Tuesday, January 17, 2017

our lives in bullets

Hello, friends! I know it's been rather quiet around here lately, so here I am breaking the silence with bullet points.

*James and I are both enjoying the ReadScripture app put out by The Bible Project. Read through the entire Bible in a year (while enjoying long passages of text free of verse number clutter) and learn and grow through some unbelievably creative videos. All free, all amazing. Just the other day I read through the story of Joseph and his brothers. The story of their reconciliation makes me cry. Every time. Hope you're making time for reading the bible this year...if you need a push, get the app.

*The girls thoroughly enjoyed the holidays and yet are glad to be back at school. It's a sweet season of friendships that are simple and straightforward and fun...and school is just challenging enough to be enjoyable rather than stressful. Caroline is learning how to read, and is looking forward to joining her sisters on the bus come July (which will be here sooner than we can imagine).

*Haoping loooved having her grandfather, parents, and aunts visit in November/December and has survived/enjoyed many "firsts" that this time of the year brings - finals week, below freezing weather, Thanksgiving, Black Friday shopping, Christmas, laser tag, and now the start of a new semester. She is doing great at school, and continues to make great strides with English. We're really proud of her and glad to see that she seems to have adjusted to life here really well.

*Coming soonish will be my very own store on TeachersPayTeachers, a website where I'll be selling materials I've developed for parents and teachers to teach the bible to kids in a way that's fun, interactive, and theologically rich. It's been good fun for me to work at developing these, and I look forward to sharing them. I'll be sure to post a link when it's open.

*James is generally doing really well - his cough sometimes seems worse, sometimes seems better, often seems rather stable. He is in less pain than before (where he used to commonly have cancer pain) and is sleeping better. His energy continues to improve, and most days it's almost hard to remember he's a cancer patient. On the other hand, he's been dealing with stomach pain for the last 2 months. Some days the pain has been so unbelievably unbearable James has hoped for death. Thankfully, it's only been that bad a few times.  Staying away from dairy, drinking ginger tea, and adding probiotics have helped.

Doctors have checked for cancer, ulcers, gallstones, liver malfunction...and all tests have come back negative. Tomorrow James will do a HIDA scan to check gallbladder function. We're not expecting the test to find anything, though it would be nice if it did because the fix is pretty straightforward. In the meantime, we continue to pray, and see that God is answering in granting James perseverance if not total healing.

*Chinese New Year is coming soon...and James is heading back to China to celebrate! He leaves next Tuesday and will be back here on Valentine's Day, the day before his next CT at the oncologist. New Year's is the biggest holiday of the year, and James will have ample opportunities to see people as everyone has time off. We are really thankful that James's relative good health intersected with a holiday which intersected with crazy cheap tickets. Join us in praying that God would bless the time, that he'd be an encouragement to many and have opportunities to speak and share.

Until next time...enjoy the start of a new year, and if you get a hankering for authentic Chinese food, you know where to find us...

lots of love,
~james & kristen

Sunday, December 4, 2016

time for good news

Hello, friends...we thought as you're in the midst of the holiday season you might enjoy some good news.

James had a CT this week and as the doctors compared his last CT (done in May) to this CT, they noticed there was no change. That is, there is no progression of disease. Seven months, and no growth of cancer...despite the fact that lung cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers out there. We are elated.

And slightly confused. I actually said, "That's WEIRD, right, Dr. Einhorn?"

Dr. Einhorn's only explanation is that James is not a smoker.

So for now, James will continue as he is and will not take any medications or treatment for cancer. As it turned out, we did get the new cancer drug from Pfizer (in the mail...twelve thousand dollars worth of drugs dropped off on our porch, no less), but Dr. Einhorn asked that James not start taking it. As he explained, "I wouldn't actually be able to tell if it's working or not, since your cancer is not progressing."

James's next appointment is not until the middle of February, which is nearly an eternity in cancer world.

in other news...
*James had an absolutely fabulous trip back home. He was busy morning to night every day, and had countless opportunities to share with believers, unbelievers, and seekers. He even had the chance to enjoy a visit from an old classmate who flew in from Beijing for two days just for the chance to see him. Needless to say, James came home tired, but also deeply encouraged and strengthened by his time.

