else, but now I realize that there is no more loving place than with my family. You’re posts have been encouraging, and I hope to get to know you next year. Thank you.

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