My Time is Very Valuable…

November 17, 2011

From a quick glance at this title, one might conclude: “this sounds intriguing…Either he thinks too highly of himself or he has a good grasp on reality,” or “this will be a blog about him and how someone wasted his time.” Well, you are wrong (if you thought that)! It has nothing to do with me, sort of…you’ll see…

Today, I embarked on my journey from Doylestown, PA to Atlanta, GA for the National Youth Workers Convention. Convention related things don’t start until tomorrow, but I wanted to come a little earlier in hopes of making time to relax and reenergize myself before I partake in this information overload that will be thrown my way in all of the Big Room Sessions, Breakout Sessions, seminars, etc… Don’t get me wrong, those are all amazingly beneficial things, but I’m at a point lately where I need to be recharged.  I went to bed at 2:00 am last night and woke up at 5:45 am to go lead my High School students in a Bible study at a local coffee shop. After that, I took a quick nap, loaded up my truck, and hit the road. What should have been a 45-minute drive to the airport, turned into almost a two hour excursion on account of the rain and the people of Philadelphia’s inability to drive in said rain! I was frustrated! I just wanted to get to the airport, get on the plane, and sleep until I landed in Atlanta. Being that I am 26 years old, you would think I would know by now that I can never get comfortable enough to sleep on a plane. Long story short, I eventually got to Atlanta and then my hotel in the downtown area.

After I unpacked and freshened up a bit, I started walking in hopes of finding a restaurant some friends and I went to years ago when we were here for the convention (Max Lager’s Wood-Fired Grill and Brewery). I found it and the food was just as good as I remembered it being. However, the barbeque sauce was  ten times as good as I remember it being. They must have made some improvements since I was last here. For that, I am thankful!

I bet you are still wondering why this blog post is called “My Time is Very Valuable…”! Don’t worry, I’m getting to it!

When I was walking back to my hotel from the restaurant, I somehow ended up going the wrong way. I was tired, frustrated, and just wanted to get back to my room. Before I go any further, I need to give you some context of this city…

If you know anything about Atlanta or if you have ever been here before, there are a lot of homeless people on the streets. Some of them will play instruments on the side of the road in hopes of passers-by giving them some change. Some of them will just sit there with a coffee can and a sign asking for any spare change. Some of them will sing in hopes that you will give them money. And others will start walking right next to you, show interest in you, and help you get to where you are going. This latter example happened to me when I was here in 2008 and again tonight. The man that I encountered in 2008 made a huge impact on my life. We walked and talked and I got to learn a little bit about his life and why he was in the situation that he was in. As I got to my destination, God was laying it on my heart to help him but all I had was a ten dollar bill, so I gave it to him. I don’t know if it helped him very much, but that encounter really opened my eyes and gave me a new perspective on Matthew 25:35-40…

“35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

In this passage, Jesus teaches that when you help people in need, you are actually doing whatever it is you did for Jesus.

I wish I could tell you that I remembered that guy’s name and that I regularly prayed for him, but I can’t. I did for a few weeks, but then I forgot about him. Until tonight…as I was walking into the restaurant I saw a guy standing near the side of the building who looked very familiar. He said “what’s up, big man?” and I nodded my head and proceeded to go get some dinner. I can’t be certain that it wasn’t the same guy, but the odds of it being him are very low. Regardless though, seeing that man tonight brought memories of 2008’s encounter back into my mind and God renewed those thoughts of wanting to make a difference in my mind.

Now, back to tonight…as I was walking around trying to bounce back from being lost, I walked past a guy who was singing something. And guess who this guy looked like?!? You guessed it, the guy from 2008 and the guy I saw earlier in the night. If it was the same guy, then God was definitely behind that beautiful orchestration. He looked at me and started walking and talking with me. He took note of my Steelers hat and started talking to me about the Steelers…not the Steelers of today, but the champions from the 1970’s. Now, keep in mind, I was lost and frustrated at the time. After a few blocks, we came to a cross-walk and waited for the signal to change that would grant us permission to cross. He asked me which hotel I was trying to find. Because of the frustrated attitude I had, I didn’t want to be bothered so I said “I’m just walking around…” But as soon as I said that, I got a gut check from God that pretty much told me that I’m an idiot and I need to help this man out. So I told him the truth and that I was trying to find the Sheraton Atlanta hotel. He told me that he knew where it was and that he wanted to help me out. Then he proceeded to tell me that besides the singing, he likes to help people like me out when they are trying to get around in the city. I reached into my pocket and gave him whatever money I had in there. It wasn’t much, and I told him that, but he said “that’s perfect!” I shook his hand and found out his name was Timothy. I thanked him and told him to go get himself something to eat!