*The last two weeks we have had a full house, hosting James's father, siblings, and their wives. We have had so.much.fun. Everything from a visit to Fair Oaks Farm to see commercial farming in America to Black Friday shopping, and everything in between...so much really good Chinese food, killing chickens at my parents' farm (more than once!), celebrating Thanksgiving twice, our girls playing games with their aunts and rough housing with their uncle, lots of laughing, a leaking faucet, someone (me) forgetting to run the dishwasher, learning how to use American tech like a waffle iron and the garbage disposal, decorating the Christmas tree, bonfires, late nights, and more shopping.

Our family has truly loved their time here and have joked more than once about not wanting to leave. They do wish they could stay longer. We hope this will be the first of many trips...

Sadly, we'll be packing everything up today and heading home tomorrow morning. I will fly with them (I got my passport & visa back just this week) and will stay a week. I'm looking forward to lending a hand at the restaurant and hope I'll be an encouragement to our staff. I think everyone at home in Indy will be mildly depressed by what will feel like an empty house. It has been a very, very good last couple of weeks.

Thank you so much for your prayers...we believe God hears and answers...
~james and kristen

Monday, October 31, 2016


Hello, Friends!

Hope you all are doing well as we quickly approach the end of the year. For us it feels a lot like sliding into home plate. Or, like we're on a merry-go-round that is spinning a little too quickly...we would appreciate prayers for God's sustaining power and grace in our lives, and that even in the midst of all the craziness of life, we might be at peace.

*Last Wednesday, James's family traveled to the US Consulate in Sichuan ( that's "Szechuan" for all you Americans) to apply for visas to the US. Thankfully, they were all granted a visa.  (Thank you, HRC, for making it so doggone easy to enter the US these days!) We are so excited for them, and really looking forward to their time in the States. (Of those traveling, only one has ever been out of the country.)  They'll be staying with us and, together with our family, generally causing a scene on the scale of My Big Fat Greek Wedding in our neighborhood. I'm thinking about painting the Chinese flag on our garage door just so everyone around knows we are that family. James is contemplating whether or not we could roast a sheep over our backyard fire pit, and whether the HOA would notice.

*James is buying his flight ticket today (Monday) for his flight to China (Friday).  Yes, we know it is kind of last minute. Sometimes, that's how we roll...and sometimes, that's just what life allows and we have to roll with it. James will be in China for just over 2 weeks. He will return the week of Thanksgiving with his family.

*James's health continues to generally improve. I often tell him that he is the world's first asymptomatic stage IV cancer patient. James is coughing less and is even able to run for short bursts. He told me that his lung capacity feels much improved and "less blocked." He is still taking Synthroid for his underactive thyroid. We don't know if that is a permanent condition, or if it will reverse itself with time (since it was medically induced). Lately we suspect that he is overdosed - we are praying his thyroid can be checked before he leaves the country.

Is James being healed? Is he being given life and health despite progressing cancer? We don't actually know. We do not know what God is doing, other than the obvious sustaining & giving of life...and we are okay with that. We are indeed very, very thankful. We would appreciate your prayers for his upcoming trip, that it would be fruitful, and that he would have strength to keep a daily schedule jammed with meetings, pastoring, preaching, counseling.

*The drug James's doctors have been working to approve has been, not surprisingly, denied by our insurance company. Although the drug has been used successfully to treat colon & breast cancer, it does not have FDA approval for use with lung cancer...so insurance considers that "experimental" and has denied it. James's doctors continue to contest that decision with reams of medical evidence. We are finishing up an application to Pfizer directly as another means of procuring the drug. Either way, we are relaxed. We know that God is most definitely not limited by insurance companies. As Job once declared, "For He will complete what He appoints for me, and many such things are in His mind."

*James continues to have opportunities for ministry here. He has been writing articles for a Chinese devotional that is distributed to Chinese Americans and the house church network within China. Within a day of publication his articles often have over 30,000 views. He has also been able to preach at a local Chinese church and is often asked to share at others. He is relishing these opportunities, and we are enjoying fellowship with our Chinese brothers and sisters (including getting to host a few for dinner last week!).

