Contrast

“Some days are just bad days, that’s all.  You have to experience sadness to know happiness, and I remind myself that not every day is going to be a good day, that’s just the way it is.” – Dita Von Tesse

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season;” 2 Timothy 4:2A

What is the best type of sunset?  Is it the ones that happen on a clear evening without a cloud in the sky?  Is it ones that include a beach or mountain?  Is it the ones that occur after a day of storms and the clouds are lingering to catch the red glow of the sun?  Which is it?  Most have their preference.  Mine is the sunset that includes dark clouds hovering around that seem to ignite with red and orange as the sun sinks low.  The contrast between the dark and the light bring a symphony like no other.  My family has this discussion everytime we experience a sunset on Lake Bruin in Louisiana.  We all sit on a small pier that overlooks the water directly facing West into the sunset.  We enjoy each and everyone, but the ones that include clouds are the ones we post on Instagram, Facebook, and the ones we print and hang on our walls.  Why is that? Contrast.

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I fondly remember growing up in the nineties.  I remember always being ready for the next stage of life.  Then when I got to the next stage I dreamed about going back.  Life changes and I began to see that having the exact same events everyday was not a way to live.  Even I got tired of summer and being “off” for three months.  I decided a good mix of boring days and busy days was the way to live.  Plus I don’t think I would even know what a busy day was if not for the boring ones.

Lately this blog has been left in the dust due to a bunch of “busy” days packed together for the last four months.  The Spring months are by far the busiest ones of the year at my office I share with my father.  It has been a whirlwind of events, meetings, and strategy.  Now that the season has changed, I am starting to space out meetings, begin working on other projects, and taking time in the mornings to write, reflect, and prepare.  As I sit at my kitchen table, watching my backyard, drinking a cup of coffee, and listen to acoustic guitar radio on Pandora, I appreciate the busy times and I realize that I have a new appreciation for these quiet times.  This cup of coffee has never tasted so rich.  Contrast.

In Fall 2013, I lost 25 lbs in a month, I developed a cough, and I woke every morning drenched in sweat.  These were the result of having blood cancer, but I didn’t find out until I went for a PET scan.  My general physician found something wrong with my blood first.  See he compared my blood to that of someone without disease.  He sent me to an X-ray machine and saw something that did not look right compared to how things should look.  Then he sent me to get a PET scan.

At my first PET scan I was used to pictures of my insides by then.  The tech placed me in a room and sat me in a comfy chair. I was then asked if I wanted to have Berry or Coffee flavored shake.  Well Coffee sounded awful so I went with Berry.  She walked in to give me what looked like a plastic bottle of milk that you would get at a gas station.

“Drink every bit of this,” she said.

“What does this do?” I asked.

“It makes the cancer glow, so we can see it.  It’s called a Contrast.”

Contrast.  With my cancer cells glowing in my body from my shake, my Oncologist could easily see the fist sized tumor sitting on my heart.  Now the treatment could begin.  Each scan after this showed the tumor smaller and eventually, my scan looked just like someone’s without cancer.

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As a people, we are always comparing things, trying to figure out the “best” way to do things, the “best” way to think, and the “best” way to feel.  We compare and contrast.  Try to find the differences and the similarities.  If everyday was boring or everyday was busy, we wouldn’t appreciate the other.  But I know that without contrast, I wouldn’t know my favorite sunset, the doctor’s wouldn’t have found the cancer in my body, and I sure wouldn’t enjoy this quiet morning cup of coffee as much as I do now.

There is one great truth behind all this.  Though the days change and we experience both prosperous and difficult times, Christ remains the same throughout.  As it is stated in Hebrews

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8

He is the same through every experience.  Always loving, always welcoming, always teaching.  The thing about Christ is that He shows us what a glimpse of Heaven is.  A place where we will truly contrast it to this life.  My favorite picture of Heaven is at the close of the Chronicles of Narnia.  C. S. Lewis writes:

“And as He (Aslan) spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

In 2 Timothy, Paul writes to be prepared in season and out of season.  I think He means in good times and bad.  Christ is the same in all, so why not lean on Him, the constant?  I thank Him for the contrast in life, because He is preparing me for the future where things are better and better, and that’s a Contrast I am looking forward to the most.

