Updates - Current

Excerpt from a new little book: "Stories of Redemption" - 3/20/2009
posted by: Cheree
The doctor stepped halfway through the doorway and paused. “You might have something called lymphoma,” she said. A strange silence followed. Tears ran down my face, trespassing without permission. I turned to my Dad, who sat beside my gurney. He held my hand with fierce compassion and led in a prayer. With his first words, I felt the entrance of a presence stronger and more overwhelming than the doctor’s overwhelming news. Jesus’ Spirit came tenderly. Swallowing my salty tears, I inhaled the Lord’s comforting aroma. His words of promise washed over my anxieties. He reminded me of His promise never to leave or forsake me. I believed Him and was suddenly covered in an indescribable peace. In a place designed to handle emergencies and tragedies, this peace was a surprising company.

I was transferred to the oncology floor where I began chemotherapy that same night. For the first six months of chemo I was determined to recognize that my diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, while it threatened my physical life, didn’t need to threaten my hope in God. I still had Jesus, the source of true and lasting life. Nevertheless, pain and fear were present. I remember the first time I read the statistics about my condition. I was sitting on the couch the second week of my treatment: over 60% of patients with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma die from it. I gulped hard. The possibility of death seemed...well, very possible. I closed the brochure and set it aside. I preferred my Bible instead. The promise of a future with Jesus, abundant and eternal, was more certain than the statistics anyway. I couldn’t deny my pain, but trusting that Jesus remained with me in and through it brought great comfort.

Even so, as the journey stretched longer than expected, the warm light of God’s comfort became harder to see. Pain remained. And the shadows grew darker. After completing chemotherapy, the doctor’s were optimistic about my prognosis. Before long, however, I experienced symptoms that made me certain the tumor was growing back. They ran more tests. We waited. Finally, after days of hanging by the phone, our doctor’s number appeared on the caller ID. Her news made me go numb. My heart sunk—and took all I had not to let it plunge into despair. My soul wept, my eyes too, more than ever. My tumor had grown back. More extensive therapy was needed: a bone-marrow transplant, a procedure normally reserved as a last resort. I left the phone and fled to my room. I threw myself on my bed and screamed. Hurt, I clung my pillows and wept until they were soggy and then punched them until they knew my pain. I felt so broken. My plans—my hopes for school and life—were on a painful pause, and I wondered if it would ever begin again at all.

Summer came and the bone-marrow transplant began. Before long, I was experiencing tremendous pain, extreme sleep deprivation, and frightening reactions to some of the drugs. It was excruciating, but it was the only thing I could do. In the treatment, the body is blasted with a high dosage of chemotherapy, which attacks cancer cells and healthy cells alike. Afterwards, healthy cells are injected into the body to replace those that were destroyed along with the cancer cells. But this can be very risky. If the body interprets the transplanted cells as foreign or harmful, it rejects them, leaving the immune system without the power to fight even the most common cold. Death becomes suddenly imminent.

While undergoing the transplant, an unexpected blessing occurred: a foundational Christian belief became more than doctrine to me. I realized that the reality of sin, much like my cancer, causes certain death if left untreated. And without a healthy, sin-free donor to provide blood, there can be no cure. The Bible describes all of us as terminally sick with sin, and Jesus as the only donor with the blood we need. Those of us who through faith accept Jesus’ sacrifice receive His life-giving cells. But when we refuse His blood, whether from fear or doubt or willful disbelief, we reject the only power able to give us life, we remain caught in the cancer of sin. In the midst of the chemo process, I could do nothing—nothing but receive the donation of the blood I needed to restore life in me. Similarly, we can do nothing to be delivered from sin other than simply receive the costly gift of our great Donor. This is the Christian life.

Whether or not the actual bone-marrow transplant would prove successful, I began to find increasing rest in the promise of sharing in Jesus’ life. While this assurance didn’t prevent pain and emotional agony, it did provide perspective, perseverance, and an agony-tested sense of trust. Now, whenever I am afraid or confused, I think back to that season; His constant presence and love saved and preserved me. When I can’t feel His love, I trust that He is good; when I can’t see His work, I trust that He has never left; when I don’t understand His plan, I trust that His heart is faithful. I have learned to trust—not in what I think is the best outcome—but in the God who knows all things and works all things for the best of the ones who love Him.

I am now celebrating three and a half years of remission. But the lessons God taught me during that hard time are not lost. Every year that passes, I must learn and relearn them; I must remember to celebrate the fact that God is always with me and that He is always good—two truths I once took for granted and even thought trite, but which I now regard in awe as truly profound.