*Tomorrow I will apply for a passport renewal and then visa so that I may return to China with my in-laws at the end of their trip. I will spend the majority of my time back in China working with our restaurant staff and giving them support where needed as we quickly approach the holiday season. (Hello Dali friends - I will see you soon!)

*And in my little corner of the world...this past spring I helped a chef test recipes for an upcoming cookbook. I found out my name will be listed in the credits (along with many others, LOL).  I'll let you know when it comes out - it will be delicious! More importantly, I am working on a digital Bible study for kids for Advent (specifically, on the promises of the Messiah and their fulfillment in Jesus) that will be launched before Thanksgiving. Let me know if you want details!

I think that about wraps up the crazy. I foresee a lot of days of me in a ballcap in the coming weeks. And coffee.  A lot of coffee.

I hope your coming days are filled with bonfires, marveling at the changing seasons, taking deep breaths of cool air, and candy (the good kind).

Thank you (thank you!) for your many, many prayers.
~james and kristen

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

the new and unexpected

Hello Friends - I have a few moments of quiet around the house before I head out, and realized that now is as good a time as any to give you an update.  Two major things have happened since we last wrote...both new, and both pretty unexpected.

1. We bought a house. Yup, it's true! Just a few months ago, this was not at all on our radar and even as we considered it, we didn't actually think it would be possible.  But here we are, in our own place. 


And good. 

And completely unexpected.

Several of you have already done so much to help as we transition, and saying "thanks" really minimizes the gratitude we feel. Just the same: thank you. Most days (all days?) we are pretty overwhelmed by His goodness and kindness to us in the midst of all this. We heartily welcome visitors, and look forward to lots of hosting in the future. If you're in the area and need a place to eat or lay your head or grab a cup of coffee...remember us! (Did you know that in China, dropping by without warning is perfectly normal and socially acceptable? So if you do that here, we promise we won't think you are weird. You might even be speaking our love language.) 

Do we still hope to return to China one day? Most definitely. Pretty much every day. To be honest, buying a house in suburban America when you actually want to live and be and minister and raise your kids somewhere else is a very odd experience. If nothing else, though, these feelings keep us very grounded in the reality that this is all very temporal, and that one day it is all going to burn...so we don't have to get overly attached to any one place. This world is not our home, yet it is my Father's world. So we will live and grow and be and enjoy where He has us. 

2. About a week ago, we got a call from Dr. Einhorn with results from the genetic testing that was done on James's cancer. Initially, everyone thought that in the rare chance that there should be a mutation, it would be one that could be treated with oral chemo. As it turns out, ever the oddball patient, James didn't have those...but he has a newly discovered mutation that they would like to treat with a very new drug that is not chemo. It is considered targeted therapy, which means the drug goes after cells with a certain genetic makeup to keep them from reproducing. 


And good.

And completely unexpected.

We met with the doctors last week and heard about how they discovered it, how they tested James, why they think this drug might work, and what they expect as the outcome. To be clear, even in the best case scenario, no one there feels that this drug could actually save James's life. The best they are hoping for is that it would stop progression of disease. Doctors and researchers have not yet seen it cause remission for lung cancer, and the doctor said that even if James did go into remission, his chances of surviving are still slim to none. 


My best guess is that the doctor means that based on statistics, most lung cancer patients don't make it five years. (Which is the marker they use to measure "survivability.") So they can't speak with any certainty about this being some kind of new miracle cure.  That being said, most lung cancer patients are 70-something lifelong 2 pack-a-day smokers who already had compromised health. So...maybe not the best pool for statistics on survivability?

If I heard correctly, they have been using this drug for about 4 months, though longer for breast cancer patients (where they have seen the most positive outcomes). It is experimental in the sense that they don't yet have enough data to know expected outcomes for lung cancer patients. If I could go back to that appointment, I would have told the doctors that whatever they are expecting as the outcome, they should most of all expect that James's cancer will not react in the way they expect. Whatever happens, we can be sure that God is going to have this go the way He will have it go. 