Journey Strong

And Life is Worth the Living

Back during the week of Thanksgiving I started a blog post about life now and never finished it.  The Monday after Thanksgiving marked two years since my doctor found the lymph nodes in my chest and neck enlarged, which was the start of answers to my health issues that were happening at the time.  That eventually led to a Hodgkin Lymphoma diagnosis and treatment.  I now live because of a few things.  First, the cancer was found in an early stage, which made the treatment effective.  Second, my body reacted well to the chemotherapy and fought well against the cancer cells.  Those first two reasons are medical, but the third and final reason I am alive is the hardest one for me to swallow.  The third reason I am alive is that God wants me to be.  That’s the one that is hard to understand.

I don’t remember the first time I thought about this concept that my life had a purpose, but it was back sometime in Junior High or High School.  In those days, I was just started to comprehend what it meant to be a believer in Christ.  I remember a pastor or youth leader saying that everyone’s life has a purpose.  A specific job for you to do, that only you can do, that God has planned.  That idea really excited me, because growing up I wasn’t the best at anything.  I wasn’t athletic.  I wasn’t the smartest.  I wasn’t the most musically talented.  I honestly couldn’t put my finger on the specific skill that would make me rise above the rest.  I would be sad about this idea that there was always someone better than me at everything I tried to do.  But the message about Christ having a specific purpose for me?  Now that was an amazing thought.  Something that only Bryce could do for Him.  This fact really meant the world to me and I began seeking for that purpose through Christ as I finished high school, completed college, and started my teaching career.

I also recall how my parents used to react to bad news.  If we say had a wreck in a car or a tire blow out, they would simply say to each other, “God must be testing us.”  Then they would go about fixing the issue.  This idea came to full fruition while reading the books by John Eldridge, my favorite Christian author.  He would talk about how we as believers always ask God, “Why is this happening to me?”  Instead he pointed to a different question, “God, what are you teaching me?”  It is a slight change in question, but a completely different mindset.  Instead of prodding and complaining, the second question almost sounds excited about the trial.  What are you teaching me God?  Show me.  I want to know.  When I approached God like this in the face of anguish, the result was far less stress on me and far more room for God to grow in me.

Taking these two approaches in life have helped me immensely throughout the years.  I seek for God to show me the purpose he has for me and when I hit a speed bump or trial during that journey, I seek for Him to show me things, because I know He is at work, always preparing me for the next step.  But there are seasons where I fail to do either of these things. Recently through the month of November and December,  I have hit a slump.  I lost track of my goals and slipped into a bit of a wandering soul mentality.  All the different goals I set for this past year have not come to fruition.  Also, the world feels so much darker than it used to.  Even in this holiday season, the feelings of Christmas and Hope have been lackluster.  Much of this has been interior, you would not know that I was struggling with these feelings if you saw me.  But all that changed this past Saturday.

ReginaldI remember meeting Reginald when I was just a Junior high kid helping out at my church’s inner city ministry.  Reginald was a tall lanky kid like myself.  He had a brother who played basketball and was on our church team.  Reginald attended our ministry, His Heart, for years.  He was different than the other guys that came to the church from our neighborhood.  The biggest difference was that he played the cello.  Me being the naive, suburban kid, I didn’t know that inner city schools even had a strings program.  But Reginald became a quick friend, always kind and willing to help out in any way.  He even brought his cello and played during our services for special music.  I remember when Reginald was diagnosed with Lymphoma.  He fought against the chemo and even had to take off a good bit of school to complete his treatments.  We didn’t see Reginald or his brother often after he was sick, but we celebrated when he defeated the disease.  Then the cancer came back.  He fought again and again.  He was such a great kid, I just knew he would be fine.

I was diagnosed with the same disease in 2013.  Reginald was one of the first to reach out to me and talk about it.  I remember the first time I saw him after I was diagnosed.  He came to the church and we embraced.  Now we have a much different connection than before.  We knew the horrors of cancer, even if it was a type that had a good success rate.  I pronounced my remission in 2014 and again Reginald was one of the first to congratulate me.  He said that one day he would be able to say that too.  Reginald passed away this past Saturday from years of battle against cancer.  He died the day he was supposed to graduate from Belhaven University at the age of 24.  My mom, sister, and I went to his visitation together.  My sister was in youth group with him and we all loved him.