Looking back... - 11/24/2008
posted by: Cheree
I gazed up at the sterile white ceiling. My dingy blue Nike’s swung off the edge of the gurney. I had been walking around on my college campus in those Nike’s earlier that same afternoon. I never thought I’d soon enough be wearing a dingy blue-grey hospital gown to complement them. The trivial observations were enough to amuse and distract me from the unnerving reality I was facing. Was all this due a simple allergic reaction or did I have something worse…far worse? I had just undergone a series of test to find out the answer.

The doctor stepped half-way through the doorway and paused. “You might have something called lymphoma,” she said. A strange silence followed while tears trailed my face…trespassing without permission. Breaking up the silence, my heart pounded with the rhythm of change, of pain, and possible death. Memories of my Grandma’s fatal battle with cancer stuttered through my mind over and over again. All the while the room was still, quiet and ordinary. I turned to my Dad who, sitting by my bedside, had also just been hit by the overwhelming news. He held my hand with fierce compassion and led in a prayer. And with those first utterances, I noticed the entrance of a presence stronger more overwhelming the news. Jesus’ Spirit came tenderly. I inhaled His comforting aroma, swallowing my salty tears. His words of promise washed over the painful memories of my Grandmother‘s death and drowned out my anxieties. He assured that He would never leave or forsake me. And with that reminder, I was strengthen with the confidence of knowing that whether I lived or I died, I was held…either way I was going to be with Him! In that moment of turmoil that truth was enough…even more than enough. By grace, I believed His promise amidst that sudden storm and to my surprise received an indescribably peace. The room filled with emergency protocol, now contrasted with the profound peace which filled my heart. Moments later I was transferred to the oncology floor. I began chemotherapy that same night.

By the time I was hooked up to that first chemo I.V. the news was only just beginning to reach my family and friends. My mom still on her way from my home-town in Washington didn’t know until she arrived safely into Portland why she was asked to come the three hour distance.

It was shocking to receive the report. “Not my baby, not my baby” she repeated. And like light piercing into the shadows, again Jesus prevailed to shine His presence in her experience. My mom received the reminder of His prevailing purpose even in pain. He reminded all of us and we all choose to cling to hope…the one and only hope that doesn’t disappoint.

This hope “that doesn’t disappoint” is one which we came to understand has little to do with our desired outcomes. This hope rests in God alone. It’s a hope that rests in His certain presence of love and His steadfast promises of truth. The hope that is guaranteed not to disappoint rests in He who promises His presence of comfort while His final and future Day of redemption, justice, and healing awaits. That day couldn’t come sooner for the person who is hurting…but our God is a patient God who yearns for those who have not accepted His presence of love. He longs that they respond so that they might enjoy the fullness life both now and on that future Day.

My diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma threatened my physical life but it didn’t need to threaten my hope in God. I still had Jesus, the source of true and lasting life. And, by grace, that is what mattered most to me in the moment of trial. Undoubtedly the grief of pain and natural fear of loss was present. Yet the reality of pain somehow was able to lie peacefully beside the undeniable presence of Jesus’ promises as I continued on the journey of cancer treatments, recovery and healing.

For the first six months of chemotherapy and during the following six weeks of radiation, I was able to continue my education at Multnomah Bible College, now known as Multnomah University. During that time, I felt as though I should describe my experience as a “valley,” but I could not deny that it really felt like a mountain top.

While sick, I was able to meet nurses I will never forget. Their kind smiles belonged to the Savior. Some held His strength with a gentle compassion that can’t be described. God presented many opportunities to testify of God’s character to the medical staff. He graciously used those moments to bring about beautiful heart transformation in many. While on the mount, my home church, home town and the Multnomah staff and study body collectively overwhelmed us with the love of God‘s heart! Some of the men at my college shaved their heads to support my new hair-less-ness. One man even shaved off his eyebrows, facial and arm hair the whole six months I was going through chemo! Every morning while shaving he would pray for me and my family. Many gifts financial and thoughtful were given for our benefit. They were much needed and so appreciated. The love of Christ emanated from the faculty and staff as well; many of them taking time out of their classes to pray for me with the students. Most emphatically, the Spirit brought my family both immediate and extended together to a new sense of unity. On the mount, my spirits were lifted to new heights. It was a gift to see first hand what it means for Christ’s family to be one as His body. I experienced, the body’s reflex to cover and comfort the injured part. Their sincere care was refreshing…a mountain-top breeze. But you can’t stay on the mountain top forever. While the church’s compassion never withdrew, the journey soon began to descend into the shadows…down into the valley.