The team at IU is working hard already (before we even met with them, actually) to procure this drug for use on James. (Prayer request number one, I guess.) They expect it to take 3-4 weeks. The next step will be for James to meet with Dr. Einhorn and perhaps do another scan to get a new baseline. As James gets treated with this drug they'll need to compare new scans with old ones to see if and how it's working. So maybe James will start treatment in November or so? 

In the meantime, James is working with friends of ours to help several of his family members get visas to come this way towards the end of November. If things go according to plan (ha!), our family will get visas, James will return to China in November for a few weeks of work and ministry, and will return to the States with his dad, three siblings, and two sisters-in-law. I personally look forward to seeing them all here, especially James's dad who is 74 this year...first flew on a plane when James and I were dating...and has never been out of the country. Amazing. And I'm sure Haoping, our niece, will enjoy getting to see her parents. We will all enjoy some really, really good Chinese food from our family.

As I sign off, allow me to share a story from the doctor's office. Neither James nor I often get the opportunity to share our faith with the doctors and nurses we come in contact with, though we seek those opportunities out and get excited whenever they present themselves. Last week, as the doctors explained things to us, and how we could call often to check on the status of getting the drug, I got the sense that they most commonly deal with patients who are in a state of desperation. Desperate for answers, desperate for a cure, desperate for efficiency, desperate for hope, desperate for life.

Yet there we were, not feeling any of those things. Through your prayers and God's grace, we have peace with where God has us, and perhaps more importantly, peace that God has us. He's got this completely under His control. Circumstances have rarely gone the way that we have wanted them to go, and yet we have tremendous confidence that nothing is happening to us that is not sovereignly orchestrated by our loving, all-powerful Father.

That's a pretty sweet spot to be in.

And so, in response, this is what I was able to say to the doctors treating James

I just want you to know that we are not going to do that [call repeatedly until we get the drug]. We are happy to use this drug, but my husband will not live or die based on whether we get this drug our not. My husband's life is in God's hands. No drug or lack of drug will extend his life or cut his life short. Nothing will cut my husband's life short. God has the number of his days, and we have already seen how He has sustained him. You know James should not be here, yet here he is. We have three young girls, and we most definitely want him to live. But that is not up to us. So we'll wait to hear from you.

That was a pretty good day.

Until next time...
lots of love & thanks,
~james and kristen

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

the post I didn't want to write

I have a confession to make.

Last week, James had a PET scan and we got the results.

I could have hopped on here and updated you all right away.  But I didn't, because we wanted a couple of days to process. And then we had a three day weekend which meant we were super busy doing a whole lot of nothing. And, so long as we're being honest, I didn't write to tell you because, well, how do you tell people your husband has cancer (for like the fourth time)?

Actually, James has always had cancer. But at different points along the way the treatment has been deemed working, he's gotten better, he's been declared well, the symptoms fade...and so we all start to feel like maybe this trial will come to an end sometime soonish.  But every time the cancer is actually still there. Given enough time, the cancer shows up in a measurable way.

And so it is this time.

When we saw Dr. Einhorn last week he told us the news we had actually suspected: James is not responding to immunotherapy.

Why not write right away? Because telling people the news they dread to hear is an uncomfortable, crappy job.

But here we are.

And now you know.

The good news is that the radiation appears to have obliterated whatever massive tumor was growing in his hip. (Yeah!) James is no longer on pain meds, no longer favors that hip, and...he actually ran last week, for the first time in two years. (Granted, it was just minutes of chasing Michaela around the yard, but still...running!)

The good news is that James remains off of his inhalers because his cough is diminished/diminishing.

The good news is that the cancer in James's lungs and lymph nodes remains localized and fairly minimal, especially considering that he's not really been treated for nearly a year.

The good news is that James, me, and the girls are not the same people we were two years ago.

Two years ago, on August 30th, we received the diagnosis that James had non-small cell lung cancer...and it felt like an atomic bomb was going off in our lives. We watched, pained, as the word "cancer" started to mushroom and seemingly destroy everything in its path. Everyone sees the upward explosion, but the billowing cloud on the ground that mercilessly devours everything around it was what we felt.