So, you’re still wondering what this title has to do with anything, huh? I suppose it’s time to tell you. As soon as that guy stopped singing and started walking and talking with me, he went on a little rant that went something like this: “you know, I don’t have a job right now and I’m struggling, but I can sing and so I was just singing for those guys (points back to the group that had just walked away) and they wouldn’t even give me a couple dollars so that I could get something to eat. If they’re going to waste my time, they should just leave me the (expletive) alone. You know? My time is very valuable…” And that’s when it hit me. That man; although he didn’t have a job, money, or a place to live, still had an amazing grasp on reality. His reality was that even though he didn’t have much to offer, he wanted to use the little that he did have to help people. The group of guys that listened to him sing and then didn’t help him out were wasting his time. Time that he could have been using to help other people in whatever way he could.

So the questions that I want to leave you with are: Is your time so valuable to you that you aren’t allowing yourself to be tuned in to where God is leading you in terms of being the difference in peoples’ lives? Are you too busy or too frustrated to allow God to use you to help someone in need?

The reality is that our time is valuable. Not for the purpose of doing what makes us feel good but for the purpose of completing the good works God created for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We can live by our own agendas or we can live by His, but either way, we only have so much time…

 – paulg


An Update on Alexis: Praises and Prayer Requests…

February 2, 2010

Hey Everyone,

It’s been a while since I have updated you on Alexis’ battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. There have been some positives and some negatives since my last update, as is normal for what she is going through. I will start with the positives and then finish with the negative, which will also let you know how you can be praying!

Alexis "driving" my truck!

On Sunday January 24, 2010, Ashley got a call during church and had to rush out to take Alexis to the hospital here in Altoona. Her port (the place under her arm pit where they administer the chemo) was extremely red and swollen. They were afraid it was infected. The doctors concluded that it was just irritated from the skin being stretched so tightly over it and her clothes rubbing on it. So that was a relief to hear!

On Tuesday January 27, 2010, Ashley received some very good news about Alexis’ blood counts. Her white blood cells were up (not as much, but still good). Her Hemoglobin’s and Platelets are down (but this is normal for the chemo she has been receiving). But the most amazing news is what I’m about to tell you next! Alexis’ ANC (Absolute Neutrophil Count) was raised significantly from the last report and from what it should be in someone in her condition. Normal ANC should be between 1,000 and 2,000. Alexis’ numbers have been in the 300-400 range as of late, but something happened last week that can only be explained by looking to God, the Mighty Physician and Awesome Provider! Last week, Alexi’s dad was diagnosed with Pneumonia. Alexis was with her dad a few days before this happened, so everyone was afraid that she would get sick due to her ANC being as low as it has been. But God had other plans. When Ashley and her mom (Diana) were told that Alexis’ ANC was way up, Diana said (out loud, in the hospital room) “God knew what she needed to keep from getting the pneumonia her daddy has!” On Friday January 22, 2010, her ANC was 640, and on Tuesday January 26, 2010, her count was 1,800!!!! With the intense chemo she was receiving, the counts should have dropped significantly, not gone up significantly!

Another praise is that due to the intense chemo Alexis has been receiving over the last two weeks, she should have lost her hair by now…and she hasn’t! She still has a full head of hair and is still full of energy, which is something that the doctors said she would lose as well!

Alexis has not been sleeping very well lately and Ashley and her parents are not sure why. Sometimes it seems as if she has a belly ache and sometimes it may be a bad dream. They say she has been crying for a ½ hour plus, several times per night. This not only affects Ashley (who sleeps with Alexis), but it also affects Ashley’s parents. They all wake up to care for Alexis and then have trouble falling back to sleep, and when they finally do, Alexis wakes up crying again.

Alexis is currently (as I write this at 10:15 am on Tuesday February 2, 2010) at Childrens Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA receiving a chemo treatment and LP (spinal tap). Here platelets and other levels are good, so she will not need a transfusion today (which is an answer to prayer). As of Monday, her ANC was below 500 though (in the 400 range). Today, Ashley has informed me that it is down to 200. Due to this low number, she is highly susceptible to infection and sicknesses.

I received a text message from Ashley a little bit ago that said that Alexis will need to have surgery on Friday to have her port replaced because it is rubbing through her skin. They won’t find out what time the surgery is until Thursday night sometime. Ashley says that they could possibly not find out until 9 pm Thursday and then have to be there at 6 am on Friday.

So where do you come in? I need you all to pray for several things. Pray for them once, pray for them twice, pray for them a million times. Ashley, Alexis, and family need your prayers so very much right now!