After completing chemotherapy, the lapse of time before I began radiation proved to the doctors that the cancer was more aggressive than previously thought. The evidence demanded more extensive therapy. My doctor’s proposed that it would be best if I considered undergoing a bone-marrow transplant, a procedure normally reserved as a last resort. Like no other time during my diagnosis my heart wept. My eyes followed, leaking tears for longer and deeper than before...I knew I wouldn’t be able to return to school and live out my dreams for the most near future. Life was on painful pause and I wondered if it would ever play again. My heart ached with the pain of loss and clung to the hope that could not be lost. My family too clung tight and tighter still through the pain and trauma which we faced during those weeks and weeks in the hospital for the bone-marrow transplant.

A couple weeks into the transplant, I experienced tremendous pain, extreme sleep deprivation, and opposite reactions to some of the drugs. All of these elements combined to result in a four month state of perpetual delirium. Through that difficult time, I was monitored by nurses and round the clock shifts from my Mom, Dad and closest friend Amber. They especially sacrificed everything to love and nurse me back to wellness every single day of that 46 hospital stay, not to mention the many days and months of recovery that followed.

It was dark. And God was faithful. Looking back, it is hard to understand exactly how His purpose and presence prevailed during such a confusing time. However, I know my family and I experienced Him deeply through the shadows of that valley. The stories to testify of that truth are many, and all have a common moral to them: Always trust the Lord. Trust. Trust. Trust. Hold tightly to His everlasting promises and the realities of His powerful presence and don’t let go. The Lord brought us through, the darkness of the traumatic experiences into the light of a new season, stronger and more thankful for His mercies. I am now walking in fields of healing celebrating three years of remission! I often look back to the mount and the valley in order to remember, praise and glorify Him for each step He took with me and through me. God is good, a truth once taken for granted and even thought trite, is now profound and exalted in my heart.

Choose to Believe - 8/6/2008
posted by: Amber
Hi! This recent post is an e-mail from my very best friend Amber. Many of you are very acquainted with Amber due her frequent writing on this site the summer I was in the hospital for the bone-marrow transplant. I thought I'd let you hear her heart and journey with the Lord recently as He has her serving him at a camp in California:
---------------------

I wanted to give a quick summary of what I've been up to this summer for
those of you who got my recent email update but didn't know what in the world I was up to. Sorry about that :) So...here ya go:

I am currently taking a journey of trust & am on an adventurous pursuit of the LORD Jesus Christ. As a part of that adventure, I believe the LORD led me to the JH (Johnston Hospitality) Ranch in Northern California to serve for 6 weeks doing music ministry, housekeeping & being a nanny for 3 wonderful kids. The first 3 weeks were a painful, lonely journey...but after I wrote my last update, the LORD graciously caused the sun to come out a little, shedding light on what's He's been doing in my life & in my heart. I am pumped & overwhelmed!! So I just had to share...

If I were to summarize my summer so far, it would go something like this: the LORD plucked me out of my comfort zone, placed me in the wildnerness (literally) and said, "Amber Dawn, I needed to get your attention so that I could show you a few things." And what He's shown me is that I am way too dependent on people...not Him. That I seek & strive for approval from others, finding my security in what other people think of me, instead of being certain of who I am in Christ. And that when it really comes down to it, I don't believe God loves me without conditions, just as I am. Wooh!!!
Heavy stuff.



So. Tuesday evening, Heather Johnston (the wife of Bruce Johnston, owner of the JH Ranch) spoke on the Love of God. It was incredible and
encouraging...not because what she said hit me in a new way, but because
Heather basically summarized my entire summer & the good work God had been doing in my life! The lights came on & I said, "Oh, my word...LORD, this is why You brought me here: to understand, at a heart level, Your love for me!!!" For years, I've known in my head that God loved me unconditionally, but...only the Holy Spirit can make that knowledge a reality in your heart. Only when it becomes real in your heart can you truly believe and be radically transformed by the truth. God is rebuilding my foundation firmly upon Him...and I am so grateful.

Here are some thoughts I wrote down last night:

"Papa, thank You for Your many blessings...the blessings that come with pain, with lessons & with growth attached. Sometimes, I mistake them for pain instead of a present from You. I am learning to be satisfied in You...to only be concerned about what You think of me...to only seek approval from You, not people...and finding that I don't even need to seek Your approval: I HAVE it. You approve of and love me freely, with no conditions...just as I am. Thank You for the security that gives me. I am found in Your friendship. Thank You for delighting in me, being pleased with me, accepting
me...and for loving me."