This is the hard part.  Reginald celebrates today completely healed with Christ by him.  It is nice to think about him playing the cello beside an angelic orchestra.  Reginald was a success story.  A kid in the rough inner city of Jackson, who loved classical music and worked so hard to get a college degree.  He did it.  This is the part where I ask the questions.  What was Reginald’s purpose that only he could fulfill for Christ?  What is God trying to teach through this?  Why am I still here?  Why are you still here?  They are tough to answer.

I have to remember a key part of my belief in God when I think on these questions.  That belief is, “If God is good….”  That’s it.  If God is good then what?  Here I have been sad about my life over the past month and God still has me here.  Life is not a depressing walk, but instead a gift.  Life is worth living fully.  You don’t know when it will end for you.  I can’t get lost in the mentality that I have been in over the past month.  Christ has a plan for me, He’s got a plan for you.  I might never understand why my friend Reginald left us, but one day I’ll ask him.  Until then I’ll leave with this hymn, which can’t leave my mind when I think about Reginald.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow

Because He lives, all fear is gone

Because I know, He holds the future

And life is worth the living, just because He lives

Journey Strong

Tips For Public Speaking Learned From Teaching

Are you terrified to speak in front of an audience?

Growing up, I hated being the center of attention.  I didn’t like being called on in class, I was quiet (shocking I know), and I spent lots of time worrying about what others thought about me.  I don’t know when I began to truly come into my own personality, but it was sometime around my senior year in high school.  I started to give more presentations, speak more at family events, and I even looked for ways to stand out and give a talk or speech of any kind. In college I tried out for a drama team on a whim and was selected to be in the group. I found a love for improv and performance. I never performed in a play or took acting lessons, but I had a good amount of experience in front of a crowd. Then I became a teacher.

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Radiation

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  – Matthew 24:42-44

“Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.” – 1 Peter 3:15

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A Great Start to A Radiating Summer

“When life gets rough, I like to hold on to my dream, of relaxing in the summer sun, just lettin’ off steam.” – Olaf “In Summer”

It has surely been a few weeks since my last blog post.  If you are keeping score:  Bryce 1  Cancer 0
So after I graduated from MSU a few Saturdays ago, I rounded out the school year and closed up shop.  It is always a little sad to see my empty classroom with all the books packed up and the floors clear for cleaning.  But it is also exciting, because in summer I work for a non-profit housed in my home church.  It is called His Heart, most of you will know it if you live in the Jackson area.  We work with families and kids in the heart of the city of Jackson, MS.    It is some of the most rewarding moments of my year.  We do our best to be the hands and feet of Christ to those families.  
His Heart Website: 
I also took a surprise trip to Walt Disney World with my wife and our good friends Zach and Jordan.  It was great to be at WDW again.  It was my first time visiting New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom and so many more new experiences.  I took over a thousand pictures and most of them will be used for future travel blog posts.  I can’t wait to share the fun!  

Throughout the trip I wore a button that said, “I’m celebrating!”.  On the button was written, “I am Cancer Free!”  Everyone else had buttons that said, “Bryce is cancer free!”  The response was humbling and uplifting.  Everyone who noticed not only congratulated me, but most shared their story with me in line or passing by.  I remember one cast member on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority or TTA for you Disney fanatics, said “I am too!”  I responded with, “It’s great isn’t it!”  He said, “Yes, everyday you appreciate more and more.  Have fun!”  Indeed, when we are faced with our humanity and realize that everyday is a gift and could be our last, we sure do live a little better.  That sure is an odd juxtaposition.
I have now been back home for almost a week.  I am still getting back to “reality” and have been working at His Heart collecting forms for Arts Camp next week.  I have stressed over getting everything back in order and back on routine.  Also I have been catching up on podcasts.  One of the best ones I listen to is the Ransomed Heart Podcast hosted by John Eldridge of Wild at Heart fame.  He spoke on the end times and how we are living in the days right before Jesus comes.  He spoke with such urgency and it truly made me think back on my urgency through the cancer journey.  We are a procrastinating people.  We say oh I’ll share Jesus tomorrow or I’ll start that book when I am out of school.  If the Lord has something on your heart to do, don’t hesitate!  Start your dream today!  I am speaking to myself more than anyone.  There are so many things that I know I should do and yet I put it off.  Your life has a purpose.  Take it from me, I am not here to lead a nation or start a revolution, but I know that the Lord has great things in store for me to do.  I am just saying, be alert and be ready to act.  
Now for the radiation.  I met with my radiologist yesterday to discuss when radiation therapy will start.  Wow what a difference in cancer clinic visits.  Radiation is a whole other ballpark than chemo. The office staff was incredibly jolly and helpful.  We met with the business department (always fun) and then the nurse and the doctor.  I really could tell you details about radiation, but this was just an initial visit.  I will go back to get another scan with the Radiology department June 23 and then I will start radiation later that week.  Radiation will last 3 weeks!  That’s right only 3!  This was less than half of the amount I thought I would receive AND it allows me to take our youth to camp at Lake Forest Ranch as well!  Great news to start off a great summer.
Thanks for giving me some time off, but I will be back at the blog much more during the summer!  If you want to follow more of what my summer entails you can follow my #79daysofsummer on Instagram.  Follow me @yelverto.
Journey Strong