Two years ago, I stifled a sob when we realized that surgery would not be an option.

Two years ago, I wept when the doctor told us that James would need chemotherapy and radiation.

Two years ago, tears streamed down my face as our plane descended toward the hard road of doctors visits, potent drugs, physical pain, and the uncertainty of my husband's future.

Last week, on August 30th, when Dr. Einhorn gave us the diagnosis, we listened, we asked questions, and we left his office.

There was no detonation

no explosion

no tears.

In its place, there was hope. There was confidence. There was peace in the midst of a really (really) uncertain future.

And you might suspect that the point of all this is to say that trials make you stronger. Or to speak about how faith can grow through pain. Or maybe, cynically, to say that after you've been through everything we've been through, you can get to some kind of elevated consciousness where you stop feeling the weightiness of the bad news you've just received.

But you'd be wrong.

A few lines back I said that we are not the same people that we were. But that is really an oversimplification.

Actually, we are the same people. We are still the same weak, fearful people with faltering faith that we were two years ago.

Every morning, we wake up uncertain of the next step, uncertain of who God is, feeling anything but peace...and God graciously, faithfully pulls out the paddles and resuscitates our hearts with His love.

These last two years have given us glimpses of His goodness. At each and every turn of this precipitous journey, we have seen Him come through for us, often in astounding, miraculous ways. We have never been more assured of who He is: faithful, loving, sovereign, the God of all grace. We know that He alone has the power to give and sustain life. Because of this, we can have great hope that He will sustain us.

We have not changed. But we have been given eyes to see Him more clearly, and that makes all the difference.

and now, the brass tacks...
*at this point, James has limited treatment options. Since last November when James's tumors were genetically tested, some new mutations have been discovered which would allow James to be treated with oral chemotherapy. Dr. Einhorn sent James's tumor samples off to be tested for these "new" mutations. It is not likely that he has one, but those who do typically respond very well to the oral chemo.

*James is doing well these days. It's funny (in a way that has made me laugh out loud more than once this last week) when I think about all those months when he was being "treated" by immunotherapy that so many of us remarked how good James we looking, and how James was getting better. His symptoms are actually decreasing, and he's feeling really good. But we know the immunotherapy isn't working based on the PET.....so to say we don't know the outcome is an understatement.

*over the last week, we have spoken to several people, and the question that only a few people have dared to ask (though everyone wants to) is - how much time does James have left? Not surprisingly, Dr. Einhorn doesn't know, and isn't making any predictions. (Because for all his brilliance, he's still just a man.) Dr. Einhorn described James's cancer this week as "unusual" and "bizarre." Which means that they've never really had a patient like James. He's outside the statistics, outside the "if this diagnosis, then that treatment" formulas. For the first time since we've met him, Dr. Einhorn has stopped saying anything definitively.

We do know that very few people make it out alive from a stage IV lung cancer diagnosis. We also know that James's cancer is localized and progressing slowly. No doctor can predict how quickly it will progress. No doctor can predict what God will yet do. And, thankfully, no disease, no cancer, no doctor can undo what God has planned. The diagnosis is indeed grim. But it's just a diagnosis, merely a statement of what is. If these last two years have taught us anything, a diagnosis is not a definitive predictor of the outcome. (Because if it was, by all accounts, James would already by gone.)

So by all means, pray. You're not off the hook yet! May God be gracious, may God heal, may God lead us through any dark days ahead, may God receive all the glory for all that He's doing in this.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up.
Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belongs deliverances from death.
~Psalm 68:19-20~

With love & thanks,
~james & kristen

Sunday, August 28, 2016

seven hundred thirty days ago...

Two years ago this week James and I were boarding a plane and heading to Thailand. 

A mere four months prior, we had opened The Foreign Wife after months actual years of planning; countless hours of cooking (the fun part - unless it's a fail, and then it's the worst part); recipe development (hello, metric system!); renovations largely involving two women (myself and our manager) whose combined hours of previous training, relevant experience, and watching renovation shows equaled maybe one; training a staff to cook and bake in an entirely different method, mode, and culture with ingredients they'd never heard of, to a flavor palate they'd never tasted, to a standard of consistency that surely convinced them I was neurotic; learning to deal with customers who are mostly a fun lot, until they berate you for your lack of skill, poor standards, and miserly approach to food and customer service because you forgot the bacon in the Caesar salad (Huh?). 