I find myself enjoying the fellowship & friendship of Jesus in a whole new way. This fresh awareness of His unconditional love for me has radically transformed my thoughts, my life...everything!! He is wonderful & amazing. I have so much more growth & character development that needs to happen, but the pressure of being perfect is gone. Life is a process of sanctification...I'll never "arrive"; I will always be a learner of the LORD. Seems to me that life won't ever be boring with Jesus :)



Y'all...buckle up. The LORD is in hot pursuit of you. He has a burning love for you. As Heather Johnston said on Tuesday night, "Why would you not want to spend time with someone who loves you so much?" It's not about obligation. It's not about duty. It's not about checking off the "Quiet Time with Jesus" box on your "Being a Good Christian" mental To-Do list.

It's about a relationship. A love relationship. A love relationship with someone who is so crazy-mad in love with you that the thought of being separated from you because of sin killed him...literally. He died just so He could know you and pour His unbelievable, unconditional love over you for all eternity. Oh, my goodness.



May I encourage you to...

Drop what you're doing.
Get alone.
Find rest in His presence.
Receive,with an open heart, the burning love of Jesus Christ.
Thank Him.
He is absolutely crazy over you.

He is saying to you, "I want you to remember that I love you...just as you are."

Choose to believe.


love,

amber dawn :)
Take on a Challenge! - 6/28/2008
posted by: Cheree
Wanna take on a challenge?

...One that involves significantly $upporting a dear friend of mine who is fighting leukemia and undergoing a bone-marrow transplant this summer
...One that will stretch you physically
...One that could change your life!

E-mail me if you are curious:
chereej@multnomah.edu

The Answer to "Why?" - 5/20/2008
posted by: Cheree
I was talking to a graduate of Multnomah Bible College the other day. He is serving as a youth pastor in California and used some of the videos from the site to illustrate his youth group lesson about how we should respond in suffering. Over e-mail we began to talk about the question of "Why?"...and how we often ask it in times of hardship: "Why now...Why me...Why this...?"

I'll let you know that I have asked the question "Why." I did not dare ask it to accuse God or question His purpose... but I did ask "Why?" I asked it with a curious heart... a heart to discover His will for me in that moment. And do you know what I found?

An answer.
Clarity.
Comfort.
...and Rest.

I was reading the Letter to the Romans and got to chapter 8 and found that there really is a foundational, one-size-fits all answer to the "Why Question" which applies to every lover of God in His family.

The answer is simple: TO BE MORE LIKE JESUS CHRIST.

The answer is clear and it will always be the same answer to just about every "why" question we can ask of God.

"Why is God allowing this to happen?" ...It's because the Lord, in His compassion and grace, wants us to be more like His Son, Jesus, who Himself was given over to endure a great amount of suffering on our behalf. Serving as a model to His present and future followers, Jesus showed that in suffering we too can both experience and produce the sweet fruits of living by faith in the Spirit: peace, joy, faithfulness and love.

I've learned more about this process by reading God's Word specifically the letter to the Phillippians. I've learned that every experience carries with it the potential to know Christ more. When suffering we learn to relate to Jesus' sufferings and are then able to experience the power of new life. Only when one has died can they be raised up. And if we want to experience the new life of Christ we must be willing to suffer experiences of death to self in order to see the light of true life. The opportunity to know Christ is always available to us, in health AND in sickness. When we submit, welcome and desire to know Him more we learn to be willing to do so in every season of life.

In the heat of hardship the answer to the "Why Question" may not immediately seem satisfying or comforting...that is until you consider that knowing Christ is an experience which surpasses all other! Consider relationship with Jesus and relating to His experiences as of primary importance and trials will become a reason to rejoice, a divine internship to the Savior, an opportunity to learn of Heaven's wisdom, and a chance to testify of His faithfulness!

Obviously I'm not there yet. As a mirror intended to reflect the image of Jesus, I still have many cracks and smudges that hinder accurately reflecting His character. But I trust I'm being changed...day by day...I'm being cleansed to reveal His glory. And from glory to glory His light shines!

Let it shine,

Cheree ;)


The "Test" of Testimony - 4/30/2008
posted by: Cheree

I received a very encouraging e-mail recently from the father of one of my friends...I thought I'd share with you:

"I heard someone say there is a reason that the word test is in the word
testimony. They went on to say that when a fragrant flower is squeezed it releases more fragrance. There seems to be things God can do in us during adversity that just don't happen when times are smooth."

Sweet fragrance,

Cheree :)
Trinkets & Treasures - 3/9/2008
posted by: Cheree
After dialoging with a dear friend about life’s journey and the trinkets and treasures we accrue along the way...I thought I'd let you in on the conversation.

Life is a journey...an uncertain path holding both mud and meadows, joy and pain. As we travel we inevitably accumlate "trinkets” ...worthless products of pride and selfishness which we chose because they seemed so desirable at the time but which we now regret. In the long run they have proven vain and now we can see that they have only weighed us down.

On the other hand, “treasures” carry the light weight of glory...they are gems from the Savior, which He puts in our “life-pack” as a gift to remind us of His glory and faithfulness. The treasures tell stories of hope and redemption...stories of strength in moments of pain and weakness, and the triumph of overcoming hard times by faith.

Unfortunately, as my friend observed, these gems are often overlooked and even discarded. We are amused at their glory for a moment, but then we get distracted by the trinkets and...forget...move on...and continue to collect trinkets because we've forgotten what the Savior has already given.

In the course of our diaglogue, I was challenged to look into my own “life-pack,” to rediscover and acknowledge the gems of God’s faithfulness.

So I opened up my "life-pack" and found a precious music box. Engraved on the wooden lid is old hymn "Great is thy Faithfulness." The box was a gift from a dear elderly couple who fervently and faithfully prayed for my healing when they found out I was diagnosed with cancer. I twist the knob on the back of the music box and the song plays in my ear...each note repeating the same beautiful song we sang in the lobby of the hospital the day I was declared "cancer-free"...

After opening the music box, I found another treasure awaiting ...a gold necklace with a delicate butterfly design dancing from the middle, a treasure that once graced my Grandmother's cocoa colored collar bone. She gave it to me before she died of cancer. I wear it to remember her beauty, strength, wisdom and faith.

As I continued to rummage through the pack, I found a series of drawings that made up what I called my "ceiling quilt". Each artistic piece of the "quilt" was created with paper and markers by beloved family members and friends. The drawings were then hung on the ceilng above my hospital bed as a reminder of God's care. The "ceiling-quilt" was a hug to my soul during the long days and nights during my bone-marrow transplant.

These treasures bring up joyful memories while other treasures trigger very painful memories that I’m still processing. The painful ones are treasures nonetheless...perhaps even more precious having been polished and refined in the heat of trial. I’m learning to cherish these gems of God’s glory with a heart of gratitude even if accompanied by tears.

Would you join me...?

What are the treasures that God Himself has given you as a reminder of His great love for you? He gave them for you to enjoy and remember Him... and also to share His goodness with those around you.

I’m very interested in your stories. I invite you to contact me to testify of the gems in your “life-pack!”

In addition, consider if there are any stinky trinkets that you may be unnecessarily hauling around?. How can you seek relief for what is only burdening you in the long run? I’m reflecting on this one too...and trust the Savior’s mercy as I submit these trinkets to Him. Let me know how I can pray for you on your journey. I look forward to hearing from you...
New Contact Info - 2/14/2008
posted by: Cheree
We are having trouble with the e-mail on this site...
Until I get to the bottom of things, e-mail me at my school account:
chereej@multnomah.edu

Thanks!...I Look forward to hearing from you!

Happy LOVE Day!
-ree
Remember - 2/9/2008
posted by: Cheree
Today we turn the calendar back a year and remember the grief and shock of BreAnna's Hodgkin's Lymphoma Diagnosis. As we look back we mourn, but we are relieved to be able to look up and rejoice at BreAnna's health and good condition today!

Thank You God for remaining faithful to us through sickness and health...Thank You for helping us through a variety of experiences so we can appreciate the light of Day in contrast with the dark of pain

You are a GOOD GOD at all times!
Thank you for your mercies to comfort and to heal!
We love you...

Cheree & The Jones Family
Pictures and Updates! - 12/26/2007
posted by: Cheree

You're probably surprised to see that something is written on here...finally!!! Lol...I'm surprise too!

I'll make this one quick. I'd like to refer you to my facebook page -- http://multnomah.facebook.com/profile.php?id=515047588 --a place where you can view some of my pictures and a little peek into what's been going on lately.

You'll see more posts here too, so come back to chereejones.com! I'll talk to you soon!

Bless the Lord!

Cheree :)
ChereeJones.com Database - 7/18/2007
posted by: Webmaster
Due to unfortunate events, the database holding all past updates was lost. The updates themselves, from the very first on October 21, 2004 through April 21, 2007, have been recovered. However, it will take quite some time to get the new database back up to date.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

update archives: current | october 2004
   
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