A Battle To Fight

Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer.   From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy.  I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.   Psalm 61:1-4

So... it has been 10 months since my last blog entry.   I wanted to continue writing after I regained my health from cancer last year but life got so busy and I honestly wasn't sure where to go with it since it had begun as a way to document my journey with cancer.     I came to the conclusion that I would write again but only when I had the inspiration to do so.    My much unwanted current situation, some hospital room numbers, and my oldest daughter has given me that nudge.    Just a couple of days ago she texted me and said "Daddy, remember that thing u were writing when you were sick last year?   U should write in that thing again..."    Evie is actually a budding writer herself.    I asked her if she would co-write this revival of my blog & she said yes!  This first part is from me.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of bad news.    About 2 weeks ago my wife, Cherish, noticed that my youngest daughter's, Esther, left eye was crooked.  We suspected a lazy eye. Cherish reached out to her pediatrician, which led to an optician, and then a pediatric ophthalmologist, who sent her that day to Roanoke Memorial Hospital for an emergency MRI, for which Esther has to be sedated for the first time in her young life.   I went up to join Cherish & Esther expecting to bring them home the next day. The MRI detected a mass under her left eye which was pressing on her eye ball, causing the crooked eye.  Instead of going home my 6 year old daughter and Cherish were being transported by ambulance, in the middle of the night, to the UNC Children's Hospital in Chapel Hill, NC.  I followed behind in the car, getting to the hospital at 3 a.m.  Sunday afternoon Esther was sedated for a second time for a biopsy but instead the surgeon was able to remove the entire mass, which was good news, however, he was not able to remove the surrounding tissue.   The next day was a day of waiting, playing with Esther, and hoping for good news.    The following day is when the bomb was dropped, when the pediatric oncologist told us our sweet, beautiful, full of life, little girl had cancer and would at least need 6 months of chemo + radiation, and would need to have a port fitted along with additional tests to determine whether or not the cancer had spread.    So... we went from Friday thinking she had a lazy eye to finding out on Tuesday (4 days later) that she instead had cancer.

My entire world collapsed.   I have never felt so overwhelmed by grief and despair.   Someone said the worst thing in the world is not being told you have cancer, it's being told your child has cancer.  It felt like it was not real.  Like I could blink and everything would change.  Still to this point she has not had a headache, a temperature, a sore throat, not even a sniffle.  She has bags of energy and is happy.  Esther just wants to know one thing, "when can I go home?"   I struggled to know what to say to my family, my church, and others.  I have spoken so much about God being good but in that moment I began to wonder if He really is good and if He truly cares.   I felt an incredible urge to grab my wife and daughter and just run away.   Leave everything:  my job, the ministry, and just hide with my family.   I knew that wasn't logical but I felt it just the same.   I said to Cherish I think I might need some counseling.  I felt like I just wanted to sit in the corner and cry.  I was feeling this way when my mother in law, Sissy, and sister in law, Gwynn, came to visit.    I left them to visit with Cherish and Esther while I caught up on work and tried to keep my mind off things.   Before they left Sissy went up to see Esther's room and I chatted with Gwynn for a few minutes.

While we were talking, with emotion in her voice, Gwynn said "I feel like you are being attacked." When she said that, it somehow registered deep inside of my spirit and without thinking my reaction was "well then we've got to fight."   In that moment, a light came on inside me.  I began to see that the enemy of our souls that had tried to take me out last year had now attached the most vulnerable one of our family.    His goal was to cause me to give up as he knew what lives would be affected if I did so.   The lives of my wife, children, congregation, and anyone else that looks to me as an example or for inspiration, counsel, or encouragement.  