And things were going, well...great! 

Except that James could not stop coughing. He had given up preaching on Sundays, and really much talking at all because he could not speak more than a few sentences without a coughing fit. As we transferred planes on our way to Thailand he actually laid on the airport floor to try to get some relief for his back pain as weeks of an uncontrolled cough made sitting in a molded plastic chair unbearable.

Except that a round of antibiotics and consistent use of an inhaler did nothing to improve the situation. 

Except that James had done a CT that showed a collapsed right middle lobe.

Except that James had done a bronchoscopy in China that told us that "something" was "growing" in his lungs. 

Ever the optimist, I expected to find that James had some weird virus or fungus. I thought, you know, worst case scenario we were dealing with TB. 

Other than James's back pain, we were kinda sorta looking forward to a few days' break in Thailand. We hadn't been on so much as a date in years (yes, actual years - no judging!), and one of our friends said that hey, sans kids in a foreign country, it would probably feel like something of a second honeymoon. 

Within days, James had blood tests, another chest xray, another bronchoscopy, an MRI, another CT, a PET scan, a bone marrow biopsy, and a lung function test. We saw multiple specialists multiple times: a pulmonologist, a thoracic oncologist, another oncologist, a physical therapist, a surgeon, and even an infectious disease doctor.  We learned to bow and sawadee-ka our way into the good graces of numerous Thai nurses. We got prescriptions filled at the pharmacy - mostly for pain (those worked) and for James's cough (those didn't). 

When we weren't trying to sustain ourselves on the free crackers and juice boxes at the hospital between appointments, we frequented the Thai shops, enjoyed several great Thai meals, took ambling walks in the neighborhoods surrounding the hospital, and even found a fabulous little Italian place where the owner liked to sing Italian opera (loudly) in front of his diners.  (Because, why not?!) 

But mostly, we waited. When we first arrived in Thailand, no one, least of all the doctors, thought James had cancer. When we first arrived in Thailand, we thought we'd have a few days off, get some answers, fill a script, and go back to life as planned. 

But then, the results...

A hypermetabolic pulmonary mass in the right lower hilum, causing collapse of the medial segment. There are hypermetabolic mediastinal lymph nodes along the paratracheal, precarinal, and sub/post carinal (right paraesophageal) and probably hilar (obscured by the aformentioned mass) stations.

AKA - Stage III Lung Cancer.

And so began the last two years of our lives, where we have learned what words like hypermetabolic, mediastinal, neoplasm, and malignant mean.

I mean, what those words really mean.

What they mean is physical pain, weeks of suffering, the opioid class of drugs you never thought you'd need, sleepless nights, anesthesia, surgeries, hospital beds, ER visits, calls from the doctor, calls to the doctor, long hours on hold with hospitals, billing offices, and insurance companies, needle pricks, IV bags, radiation, lines at the pharmacy, weight checks, blood tests, intravenous drugs, PET scans, CT scans, more needle pricks, more radiation, waiting for results, and being asked every three weeks about your past/current tobacco use.

Of all the things on the list, I wish I was making that last one up.

Those words have also meant innumerable kindnesses from friends, precious hours spent together as a couple, tears in public, and conversations about life, death, and love with our girls.

They've meant all kinds of prayers, in all kinds of ways, from all kinds of people - from elders at churches to strangers in the store - prayers for healing, prayers of lament, prayers of faith, and pleading prayers for mercy.

They've meant always having a story to share about how God is real, God is present, and God alone gives life and numbers our days.

They've meant finding strength to persevere,

hope against some really (really) horrible odds,

joy in the midst of sorrow,

courage replacing fear,

gratitude among the rubble of loss (so much loss),

and life in the face of death.

Those few words have meant - more than once - that when things seem really, really dark...God is actually working a miracle.