Please pray for:

  • Alexis’ numbers to stay in the normal range
  • Alexis to not get sick due to her low ANC
  • Alexis’ hair to stay for as long as possible (I’ve been praying that she won’t lose it…because nothing is impossible with God)
  • Alexis’ Port Replacement Surgery on Friday February 5, 2010
  • Health for Ashley and her family…they need to stay healthy to make sure Alexis gets healthy
  • Rest for Ashley, Alexis, and Ashley’s Parents
  • Peace for everyone involved

Thank you all so very much for your continued prayers, love, and support of little Alexis and everyone involved in what she is going through.

God is in control, and He hears our prayers. So keep ‘em coming!!! Thank you!!!

– paulg


An Update on Alexis (from Ashley)…

January 13, 2010

Hey Everyone,

Here is an update on sweet little Alexis from her mommy Ashley! I got some of the info wrong yesterday based on the limited communication we had via text message, so here is the full details  on Alexis’ current condition. Please use this to know how to pray for her!

pray for this beautiful/wonderful/amazing little girl!

“Yesterday we went to Pittsburgh for an LP (spinal tap) and chemo. We were also excited to find out the results of the last bone marrow aspirate to find out what “risk group” Alexis was put into.

The first two hours we were there, Alexis was given fluids through an IV. She needed these to prevent damage to her bladder from the Cytoxan (type of chemo) that she received. (She will have to do this again in 4 weeks.) After her fluids, we met with her doctor to talk about her bone marrow results.

The test they did was 1,000 times stronger than the previous tests, and it revealed that there is still Leukemia in her bone marrow. Not enough to take her out of remission, but enough to categorize her as “standard risk-high”. There are 3 risk groups, low, standard and high, and within standard, there is standard risk-low and standard risk-high. We weren’t expecting this AT ALL.

SO what does this mean? She will have to have two extra months of intense chemotherapy. That won’t extend her total treatment time, it will just take two months out of her maintenance period (usually the last two years). AND…if we hadn’t enrolled Alexis in this clinical trial, they wouldn’t have found this Leukemia…the test isn’t standard, strictly for the clinical trial!! So thank GOD we had her enrolled! Otherwise her chances of relapsing would have been GREATLY increased, and by that I mean, more than likely, she would have.

So what’s next? LOTS of chemo. She had two different types yesterday, today she starts in-home chemo, where a nurse comes in and administers it through her port (we came home with it accessed). She will have in-home chemo wednesday through friday this week and next week. Plus she is taking a chemo pill every night for two weeks. Next tuesday, we go back to CHP for chemo and another LP.

They also told us that her hair will be gone by the end of next week. 😦 Her ANC (absolute neutrophil count) is down, so shes not allowed to go out anymore either. They also told us that the chemo can cause fevers, and as soon as she has a fever of 101 or 100.5 for longer than 2-3 hours, we have to go to the ER. They told us to go to Altoona and the will do bloodwork there. If her counts are ok, she can have an antibiotic and go home, but more than likely they wont be, so she’ll get transported to CHP by ambulance and we will be there until she has 3 days in a row fever-free. Basically, we are to expect that to happen. And we aren’t supposed to go back to CHP without a bag packed to stay, just in case. She will be needing more blood transfusions and platelets over the next few weeks because all of her counts will be dropping from the massive amounts of chemo she will be receiving.

Please keep praying, everyone!! We have a long road ahead of us, and it just got longer! But God is good!! 🙂

Ashley”

I’ve been telling you all how strong Ashley has been for Alexis and how amazing she is. I provide you with her words in this post so you can see for yourselves. This is not easy on anyone!

I do have one specific prayer request for you. I got to see Ashley and Alexis for a few minutes today (Ashley and I on the porch, and Alexis inside through the living room window). She was being her cute, sweet, and innocent self. She was full of joy and excitement. She was happy to see me and was excited to tell her grandpap (Ashley’s Dad) about my “scary hat” as she likes to call it! It brought such joy to me to see her so happy and full of excitement. Yesterday, we all found out that Alexis is sicker than the doctors thought, but after seeing her today, and knowing of the terrible day she had just been through, it showed me that she is stronger than we thought! She is a fighter…she is amazing…she is beautiful…and she is anything a mother could ever want in a child. Please pray that she will not lose her joy, regardless of what she goes through. Pray that she is able to remain happy little Alexis. This will help her mommy, her family, and those close to her to stay strong for her!

Alexis needs your prayers. Ashley needs your prayers. Their family needs your prayers. And I need your prayers!

Thank you again!