Bryce Yelverton you just defeated cancer, what are you gonna do next?

“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.  This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.'”

 – 1 Samuel 17:45-47
I have already mentioned that David is probably my favorite person in the Old Testament.  I relate to him the most.  And this passage is one of my favorites as well.  It has been my passage throughout this cancer journey.  Today was a day just like any other, except today I was told that my body is cancer free.  I can’t really describe the feeling of relief that came with that news.  Yesterday I had another scan and got to enjoy some premium Barium Sulfate (Berry flavored!!), and I know that it wasn’t just me that was on pins and needles waiting for the news.  Carly and I just sat in the cancer clinic and just cried.  They were tears of relief and tears of joy.  I want to explain how I felt today just as well as I have conveyed my previous encounters, but I really can’t.  However, I do want you to know these two things and they come straight from the passage above.
1.  God did this healing.
2.  Modern medicine is amazing.
First of all David claimed that the Lord was going to use him to defeat the Philistines and that the battle was the Lord’s.  Then David used earthly weapons, a sling and stones and then a sword to defeat Goliath and cut off his head.  In today’s world people cry out to God in the most dire times, but when healing comes they like to thank science for the miracles.  The thing with me is I know God healed me. It is through Him that I had this positive attitude and it is through Him that I have been able to write all these words for people to read.  Modern medicine truly works for Hodgkin Lymphoma.  The chemotherapy killed my body, but my body is completely back to normal (plus a few pounds).  That is incredible.  See David used earthly things to defeat the Philistines and the doctors and nurses used earthly medicines to heal my cancerous body.  However, I know and I claimed before this all began that this battle was the Lord’s and He has done so many incredible things through this journey with me and the people around me.  Now that I am at this crossroads, there is no way I would change the fact that I had cancer.  Through this time, I have learned so much about myself, my spouse, my family, my church, my friends, my not-so-friends, the body of Christ, and the character of God.  I would never wish chemo on my worst enemy, and yet I would never trade my experience for anything.
Next we meet with the Radiation specialist in a few weeks and get radiation underway.  But the cancer is out of my body and in remission.  
So you might be wondering now what?  Is this the end?  No more blog?  No more struggles?  Happily ever after?  (In light of the NFL Draft) Well Bryce Yelverton you just defeated cancer, what are you gonna do next?
No, I am not going to Disney World…but I am going to Disneyland!!!
That’s right!  Carly and I will be traveling to California on August 1st to go on my dream vacation.  We will be traveling with Adventures by Disney to Hollywood and Anaheim for a week of backstage tours!  We will visit Hollywood, the Jim Henson Studios, the Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Imagineering (yeah I know!!!), and of course have backstage tours of Disneyland and California Adventure.  I truly cannot wait to go and celebrate being cancer free!
So what is next?  Yeah I mean, I can’t just sit around.  So I have a few things going on.  First of all, my blog has been a lot of fun and I want to expand out a bit.  In March I joined a blogging group called the Magical Blogorail.  It is a group of Disney focused bloggers so that might explain my random blog comparing the Frontierland in WDW and Disneyland.  I will blog with them every few months.
ALSO, I have embarked on a new side career…..being a travel agent.  That’s right, I am now working with my long time travel agent, Jana Smith and her company Main Street Travel.  The name might give it away, but I am now a Disney travel agent and can book your upcoming Disney vacation for you.  I am also free!  And trust me I am worth the money!  I will be posting much more about that off the blog, but I wanted to announce it here!  So if you want a no obligation quote to Disney (or just about anywhere else), email me at Bryce@mainstreettravelco.com.  Also I’ll be starting a new travel blog just for that Disney obsession, but more on that later.
Now for the big news.  I know you thought all this was enough, but remember I have hinted at big things coming to this blog?  I was really thinking about where I would go after the chemo was done.  Surprisingly the answer came from my father.  When my dad went through chemo and Hodgkin Lymphoma a very kind man sponsored my father in a marathon in San Diego.  He ran for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or LLS.  Now my dad wants to return the favor to me.  A few months ago, my dad told me he is running a half marathon in my honor.  And what better race to run than the Disney World Half Marathon in January!
Well I can’t let him have all the fun without me, so I am running too!  AND so is my family!  We are running with LLS and TNT or Team in Training.  
The best part is…..you can help too!  We have already started raising money for our team.  All the money we raise will go towards blood cancer research and getting us to the actual race in Orlando on January 10th.  So what can you do?  Well at the very max you can join our team!  Email me at yelverto@gmail.com for details or my mom at cheryl.yelverton@gmail.com.  Also you can check out the team in training website at http://www.teamintraining.org/  
My personal goal is $2900 and any money that runs over that will flow to my teammates.  Here is where you can donate towards my goal. http://pages.teamintraining.org/vtnt/wdw15/byelverq9b.  Every little bit helps no matter how big or small.
Also this weekend, my sister Becca and brother in law, Griffin will be at the Clinton Brick Street Market selling some great home made items and all the proceeds will go to our team.
Also the best part is our team name…..The Yelverteers.  That’s right, you can come run with the Yelverteers and run along side not one, but two lymphoma survivors!
So that’s where the journey is going readers.  Paying it forward.  After going through chemo, I want to make it where no one has to have that horrible stuff pumped into them.  So we are raising money for research to help make that happen.  Also I need to loose like 10 pounds………
With that I am going to go celebrate.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Journey Strong.

Baby Steps

What a fantastic week.  I really can’t say I have had a better week than this week.  This week has definitely been the best week of 2014 and maybe 2013 too.  Why?  Well because every single day more and more of the past 18 weeks of chemo drugs have drifted from my blood stream.  Every day I feel better and better.  The numbness in my toes and fingertips has subsided to almost nothing.  The metallic mouth is almost non-existent.  No sign of a migraine.  It truly is a dream come true and an answered prayer.  Just a little relief has been incredible.  

It is so true that you really don’t appreciate the little things in life until they are gone.  I really missed just feeling good.  Just feeling energetic and not helpless.  People have even said that I have gained weight (in a good way, they add).  It is true, I have gained more weight that I lost at the beginning of my cancer journey.  Now to get rid of that….well, maybe next week.  I have got to remember a few things about this time right now before my next scan on May 7th.  Here they are:
1.  Don’t rush things, you have been through a lot, take it slow.
2.  Be patient, May 7th is only two weeks away.
3.  Don’t forget.
You know that is the most important point.  Don’t forget.  On Good Friday after I posted my blog, I got up and took a drive to the grocery store.  I let down the windows and even opened the sunroof.  The sun, which I had avoided for so long afraid of migraines, was a welcome warmth on my skin.  I turned on some music (not telling you what….maybe it was One Direction), and just felt alive again.  I felt alive again.  I never want to forget that moment.  Because it was for moments like that one that are what living is all about.  
This is where the real battle begins.  Not in the midst of the trenches where you can easily see what is good and what is evil.  The real battle is in the everyday life.  I can easily slip back into my life before cancer, where I didn’t appreciate every sunset, every cool breeze, every Dole Whip, every laugh, every George Winston song, every hug, every moment with my wife, every breath.  When God used Moses to lead His people out of Egypt and out of slavery, He parted the Red Sea right in front of them and they walked right through and you know what they did on the other side?  They worshipped an idol.  They completely forgot who they should serve and gave it all away to something else.  This is the real battle is living every day serving the right God.  
It is baby steps now.  I am going to slowly get back to where I was physically.  I am going to start walking again and maybe even play a little Ultimate.  But I can’t go back to where I was spiritually.  I have to keep moving forward.  As my baby steps turn into being “me” again, I can’t forget what He has done and I can’t forget to keep looking at what He is doing.
We think sometimes that God is only in the big things, but as I have talked about before on here, God is in the details.  We can’t forget to look for Him in the still, small whisper.  So that is what I have to do, never forget.
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.  Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?'”  – 1 Kings 19:11-13
Listen for that voice, never forget what He has done for you, and continue to Journey Strong.