This is Canon Josiah Adkins. He is our third grandson and he lives in the New Orleans area with his Mom, Dad, and older brother Quint. Canon will be four years old tomorrow. He was born on the Monday following Thanksgiving, 2004. Both of his grandmothers from Kentucky were present for his birth at Oshner Medical Center in New Orleans. He was a really big baby and everyone was impressed with his size and good looks. Birthdays are always wonderful occasions, but there will always be something special to me about Canon's birthday. Besides being a reminder of how happy we were to welcome his birth, it is a yearly reminder of how good God has been to me.
The day after Canon's birth, while Linda was still in New Orleans, I was unexpectedly admitted to Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Ashland, KY for tests to determine why I was losing blood at a fast rate. Most of you know the results of those tests. A large mass was found in my colon. Surgery was scheduled, and our worst fears were realized. Cancer. It's a chilling word in itself, but the adjectives that my doctor employed to describe the malignancy were even more paralyzing. "Stage Four", and "Incurable". Fully involved in a number of lymph nodes, the cancer had spread throughout my liver like grass seed. Several large tumors were there and numerous smaller ones existed as well. A transplant was not an option. The prognosis was dismal. Average survival time for people in my situation was 18-22 months.
I suddenly came face to face with the reality of my mortality.
Thousands of thoughts raced through my mind during the next 10 days. I was not afraid to die, but I dreaded what my family might have to endure during the process. I feared leaving Linda to face the future alone, along with overwhelming medical bills as well as our other financial obligations. I wept when I thought of leaving my church to search again for a pastor after only two years of having called me. My heart ached at the thought that I would not be able to see my grandsons, (ages four, three, and two weeks) grow much older. They would probably not even remember me!
On my first Sunday back at church after my colectomy, I did what the Bible says in James 5:14-15. "Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." (HCSB) It was a moving experience as the ordained men of our church gathered around and laid hands on me with the entire congregation standing with them in prayer. I had decided to let the doctors do whatever they could to try to treat me but, knowing that the situation was beyond human control, we gave it to God.
The next two years were tough. There were two separate 6 month courses of Chemotherapy. Some other surgical procedures. Monthly blood work and lots of other medicines, tests, and scans. Prayers were going up on my behalf from believers from Florida to Chicago - from Virginia Beach, to the west coast, to Dumaguete City, Philippines. Although I didn't know how long I had to live, my heart was challenged by what I had heard Veda Young say. No matter how long I had to live, I was "not going to spend the rest of my life dying". And so, knowing it was all in the hands of Him who always does what He chooses, we took one day at a time.
I have learned many things over the past four years. I have learned that Peace is available in the times of greatest turmoil. I have learned that there are things I cannot change, and I must fully depend on God. I have learned that life in Christ is truly abundant! Like Paul of old, I have learned that no matter what state I may be in, I can be content. I have been reminded of how precious each day is, and I have sought to never waste the time God has given me. I have been reminded of what a God given gift I have in Linda who has loved me for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health for more than 37 years. I have learned that not only can I minister to my church, but that they could also minister to me.
I have seen my little grandsons grow and I have loved every moment I have with them. I've watched Quint at Karate practice. I've witnessed Will playing soccer, baseball, football and basketball. Six months into my treatments I welcomed a fourth grandson (Asher) and have enjoyed playing with him every Friday night when he and his brother come over to our house for a sleepover. And I have seen Canon's fourth birthday! Every time I look at this little guy I offer my God a prayer of thanksgiving for His wonderful mercy to me.
Above all else, I have learned that God is in control. More than ever, I have come to understand and appreciate what he says in Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." (NASB)
Happy Birthday Canon. I'm sorry we couldn't be together on your birthday, but I wish you many more. (And I hope I am around so we can celebrate together). It all depends on God's plan. Whatever it is - it will be for the best!