As I walked back to our hospital room,  I began to think of the significance of the room numbers we had been in since first being admitted to the hospital in Roanoke, VA.    Each one had been significant.  I noticed things about the room numbers at the time but I hadn't yet connected the dots to see a pattern.  That first night our room number in Roanoke was 1131, the last four numbers of my wife's phone number.  The first room we were in at the UNC Hospital was floor 7, room 22.   In the Bible, 7 is the number of God (created world in 7 days, etc.).    22 is the day of my birthday.    In the room we had just been relocated to earlier that day that we were now on floor 5, room 5.  In the Bible, 5 is the number of grace.  Those may be coincidence but I take them as a hint that God is still with us, He knows, and He cares, and... He is still good.    I didn't notice all of that until I began to see my daughter's sickness for the attack it truly was.

The next part of this blog is written by our 15 year old daughter Evie, who loves her little sister very much and also loves to write.   "This week has been a bit confusing and unreal.   All we knew last Friday was that Esther was at the hospital and that Daddy had to drive down because Mommy didn't have a car.  When I knew something was really wrong was when my parents and little sister weren't home by Sunday.   Daddy never likes to be out of church on the Sunday after Youth Camp.   I remember having to fight back tears all of that day.  I couldn't smile for more than a minute without it fading back into a frown.   We are so lucky to have a loving & caring family who are jumping at the chance to help.  If not for our family this week would have been much harder.  Monday as I was feeding our chickens in the morning I suddenly had the idea to tell Daddy to start his blog again.   Then Daddy called and asked me if I would like to write in the blog.   I'm very glad to have this opportunity to give you all my opinion on what is going on."

And Evie, I'm very glad to have your help and to do this together!!   In a few minutes the medical team will come and get my little girl.  She will be sedated again and along with additional tests will be fitted with a port, which will match the one that I still have in my body.   I am quite sure that emotions will overwhelm me again and the urge to run may again become strong.  But, I must not give in to despair. I will not surrender to the enemy.  Too many lives would be affected if I did.  But... I do need the strength that only comes from God.  In the words of the psalm at the beginning of this blog entry "when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I."


Raquel Berg - June 30th, 2022 at 4:05pm

Love you and thank you for sharing. Lifting all of you up in prayers!

Tammy - June 30th, 2022 at 4:26pm

Thank you Pastor Matthew and Evie for sharing this . Terry and I love you and are praying.

Pam Cox - June 30th, 2022 at 4:31pm

You are all so strong and an inspiration to us all. The battle belongs to God. Love and prayers to and for

you all!!

Joy Dowell - June 30th, 2022 at 4:46pm

Thank you for sharing your journey. Thank you for being real with your emotions and feelings. That’s what makes you a good pastor and makes you very relatable to everyone who knows and loves you. Evie, we are very proud of you and your strength. We love you all.

Rick Keller - June 30th, 2022 at 4:51pm

Fighting with you in prayer! Glad you’re writing again.

Diana Price - June 30th, 2022 at 5:08pm

I’m praying for Esther and your whole family.

Crystal West - June 30th, 2022 at 5:13pm

Matthew, you and your family are such an inspiration. You must be doing Gods work well because satan is after you. Never lose site of that. We love you and your family. We are hear for you and will fight along with you.

Lydia Wade - June 30th, 2022 at 5:14pm

Hey Matthew and Evie. I love that you are blogging together. I’m sorry that it is difficult circumstances that lead you to do this again. As if your time with cancer wasn’t hard enough. Now you are suffering with your child. I love your honesty Matthew. The pain you feel as a Father is a reminder of what our Heavenly Father feels when we his children are struggling. Keep writing and will be praying for you all. Looking forward to hearing more from Evie too xxx

Sonya Eller - June 30th, 2022 at 5:14pm

Thank you Pastor Matthew, my friend and my prayer partner any time of day! Your openness is so encouraging and is honest. Roger and I love you all and our prayers continue. If you need us , we are here .

Carrie - June 30th, 2022 at 5:18pm

Faith, the evidence of things not seen. May my faith in His power to heal reach your entire family.

Beth Hamm - June 30th, 2022 at 5:25pm

Greater is HE that is in YOU than he that is in the world. Prayers for your family.

