Peace In The Valley

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod & Your staff, they comfort me. Ps. 23:1-4

"There will be peace in the valley for me, some day.  There will be peace in the valley for me, oh Lord I pray There'll be no sadness, no sorrow No trouble, trouble I see There will be peace in the valley for me". Elvis Presley.

From Matthew:  For almost 4 weeks now, we have lived in Elvis Presley's Memphis, the Home of the Blues. There have been some times that I have felt very blue but there have been moments of great joy as well.    Among other things, this city is known for its music, and we actually have been surprised to find music to be a great comfort, especially to Esther.    Evie has co-written this blog with me several times now, but for this one both Eliana (my 13 year old) and Cherish (my wife) had some things they wanted to say.   So, this blog is a real family effort!

The last blog we wrote I talked about our time being somewhat normal, since then things have become much less so as we have gotten down to the business of why we came here.  Esther did really well for the first few days of radiation and then about 5 days in developed a fever which, because her neutrophils went very low, resulted in her being hospitalized for two nights. She has now been hospitalized overnight in 4 different hospitals in 3 different states since her initial diagnosis (I wasn't hospitalized once)!  It hit me hard that night.  I found myself needing to shut the door to my room while the tears flowed down my cheeks.   I suddenly found myself wrestling with great fear, worrying if she was going to be ok.   While she was hospitalized I was able to see her in the evenings but as only one of us could be in the hospital room with her at a time, Cherish ended up staying overnight, while I went home with our other three girls.  It's hard being separated, even we're if only 15 minutes away, when I know my child isn't feeling well.   I feel so much better when I can see her & hold her.  While she was in hospital her hemoglobin dropped and the decision was made to give her a blood transfusion.    Esther has actually done very well to not need one before now.  But the reality that it was happening to our 6 year old girl overwhelmed me once again.   I'm so grateful that her blood counts improved and after two nights she was released to come home.  She has felt much better since and was able to finish up the week of radiation.  

As I wrestled with my emotions over the past several days I found myself drawn to the 23rd Psalm.    I can imagine the author, David, singing that Psalm in his mind as he walked down into the valley to fight Goliath.    The words "I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and staff they comfort me" have soaked into my spirit.   Rods and staffs are shepherd's tools.  A rod was a short stick used to drive away enemies from the sheep and a staff was a longer stick with a hook at the end that helped to pull a sheep back into the fold with the others.  I am grateful for a Good Shepherd that has both a rod and a staff.    A rod for the dangers that come into our lives and staff to keep me close to Him.   On our 9 hour drive to Memphis, Eliana had played for me all her favorite Elvis songs, and there are quite a few!   Peace In The Valley is one of her most favorite Presley songs of all.  While meditating on that well known Psalm my mind went back to Elvis's song.    I'm not sure if the author Thomas A. Dorsey was thinking of the valley in the 23rd Psalm when he penned that beautiful song, but he might have been.    And now... here are some thoughts from Eliana.

From Eliana:  There are a few things that are actually good about this trip.  We got to visit amazing places like the Memphis Zoo, where we saw the almost extinct White Rhinos and Giant Pandas, Cirque Italia (an Italian Water Circus), three times to the Memphis Pyramid (world biggest Bass Pro shop), and the famous Peabody ducks.  Last week we got to see Mrs. Annette & Mr. Ed (who we hadn't seen for 2 years) when they came down from Missouri to pay us a visit.    They brought us lots & lots of dry wood for the firepit in our bedroom sized yard, which as you can imagine, Daddy was excited about.  We got to cross into Arkansas driving on a huge bridge over the Mississippi River.   This past Thursday night we got a surprise visit from our Mamaw and Aunt Gwynn, which was nice.    We went together to the Memphis Botanical Gardens where they had an Alice in Wonderland theme going on.   They had a 20 foot topiary of Alice, the Queen of Hearts, and the Cheshire cat.    We went to the famous Beale Street on the Saturday night, which looking back on, was NOT a good idea.  I think I saw three buildings that weren't clubs.  But the signs for the clubs made great pictures.   Everything is about 15 minutes from us, which Daddy has probably told you.    Anything you can think of, Aldi's, IKEA, like, three different malls, the Zoo, the Cheesecake Factory, but we've yet to find a Pal's (burgers) or an El Campestre (Mexican restaurant).     It is fun to be here and all , but it doesn't have the comfort of home.    So I'll be very glad to get back.
From Matthew:   After Esther was released from hospital I talked with Cherish about the emotion & fear that I felt.  Cherish said she believed God had shown her we "fear things that we have not truly surrendered to God."  That resonated with me.   I do know that God loves us and sees us but there is a part of me that feels that we have to keep a handle on the situation ourselves, and as long as we do everything we can do everything will work out alright.  This past couple of weeks was a reminder to me that no matter how much we try to do, in the end we are fully in His hands.  I am praying now that God will help me to trust Him more with not just Esther, with all of my family.   Ultimately there is very little I can do but there is SO much MORE that He can do!  One evening this past week I found myself in our little back yard, sitting around the firepit just talking to God.   I talked to Him like a friend that night, like He was sitting there next to me.   I didn't ask Him for anything specific but just enjoyed telling Him about what was on my heart.   I felt His peace enter my valley during that firepit prayer conversation.  Cherish will share next how I'm not the only one on this journey that has wrestled with fear & how His peace can come into our valley in the most unexpected of ways.

From Cherish:  Esther has struggled with fear & anxiety since her first hospital stay when she was diagnosed.   So much so, we started giving her some "calming" medication before her weekly hospital/clinic visits in hopes that she isn't traumatized by the pokes, and procedures.  The hospital has a child life team that helps comfort and distract the kids when they are going through something difficult.  Esther was introduced to Snuggle the Therapy dog on one of her visits.  Snuggle helped distract Esther from what was about to happen.  This golden retriever was a sweet distraction but Esther still wasn't comfortable.  The next day Esther was introduced to a Musical therapist that let Esther play a xylophone.  Esther played along with the musical lady and didn't care what the team of nurses were doing.  She was fixated on the music.  This helped me breath sign of relief because I wasn't having to coach Esther through every step of every procedure ensuring her that she would be okay.  The following day we didn't even have to request the Music Therapist.  She was waiting on Esther in the procedure room with two Ukuleles.  She and Esther picked out a few songs to play together and right away there was a calmness that came over Esther while they played the Ukelele together. The entire room of nurses was amazed to see Esther's anxiety fade away while she played music.  I could barely mumble a "Thank You" to the music Therapist because tears were welling up in my eyes and throat.  That was a magical moment that I will never forget.  It was a gift from God that my daughter needed that I could not give.    

From Matthew:   The last few days have been good.  We are now 11 days of treatment down, and 9 to go, so we're hopefully halfway through her treatment at St. Jude's and that much closer to coming home!  I don't know what this next week will hold, but whatever it brings the Good Shepherd is with us and He is well equipped with all the tools needed to bring us through. The end of the Psalm 23 declares "surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever".   I am comforted by the fact that the rod of our Savior always defeats the enemy, and His staff will ultimately keep us close to Him, promising us true peace in whatever valleys we walk through.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog.  We are so grateful for your prayers and for the calls, letters, cards, and gifts sent, reminding us how of how loved we are.  The visits from Ed & Annette, and Cherish's mom & sister Gwynn have helped keep us connected to family and home.   That has meant so much.    We love you all and pray for you as you pray for us.


Grandma (Jean) - October 25th, 2022 at 7:24am

So beautiful. I have tears in my heart as I have been reading all this. When our love is not enough He always has more.. what comfort He has provided for you all.. He prepares a table, a banquet,, all that we need,, in the presence of our enemies, our struggles and our fears.. I'm so comforted that He is with you. More love than you know from us to you.

Simeon Chapman - October 25th, 2022 at 9:23am

Thanks so much for this blog. It’s so good to hear from you all. Tears filled my eyes as I read each of your parts and hearts. Our hearts are with you as are our prayers.

Julian - October 25th, 2022 at 11:21am

Your family is a beacon of light for us all. Each one of you are so special. I’m so thankful for the music therapy and that it has given her some peace, and hopefully a passion for instruments that she will retain her whole life through. God is using you all for something big, He speaks to my heart and many others every time you all share pieces of your testimony. We love you all. ❤️

Kathy Smith - October 25th, 2022 at 1:54pm

Prayers for sweet Esther and your family. God will always make a way. Stay strong and be blessed.

Barbara Price - October 26th, 2022 at 6:34am

We love you all and are praying for you all. Our church family is also praying.

Jennifer Schoondyke - November 2nd, 2022 at 7:34am

My heart and prayers are with you all!