Asia loves making new friends.

A Year Later

It has been a year since my last post. Boy am I a slacker. It’s amazing how busy life gets with a little one in the house. So it is time for another post. More than a post, I know that most of you would enjoy seeing some pictures of our family.

It has been a good year, uneventful by our standards and very refreshing. Asia is now 20 months old, I am one class away from starting the writing portion of my doctoral degree, and we are planning another visit to Nepal in May.

Please keep praying for our family and let us know how you’re doing in the comments below. Blessings!

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Europe, Africa and Baby Asia

MIA is an abbreviation for “missing in action.”

Just call me Mr. MIA. I really enjoy keeping you all updated on the life and adventures of the Sloan family. However, when Asia came into our lives, we set aside quite a bit to just enjoy our new family. It’s been a sweet 8+ months. We have enjoyed every single minute, well- all except for the 3am “screamfests”. Those suck but everything else has been a gift.

Baby Asia

Our beautiful daughter is amazing. I am little bias but she really is a wonderful little girl. She has a joyful demeanor, loves everyone she meets, sleeps fairly well, loves to explorer of all thing forbidden (including the dog’s food!) and is as healthy as can be. We dare not take these things for granted. We know what it’s like to sit up with her in the hospital. We praise God for her health and for that cute little grin. We hope you enjoy her as well…

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Trip to the Middle East

This fall I was able to go on international trips to Lebanon, Ethiopia and France. They were all great trips but one sticks out.

In September, I traveled with 3 other good friends to Beirut to visit a non-profit serving Syrian and Iraqi refugees who have lost their homes, jobs and family members through the civil war in Syria and through the carnage of ISIS. If you’ve turn on the TV or watched the news online, you have seen the wicked deeds of both Bashar Hafez al-Assad, president of Syria, and the terrorist group ISIS who are spread across Syria and Iraq. Both have sought to crush the weak and helpless around them.

On this trip to Lebanon, we were able to travel north, just five miles from the Syrian border, and provide food and essential supplies to displaced Syrian families. We sat in their tents and heard stories of their homes being flattened and of husbands and sons who were unjustly imprisoned.

We also traveled to southern Lebanon to provide aid and to visit families. We sat in the home of one family whose father who had been killed by a sniper and talked to a former solider who fled and is now hunted. He was tired of fighting for a wicked army. He risked his life to save his family and now hides in a small apartment in this area of the country

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We were hit with story after story of murdered family members and whole towns destroyed. We heard stories of greed and uncontrolled wickedness. It was a privilege to suffer with these refugees, if only for a few days.  Pray for my new found friends. May they find relief from their sufferings and trust in the God who created them and offers them forgiveness and eternal live. May they find that Jesus truly can empathize with their sufferings.

We do not know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, or why is it so random, but now at least we know what the reason is not. It cannot be that he does not love us. It cannot be that he does not care. He is so committed to our ultimate happiness that he is willing to plunge into the greatest depths of sufferings himself. He understanding us, he has been there, and he assures us that he has a plan to eventually wipe away every tear. [Rev. 21]

Tim Keller, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering (p.121)

The Mourners

My good friend Chad Lewis is planning a new music recording project down in Nashville to document his stories of mourning and hope. As I suffered through cancer last year, Chad, who is one of the pastors at my local church, came to the hospital many times to cared for my soul. He is a man known to care deeply for others. Just several months back, Chad lost his big brother in a very tragic way. He has been rocked by this dark time and lives with a deep sadness. Through it all he has been able to find hope and comfort in Christ. This new music project is an effort to share his songs of hope with other sufferers.

Please head over to Kickstarter and consider supporting this much needed project.

Journey Across Western China

I know that many of you are hoping for an update on our adoption. Sarah plans to go with our birthmother for her last ultrasound so we are holding off the update until then. Just know that there are good things in store!

A few weeks ago I head out on a trip across Western China for my work. Myself and four others were able to visit the beautiful cities of Xining, Lhasa and Chengdu. This part of the world has always astounded me and though I have been able to go before, this trip allowed me to get a fuller picture of the life and culture of Western China.

Western China is a mixture of cultures and people. There are millions and millions of Han Chinese but also hundreds of other minority groups. Our small group was able to taste the language, culture, food and life of quite a few of these minority groups. China is rich with culture and its people were nothing but hospitable. Without hesitation I can say that China and its people hold some of the most beautiful experiences on the planet. Below are a collection of pictures from my trip. I hope they give you a taste of life there and that you develop a desire to go and see these places yourself.