There's been a lot packed in to these two years.

And we wouldn't trade them for anything.

Thanks for coming along, friends.
~james & kristen

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

august and everything after

Hi All - Sorry for the long silence over in this little corner of the internet. So we fell off the face of the earth for the summer, but the good news is that the views are spectacular! 

I hope to write a few more posts in the coming days (but those of you who know me can shrug those off, "promises, promises..." and then be pleasantly surprised if I actually come through, teehee!). 

Since I last wrote, here's a few highlights...

1. James just completed 5 treatments of SBRT radiation to his hip on Friday. Ever the unusual patient, James's pain actually increased on this treatment, though yesterday and today he has been able to have several hours pain free. (I think this is a good sign, as we've learned that cancer pain comes and stays...it doesn't comes & go.  It's possible that the pain he is now feeling is the effects of radiation and not from the tumor.) We are hoping and praying that as the days pass post-treatment, his energy will return to previously high levels and that the pain will stop completely. There's also the possibility that even though doctors only radiated his hip that this treatment can have a synergistic effect with immunotherapy, actually increasing immunotherapy's effectiveness.  Also, James is off of his inhalers and coughs pretty minimally now. Wow - how did we get here? 

James's next CT scan will be sometime this month...I'll be sure to keep you in the loop on that humdinger.

2.  We are now a family of six! We returned from China with our 16 year old niece, Haoping, who will go to high school here in Indianapolis. She starts school in just a few days and has been busy back to school shopping, getting immunized (ouch!), enrolling in classes, eating American food (which she says is much better than her Uncle James led her to believe!), and acclimating to air conditioning. Hat tip to all the large families out there who manage to seemingly effortlessly stay on top of the lives of their children ranging in ages from preschooler to high schooler. It's an impressive feat, let me tell you! (After this last month, the only reason we might still be functional is because we don't have middle schoolers in the mix - ha!)

3. We had an absolutely wonderful summer back home in Dali. We had fabulous weather (siiiiiigh), too many ice coffees to count, hours of fabulous conversations connecting with locals (yeah for my brain that quickly recovered my Chinese!), incredibly blessed (and delicious) weeks spent in the restaurant kitchen, swimming with friends, a week spent relaxing with James's extended family in the village, perhaps the best tiramisu in the world (come to The Foreign Wife!), got drenched in the pouring rain, and....everything in between. I think one of the girls favorite parts was getting to go to the corner store on their own to buy bubble gum, ice cream, and various other sundries. It was a whirlwind of a trip with very little downtime for either James or me, but it was very, very good. God truly blessed the weeks that we had, and we saw Him accomplish and do things in those short weeks that many times we would wait a year or more to see. 

4. Our restaurant did something of a relaunch the last week I was in Dali. Our staff has new uniforms, we installed a new China Town style sign out front that glows in your sleep, our menu was updated and reprinted with heaps of new dishes, staff assignments were realigned, we hired a couple new staff members, we sent out an advertisement via social media that got 18,000 views in the first 24 hours....and naturally got wind in our sails from being all together again. By the time I left everyone was feeling recharged and excited, and proud of the work they do. (They know how to make Italian pasta from scratch! What's not to love?!) Not surprisingly, our July sales were the highest they've ever been. Exciting stuff. 

5. We are looking for a place to live. With the addition of our niece + the uncertainty of our time here in Indy (will it be another year? another two? three? ten?), we have started the house hunt. Kind of exciting and definitely overwhelming in it's complexity. The cultural differences are absolutely astounding and either make you laugh or make your head spin. But it's all good, and we are thankful. 

As always, thanks for your love & prayers that continue to bless and sustain us. Since our return to Indy we are finding grace to persevere through this season of our lives. In the last couple of weeks, James has had some of the worst pain he's ever had, and many nights of disturbed sleep. After our time in China it feels like a real setback, and is all things scary and depressing all rolled into one. But we find that as we draw near to Him, He strengthens us so that we do more than plod. Some days it feels like a plod (and that may be all you have the strength or energy for), but if you can just look up...you see there's just so much to be thankful for. 

Enjoy this beautiful day...
~james & kristen