words by Leslie Vogel
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” ~Ephesians 3:20
If there is one way that I could accurately portray the life God has blessed me with, I would have to say that it is what is described in the verse above. Indeed, the Vogel family has been given IMMEASURABLY more than we could ask or imagine. More joy, more suffering, more valleys, and abundantly more blessings.
Many may look at our family and see “normal.” Husband, wife, cute kids, etc. But anyone who knows what our life has consisted of over the last 10 years would see anything but “normal.” There is literally no way to see our family apart from the grace and generosity of God.
Let’s back up. David and I were married in 2010. He was a worship pastor at a church in Knoxville, TN and we quickly settled into all the things that come with starting a life together in marriage and ministry. However, things very quickly went from “normal” to difficult.
In 2012, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Cancer. At 27 years old. 1.5 years into marriage. I’ll never forget all of the feelings and thoughts that emerged when I heard that one, dreadful word.
“But will we be able to have kids?”
This was one of the first things that I asked.
Which in hindsight seems a bit silly since my life was in jeopardy. But I had longed to be a mom my whole life and simply couldn’t imagine a future without children in it.
We were assured that this was the “good” cancer with a 99% survival rate with chemotherapy. We were relieved! I thought, “six months of chemo won’t be fun. I’ll lose my hair. Things will be delayed. But after that, we can have a ‘normal’ life.” I was very wrong.
It turns out my form of cancer was resistant to almost all types of chemo. I had what is called “refractory” disease because I was unable to reach remission. This hurled me from the security and safety of the 99% to the terrifyingly bleak reality of the 1%. We tried every possible treatment we could. Nothing worked. Treatments, scans, and disappointing doctor’s visits became our “normal” for 3 years.
By the time I was 30, I was being forced to see a future of chronic disease, no children, and dying young. But God had a different future in mind for me.
I was surrounded by the most incredible support system and church body. They prayed and wept with us and believed in God’s ability to heal me even when I couldn’t. I had a husband who was so steadfast in hope and patient in affliction who wouldn’t let me believe that we had reached the end. His job was leading worship and I believe the only way we survived this season was by worshipping through the pain.
Just when we had exhausted all treatment options, the Lord led us to New York City and Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital to a ground-breaking clinical trial. I traveled every other week for 10 months to New York to receive treatment and very quickly got into remission! My doctors there refer to me as a “medical anomaly” but we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God performed a miracle.
After a little over a year in remission God gave us the biggest and best surprise of our lives by allowing us to naturally conceive our daughter, Elizabeth Anne (Ellie). Then two years later our sweet Isaiah Thomas entered the world and now we welcome Eden Jane.
God is both sovereign and good and is worthy of all of our praise. And I know that even if He had chosen not to heal me on earth or allow me to be a mom, these things would still be true.
I did absolutely nothing to deserve the abundant gifts I have received. It wasn’t my “goodness” or my faith or my actions that led us to a redeemed life. It was 100% a gift from God. In the same way, God offers us the abundant gift of salvation. We don’t have to earn it. We can’t do anything to deserve it. But God freely gives it to us and redeems what was lost. I pray that our story would always just be a shadow of THIS truth. The truth of the Gospel. God spared us the sad ending that we deserved because of our sin and gave us the best gift we could ever receive; Jesus.
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