Sadness

Sadness Will End

From time to time over the last six months I get hit with this overwhelming sense of sadness. I wish there was a better, more descriptive word to explain the complex emotions I feel when I see a child at our local children’s hospital suffering from cancer or hear of a friend’s brother who seems to be losing his battle with colon cancer or see a sports reporter fight through chemotherapy treatments. I wish there were a better word but there’s not. I see these hurting ones and simply weep from deep sadness. Contemplation, journaling and discussing these things with my wife have led me to the conclusion that I am simply grieved by the brokenness of this world.

Our glorious God created this world to be good and perfect in every way. Sin, suffering and pain are foreign to the creation He made but through the willful sin of man and woman, sin entered our beautiful world and continues to bring death and decay to us all. This world is not the way it is supposed to be and neither are you or I. We too are broken and messed up. But through the gift of our Savior’s life, death and resurrection, we have hope both in eternal life and in the good life now. Good because He has promised to walk with us.

When my sad days come and I start to believe that sin and suffering will never end, I turn to Revelation 21:3-7. These verses remind me that death and sin have already been defeated and that full joy will be restored. Our good and glorious God has promised it.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Take courage my friend. For those who place their trust in Christ, suffering will one day end and joy will remain.

 

Regents Park- London

My Love Affair with Travel

This time last year, as I lay in a hospital bed, I was not sure if I would ever get a chance to travel again. Apart from it being a key component of my job, I also love traveling. Let me say that again. I LOVE to travel.  Now I know what you may be thinking – don’t we all love to travel. Yes, to some degree, but I love every part of it. I love the packing, sitting in the waiting area with a cup of coffee, small plane seats, airplane food, new stamps in my passport, crazy third world driving, the confusion of government process, unrecognizable food,  bizarre cultural customs, the great people I meet along the way, feeling lost in a language I do not understand, adding to my storehouse of stories and the adventure of not knowing what tomorrow may bring. Sure, there are things I don’t like – not being able to a shower everyday (what can I say, I like to be clean), puking my guts out from food poisoning, seeing injustice and lostness that I am helpless to address, and a short list of other hard things.

With my declaration of love for travel out in the open, I thought I would share with you a few pictures of our last trip overseas last November. We spent the month visiting friends in France, Italy, Tunisia, Switzerland and the UK. Let me just say, I am thankful to once again be able to sit in a tiny seat, crammed in with hundreds of other people, eating delicious airplane food as I head out to visit with by brothers and sister all over the globe. Ah, life on the road…

Regents Park- London

Regents Park- London

Hanging with our friend Macy in Lyon

Hanging with our friend Macy in Lyon

City of Lyon, France

City of Lyon, France

Lyon bookshop. Bought a classic work here dated 1770

Lyon bookshop. Bought a classic work here dated 1770

Ruins of the first church in Lyon- 133 AD

Ruins of the first church in Lyon- 133 AD

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva

The Reformers Monument in Geneva, Switzerland

The Reformers Monument in Geneva, Switzerland

Castle in Aosta Valley, Italy

Castle in Aosta Valley, Italy

The moon over the Alps from Aosta, Italy

The moon over the Alps from Aosta, Italy

Alps

Alps

Switzerland- this was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen

Side of the road in Switzerland – crazy beautiful

Friedrich and Mary Ellen with us on vacation in the Alps

Friedrich and Mary Ellen with us on vacation in the Alps

Visiting friends on the coast of Tunisia

Visiting friends on the coast of Tunisia

Blue door - Tunisia

Blue door – Tunisia

 

One Year later

One Year Later

On this day, a year ago, I was diagnosed with final stage testicular cancer. It is hard to believe it has only been a year but the calendar assures me as much. Twelve months ago today, I went in for a CT scan to see what was causing my legs to swell and my back to ache. Sarah and I both knew there was a possibility it might be cancer. We had just pulled into the parking lot at Target when the call came. The doctor said that my lower body was riddled with blood clots and  I had some form of advanced cancer, most likely testicular. We pulled out of the parking lot, drove to the hospital and remained there for the next two months.

Most of you know the story. I was in and out of surgery and chemo treatments for the next five months. I gained 40 pounds, lost 70 pounds and then gained back 50. Part of the time I rejoiced at God’s goodness and then struggled to feel his presence or know why he would allow such suffering. My spirit was broken, my hope seemed lost, but God continued to love and pursue me even when I did not see it. During those days I experienced love through the Church in ways I did not know were possible. Each day brought a new understanding of covenantal love as my wife served me selflessly without rest. She was hurting just as much as me, if not more. She was only 29 years old but daily faced the reality that she might lose her husband to cancer. Yet even in the face of this continual carnage of the heart; she loved and served me when I was not able to return that love. Many days I felt distant from the blessings and love God had so graciously shown in the past but I was now learning that God’s love was present,  just revealed in different ways. He was loving me through my community of friends, through my local church, through the sacrifice and prayers of strangers, and through the relentless love of a godly wife.

Today, a year after the dreadful event began, I am taking a day of reflection. I have spent the day in the Word of God, reading good books, talking with my wife, writing down my thoughts and stopping to rest and think deeply. My plan is to make this a yearly habit. Take a day of reflection on the anniversary of when I was diagnosed with cancer (February 5) and take a day of celebration when by God’s grace cancer was defeated (June 4).

I have been slowly reading through Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. This book is not for the faint of heart. Keller writes over 300 pages on the deep issues of suffering. Keller does not side step the hard questions but faces them head on and for that I am thankful. It has been a refreshing read and one that has allowed me to process my own suffering, see my suffering as a means of personal growth and understand that my suffering allows me to both love others well and identify with our suffering Savior. What a refreshing truth that God himself understands our suffering because he too has suffered.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”  Isaiah 53: 4-5

“…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:6-8

What a marvelous truth for me to meditate on today; my God understands and cares about my suffering because he has suffered in the deepest ways possible. What is even greater is that he did so for the good of others, even to the point of death. Dan McCartney states that, “the main reason that Christians insist that God can be trusted in the midst of suffering is that…God himself has first hand experience.” Keller adds to this line of thinking when he says, “We should also trust him [God] because he earned our trust on the cross. So we can trust him even when he hasn’t shown us yet the reason why. He is good for it.” (p.154)

So that is where I am today. I don’t know why this last year happened but the answer to why seems less important. What is important to me is the truth of God’s unfailing love in the midst of this last year and the depth of relationship with him that only suffering can bring. It’s hard to wrap our minds and hearts around but suffering does bring about good things. Suffering in itself is not good but when it strips away all we are and all we hope for and leaves us at the feet of Jesus, it can’t help but be a good thing.

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Thankful for Christmas

Friends and Family,

We have had a crazy year. In some ways it has felt like the longest year ever and in other ways it feels like the whole year just passed us by.

The big events that have made our life crazy this year have all related to Nathan’s health. This journey began last November when his knee went out playing basketball. He had surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon and had to keep the leg straight for the next 8 weeks. His recovery was much harder than we anticipated resulting in multiple ER visits, tests, and scans. The end result was the discovery in February that he had last stage testicular cancer and severe blood clots in his abdomen. Nathan was in the hospital for a continuous 2 months as doctors diagnosed his condition, did surgeries and began chemotherapy treatments. In total Nathan went through 3 rounds of chemotherapy and 4 surgeries. The final surgery was in June where doctors removed the remaining tumor and then were able to declare him cancer free. Needless to say those months were long and hard. The chemotherapy Nathan endured was strenuous making him incredibly sick and preventing him from being able to eat. He lost a total of 40 pounds during his treatments. Currently he continues to go for routine doctor’s appointments, chest x-rays, and CT scans. He also remains on blood thinners for the blood clots. Looking at him however you would never guess he had been sick. God has been so good to heal him and restore health. He is working full time and even went on an international trip in November.

Cancer is the hard part of our story. But it has pushed us to an exciting new season. Last year we began to pursue growing our family with no success. After discovering the cancer we understood why our efforts to have children had not been successful. Adoption is something we have had a heart for both individually and as a couple. Our initial plan had been to wait several years before pursuing adoption. The events of this year have caused us to decide to pursue adoption now as the primary way of growing our family. We are so excited about this opportunity to reflect our Father’s adoption of us as we seek to adopt children of our own. Please pray for us as we begin this new journey. We know it will not be easy and step forward with great awareness of our need for Father’s grace.

We wish we had the privilege of seeing you and catching up in person. Have a wonderful Christmas celebrating the Father’s gift of His Son!

Love,

Nathaniel & Sarah