– paulg


Alexis Update: Urgent Prayer Needed…

January 12, 2010

I just received an update on Alexis, and it didn’t sound good. I am writing this with tears in my eyes, but God is still doing His thing…I can feel it and have faith in Him!

Alexis Running on the Beach

The bone marrow test that Alexis had done two weeks ago came back and the news is not what the doctors and family were expecting. Alexis has come a long way since her initial diagnosis on December 4, 2009 but she is sicker than they initially thought.

On Sunday, Ashley told me about a super strong bone marrow test that was performed on Alexis the last time she was at Childrens Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. If they hadn’t put her in the study (which gets her the above-mentioned super strong bone marrow test…that is 10,000 times strongerr than the normal test, they never would have caught the Leukemia cells that are still in her body. Ashley said that because of this test, she is now considered “standard-high risk. It doesn’t decrease her chances of beating this disease, but it does mean she needs an extra two months of intense chemo!

These two extra months of chemo will be added to the original plan of 2 ½ years. She will also be getting chemo every day this week here in Altoona, PA. And she will probably lose her hair by the end of the week. Most of the news on Alexis has been good up to this point, but this is a big setback for her, her family, and those who love this little girl. The family and everyone involved is overwhelmed and could use large amounts of prayer, and that’s why I’m writing and regularly updating you all.

The doctors still feel that a full recovery will happen, but it will just take longer than they originally thought. The doctors initially told the family that the journey would be like this, with good days and bad, like a roller coaster. And that is exactly what it has been thus far!

Please keep praying for Alexis, Ashley, Family, and everyone involved in this little girl’s life. As my pastor put it, “we are in this journey with them…together…in prayer and support!”

I will provide more details as they are made known to me to help us pray more specifically. For now though, this should be enough info to send us to our knees to pray to our mighty, powerful, and awesome God! Nothing is too hard for Him!

As I was about to post this, I text messaged Ashley letting her know I was praying and would be updating you all so you could pray too. I let her know that God is in control, even when it seems that He isn’t, and that I am there for her no matter what.

And she responded with this:

“Thanks…I’m just about in shock. We’re really surprised. They said if we hadn’t put her in the study they wouldn’t have caught it and she probably would’ve relapsed. So THANK GOD!”

I have been teaching my youth group lately that no problem is too big for our God, and this is reminding me again of that. This seems HUGE and hurts so bad to think about, experience, and have happen to someone so innocent and young, but still we MUST worship! God knows what He is doing, and He knows that it will and allows this problem to seem huge to us. I believe He is working here and will prove to us all that HE IS BIGGER THAN leukemia, sickness, disease, pain, sorrow, hurt, uncertainty, and any unpleasant thing that we can ever imagine.

When we can’t, He can!

If you guys haven’t realized yet by these last few months of posts/updates, Ashley and Alexis mean the world to me and they are very dear to my heart. Please continue to pray for them…that’s all I ask! Thank you SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO incredibly much! Words can’t begin to describe how much this means to me, and to them!

–       paulg


One Day at a Time (an update on Alexis)…

January 4, 2010

Hey Everyone,

It has almost been one week since my last update on Alexis and I have the wonderful privilege of bringing you more great news and reasons to thank God for this amazing little girl! God is slowly healing her and her blood levels are getting better and better each week!

momma and her mini-me!

I was hanging out with Ashley and Alexis yesterday whenever Ashley got the call from Alexis’ nurse with the results of that mornings blood work. It brought me such joy to hear the excitement and joy in Ashley’s voice while on the phone with the nurse. To attempt to explain the results, I will first give you Alexis’ results from last week. Then I will give you what normal numbers should be, and then I will give you the results from yesterday! I have no idea what any of this means, but Ashley helped me to understand it a bit and provided me with this information.

Last week’s results:

White Blood Cells:  .8
Platelets:  79k
Hemoglobin:  9.7
ANC:  317

Normal numbers:

White Blood Cells:  5-10 (Alexis’ are going to be low because she’s a cancer patient)
Platelets:  150k-450k
Hemoglobin: 11.5-14
ANC:  1000-2000

Yesterday’s results:

White Blood Cells:  1.6
Platelets:  86k
Hemoglobin:  8.2
ANC:  1067

Prayer changes things. I can testify to that fully! God has been doing some amazing things in Ashley, Alexis, their family, and even my life through all of this. Although we can’t always understand it as humans, God knows the ending, and we just need to trust Him and take it one day at a time.