Kim - June 30th, 2022 at 5:34pm

Matt…Noah and I are praying for your entire family. As soon as I saw what you shared on FB, I felt you were under attack. I know that knowing it is an attack, doesn’t make things easier…but it does help know where to focus your energies…many promises come to my mind…” you are more than a conqueror in Christ”… “ all things work together for our good…” … “God will never leave us or forsake us”… that is just a few things and some may say how cliché, but there is power in the Word. Hold onto Jesus. Love you all…Kim

Sarah Hurley - June 30th, 2022 at 5:56pm

Evie and Matthew,

Thank you for sharing this.

Reading your blog post is difficult. I can feel the emotions you are going through and it breaks my heart. We are praying for Esther right now.

Genie Sneed-Haulsee - June 30th, 2022 at 6:11pm

I cannot tell you how moving this message has been. I think your daughter is extremely gifted in the word department. Hopefully, she will journal through this time.

I worked with Pamela Holmes for years and she shared this with another girl who worked with her.

I will pray for all of you. Such a thing as this affects the whole family, doesn’t it?

Sabrena Cannon - June 30th, 2022 at 7:36pm

Our thoughts and prayers are with Ester. Thank you for sharing your blog again.

Pam Keller - June 30th, 2022 at 8:24pm

Jack and I are standing on the Rock with you and Cherish and your family for Esther’s total healing and recovery. “The gates of hell will not prevail!”

We love you.

Patty Turilli - June 30th, 2022 at 8:41pm

There simply are no words to express the pain and fear that your family is experiencing at this time. Please know that you are surrounded and supported by prayers warriors who will not stop praying for your daughter and your family. Patty T.

Susan Taylor - June 30th, 2022 at 9:07pm

Satan may be attacking but our Almighty God is protecting! Prayers without ceasing and praise for His mercy. Love you!

Kelly M - June 30th, 2022 at 9:53pm

Matthew, I cannot imagine what you and your family are going through. Please know that each of you will be in my thoughts and prayers. There is so much in the Power of Prayer. God bless each of you in the days to come. Kelly M.

Falina Keith - June 30th, 2022 at 10:02pm

Many prayers going up for you all. I just cannot imagine what you all are experiencing, and I pray I never do. With God all things are possible.

Jackie Robbins - June 30th, 2022 at 10:43pm

May our loving , merciful God make His presence clear daily , may his grace cover Esther as well as your entire family. Lifting you all up daily, praying for healing for your sweet girl, in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen

Robin Owens - June 30th, 2022 at 10:54pm

Chilhowie Baptist Church is praying for you.

Simeon Chapman - July 1st, 2022 at 2:56am

I love the blog, you are both so gifted. My eyes are wet and have been twice today and all before 9:00am. The other time was reading Cherish’s post. We are standing with you in this fight, and having done all we will stand. Sending our love to you all.

Mike and Betsy Martin - July 1st, 2022 at 6:44am

Prayers for healing and for God’s comfort for you all during these trying times. May the Lord restore your joy and give you peace.

Keith - July 1st, 2022 at 7:33am

My heart is with you all. I know that this battle for Esther is very hard - especially following your own battle over the past year. I understand what it is to ask God ‘why’. I also know that If we knew ‘why’, then we wouldn’t need faith. So, I pray not only for Esther to be healed, I pray for faith for you, Cherish, and all of your family. It is the one prayer that God seems to fulfill right away. I’m certain that Esther will be healthy and playing at home soon. Please do not stress about the church family at home, focus on Esther and things there.

Tamara Foster - July 1st, 2022 at 1:02pm

May God cover you all in His warmth knowing that He is the A Great Physician. We don’t understand these trails of life but I am so thankful that we have a God that knows all. We are keeping you in our prayers and adding sweet Esther to our prayer list at church … Calvary Baptist Church.

Teresa Smith Crawford - July 1st, 2022 at 2:30pm

Prayers for all. Gods strength and mercy for the days to come. Grace for you family from the Lord!

All in Jesus name!