Tonight is going to be a rough night for Alexis so I would like to urge you to pray. She has to go to Children’s Hospital for a chemo treatment and a bone marrow aspirate tomorrow morning. Because of these tests, she cannot have any food tonight, and due to the steroids that she is on, this is going to be a battle. So please pray for a peaceful night of rest for Ashley, Alexis, Ashley’s parents, and Ashley’s brother. Pray that Alexis will be able to sleep the whole night through without waking up numerous times screaming (because she wants to eat).

Lastly, please pray extra hard for Ashley. She hasn’t been able to get much sleep at all for the past few weeks as Alexis has been on these steroids. Pray that she will be able to stay healthy, composed, and strong for her little girl. Ashley has portrayed unimaginable strength through this all and I tell her all of the time how much I admire it and that she is doing the right thing.  But I can see that it isn’t easy on her and it hurts to see her like that.

So please join me in continuing to pray for Ashley and Alexis. Words can’t express how thankful I am for all of you and your prayers!

– paulg


Alexis Update: God is goood!

December 24, 2009

So, as you all know, I’ve been very distant as of late in the online world. I haven’t been blogging, tweeting, or facebook updating. Someone very close to me was diagnosed with Leukemia and I haven’t had much desire to do anything but spend time in prayer. I’m not the only one either; there have been and are thousands of people all over the country and world praying for Alexis Jane Battisti, the cute/sweet/amazing/beautiful/loveable little 2 ½ year old girl! And God is sooooooo good!

Ashley, Alexis, my Mom's hand, and my dog Pepper!

Three weeks ago, on December 3, 2009, Alexis was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She went in the previous day for a normal check up and blood work. They found out her numbers were extremely low and ordered more tests the following day, and then were told to rush her to Childrens Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. You can read more about the initial testing and results at the following links: Urgent Prayer Request and Alexis Update: Day 2.

Ashley (Alexis’ amazing mommy), Alexis, Ashley’s mom, and other family members spent 9 days in the hospital as Alexis underwent test after test, and treatment after treatment. She received blood transfusions, spinal taps, bone marrow aspirates, platelets, and numerous other things. Thanks to God being so amazing, Alexis was able to go home earlier than anticipated on Friday December 11, 2009. Things have been rough since then. Due to the steroids and other medication that Alexis is on, she hasn’t been the same little girl. She eats everything in sight, even more than I do…and I’m a 265 pound 6’4 ½” 24 year old!!! The medicine makes her grumpy and not very Alexis like! And it’s taking a toll on her mommy, the rest of her family, and those that are close to and love her! I visited Ashley and Alexis on Tuesday and it was hard to see Alexis with no cheer and no care about anything. But I was able to make her smile and giggle a little, and Ashley told me that I should feel special because I’m one of the few that can make her happy! And that made my day to see both of them smile and giggle! And yes, I feel very special!

Today, Ashley, Alexis, and Alexis’ daddy traveled to Childrens Hospital for a Chemo treatment, and the results they got were truly breathtaking. I received a text message from Ashley that said:

“Everything’s great, no leukemia in her bone marrow, not even a trace!!!! 🙂 So she is officially in remission!”

I have not been able to stop thanking God ever since then. I spoke with a good friend of mine who is a nurse and she said that she has never heard of the numbers dropping from 90 to 0 in just 3 short weeks. My take on that is that God was definitely involved and was working His Wonders! We serve an awesome God, and He is sooooo good to His children!

Thank you all so very much for your continued prayers, and keep them coming. This is not over yet, but it is a huge step in the right direction. When God is in the driver’s seat, nothing is impossible, as we’ve already seen in the last 3 weeks! Thank you, thank you, and thank you!

–          paulg


URGENT PRAYER REQUEST…

December 3, 2009

Hey Everyone,

I need to ask you all to please pray! My girlfriend (Ashley) took her daughter (Alexis) for a normal check up yesterday and they found that her iron levels were low. Normal levels should be between 11 and 15, but hers were at 4.9 yesterday. They scheduled her to come in for blood work today and found that her levels today were 4.5. Ashley’s family are rushing Alexis to Childrens Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA (2 hours away) now where they will do a blood transfusion today, bone marrow tests tomorrow, and lots of other testing. They’ll have to keep her there for a few days.

I talked to and prayed with Ashley before she left and she was so shaken up. She told me what the doctors think it might be, but please pray that they are wrong, and if not, that they can fix it! This is a very scary thing, and DEFINITELY something that a 2 1/2 year old should NOT have to go through, but we have a mighty and powerful God whom nothing is impossible for.

It’s not fair that a little girl should have to go through this. Please pray that Alexis will be ok, for Ashley, for the rest of her family! Pray for patience, peace, understanding, and a strengthening of their faith!

Thank you all!

– paulg


%d bloggers like this: