Reflections on 2017

During most Decembers I look back on the previous 12 months and think “Man this year flew by!”  It goes unsaid that 2017 was different.  Like, A LOT different.

Before sharing some reflections on the past year, here’s a quick rundown of what the next few months hold for us.

  • I’ve finished 3 of 9 chemotherapy treatments on this current round.  My next dose is a “mega dose” and will be on December 29th (happy 11th anniversary Camilla!).  My last dose for this block of treatment is February 2nd.
  • The week of February 5th I’ll have another scan to see if the tumors continue to shrink in my lungs and to ensure no new spots have popped up in my mouth, neck, or anywhere else.
  • Assuming we get good results, we’ll probably stop chemotherapy for a month or so in order for me to get jaw surgery which I’ll share more about in a future post.

It isn’t very hard to put into words what 2017 was like.  It sucked.  Despite all the amazing lessons we’ve learned and the growth we’ve experienced by having this adversity pass through us, if I could choose to have avoided the whole ordeal I would.  No question.  No hesitation.  I know that isn’t what I’m supposed to say.  But it is the truth.

And that is what is scary about this life, especially when you have an eternal perspective on how these experiences should fit into the bigger plan of God in preparing you for life after death.  The things that prepare us the best for becoming who God wants us to become are the very things that we would avoid if we could.  I’m grateful that I wasn’t given a choice when it came to cancer.  I would have chosen incorrectly.  I’d be farther, not closer, to the ultimate goal.  God knows what’s up.  That is also the truth.

This post is just to share some of the many highlights and fond memories of 2017.  But first I wanted to share what I think the biggest learning of the year has been for me and for Camilla.

***** Trust and Rely on God *****

That is the lesson.

I’ve asked God all sorts of questions this year.  I have felt God continually by my side, probably more so than any other previous year.  And while I have heard God many times, especially through the words of Prophets in the scriptures and General Conference addresses, I still grapple with the answers to many of my questions.  And I’m okay with that.  Wrestling with the answers to hard questions is a worthy endeavor.

The question my mind most commonly comes back to is:

Am I going to make it?  Will I survive?

I think it is a question that we all ask on a regular basis about all sorts of different issues.

Whether asking if we will survive an illness, a financial challenge, a family issue, raising small kids, a crisis of faith, a stage of life, or anything else, we are usually getting at the same core issue.  While we want to know how to get through something, ultimately our deepest desire is just to know that we will get through it.  It will be resolved.  It will be okay.  Soon enough it will be in the rear view mirror and we can get back to normal.  When I know that the end is going to work out how I want it to my anxiety goes down and I can put my trust in that outcome.  If I know I’m going to get my way in the end it makes going through whatever it takes to get resolution a heck of a lot easier.  But knowing the end from beginning can make you complacent in the present, and it certainly requires less reliance and trust in God.

When you don’t know that it will work out, doubt and fear and anxiety feel like they are always nearby and ready to pounce.  Things get hard and your mind can go crazy on you.  This might be it.  You are screwed.  You’ll never feel well again.  This isn’t a stage, this is all you’ll ever know.  There isn’t really a grand plan to life.  This life is all just a series of random, uncontrolled, and purposeless events and you have horrible luck.  Nothing you are doing will really make a difference.

The mind is volatile when you are outcome dependent and you don’t trust that God is in control of both the journey and the destination.  The only way I’ve been able to find peace while having no assurance that I will be healed is by learning to trust in and rely on God.  Trust Him today.  And when you wake up tomorrow, make the decision to trust him again.

As I’ve asked God the question — will you heal me? —  I’ve been surprised by the answer I feel but it really goes back this concept of trust.  What God has said to me and Camilla in response to my question is:

I’m not going to tell you whether you will be healed or not.  Surviving isn’t the point.  The point is for you to trust me, regardless of the outcome. 

And then He flips the question on me:

Will you trust me?

That has been a harder answer to accept than I thought it would be (maybe that is why I keep asking the question in case one day God slips up and spills the beans on how this movie ends 🙂 ).

But I think it is the best answer for me / us, at least for now.  It requires us to trust God on a daily basis and look for the little piece of manna that He provides to get me through the day.  It reminds me that it is more important to not shrink than it is to survive.

Maybe at some point in this journey God’s answer to me will evolve into something else, but for now that is what he is saying.  And I’m good with that.  That is the truth.

(Note:  if by chance He has told you the answer to our question, please shoot me a note.  Please and thank you.)

 

So on to the highlights of 2017….

The Huntsman 140

I wrote about the experience here.  A few talented individuals at TruHearing pulled together this video below totally pumps me up every time I watch it.

It is worth watching — Huntsman 140 Team Jarem

The Family Time

We spent more time together as a family this year than any previous year.  People have been so generous with their time and resources to enable us to do some fun things we wouldn’t have otherwise done.  We also made a concerted effort to be together more often in just the normal routine of our day.  Camilla has really the driving force in making sure we do dinner together on most nights, that we do a family night on Mondays, and that we stick together rather than divide and conquer.  She has read the Book of Mormon to our kids almost every night as they go to sleep, and I know if you asked the kids what matters most to “Mom” they would say “being together”.  I think it has made a big difference.

Newport Beach and the annual Balboa Island bench picture with the Millers

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Encinitas,  CA with our favorites SPALY

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Lasted 4 innings at a game with my whole crew.

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Razoring in the mountains with the Millers

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My people always came to sing and pray with me each night when I couldn’t get out of bed or my chair to be a part of the bed time routineIMG_7171

Normal shenanigans when the spiritual thought for family night gets too stale and the kids are restless.  

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Camilla’s favorite holiday is 4th of July.  Pool weather, BBQ-ing, and family all day long.  This is us at the Provo Parade and is a great tradition we have with the Clarks every year.

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Fall family drives on the Alpine Loop and walks around Cascade Springs are great consolation prize for losing the summer pool weather that our family loves.IMG_8504

Chicago Trip(s)

I was fortunate enough to go to my favorite city in the US three times within 6 weeks.  Once for work, once for a trip with Camilla and friends, and once with just my Dad and Brother.

Eating our way through Chicago and swagged up at Wrigley

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My dad and brother making their first trip to Wrigley with me

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Architecture river boat tour of the cityIMG_7679

 

Fantasty Fishing Trip

My eighth year in the Dad’s Life Fantasy Football league has been epic.  I’m in the championship game this weekend for the second year in a row this weekend and hoping to finally be a champion!  The other 11 guys flew out to Utah so that we could do the draft in person and spend time together.  Was a killer weekend of fishing, golfing, and getting to know the human side of Brian Willey.

Fly fishing on the Provo

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Golfing Gladstone in Payson, Utah (missing Darowski and Flake)IMG_4007

Reel for Recovery Cancer Retreat

There is a phenomenal not for profit organization called Reel for Recovery that takes men with late stage cancer on guided fly fishing trips at no cost to the patient.  I went with a group of 12 guys (all of whom were 30 years older than me :)) and was partnered with a guide who taught me all the tricks of the trade.  We fished, we talked, we recharged, and I left the three day event optimistic in continuing the fight.

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Light Up Puerto Rico

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you probably got pretty burned out on all my Puerto Rico posts from September 20th through now.  It was been a bittersweet experience to be involved in some humanitarian relief efforts for mi gente boricua.  Something went off inside of me when Hurricane Maria hit and I was incredibly energized (almost to a frenzied state) by trying to help organize relief efforts with Camilla and many close friends from my time as a missionary.  It was and continues to be a life-altering experience.  And while we’ve been able to achieve some miraculous results, I’ve always felt like I wanted and could do more but was held back physically.  That was incredibly frustrating.  One of my darkest and lowest weeks of the whole year was actually in early November when I reached a breaking point physically and knew I could no longer run as hard on Puerto Rico and work and family and had to pull back in all three facets.  It is hard to explain how I truly felt inside so I’ll just leave it at that.  But serving the Puerto Rican people who have had such a lasting impact on my life since living from 2004 to 2006 was certainly a 2017 highlight.

A group of mostly returned missionaries from Puerto Rico formed “Light Up Puerto Rico” and partnered with Tifie Humanitarian.  To date we’ve raised almost $500k and placed 100+ solar generators, 75 temporary shelters, hundreds of water filters, and thousands of solar lights.  Over 100 people have spent time in Puerto Rico distributing supplies, repairing roofs, cleaning up damage, praying with and blessing the people, and sometimes just sitting on their porches and crying with them.  Camilla went down for 3 days in October.  I’ve had to watch it all through social media posts as I’m unable to travel there for now.

Light Up PR logo

Satellite pictures before the hurricane hit and about two weeks after the hurricane hit.  100 days after the storm, 40% of the island is still without power.  

PR before and after

 

There are so many other wonderful memories and experiences from 2017.  It certainly wasn’t a lost year despite all the physical limitations and all the time that went into treatment and recovery.  I wish I could post a full list of every act of service that was performed for a family.  There isn’t enough room on the internet to fit it all.  I feel that almost every day of this year there has been some touching and thoughtful gift of service someone has provided us.  I would estimate that out of the 365 days this year we have probably had 175 meals brought in and another 50-70 plates of treats — that is not an exaggeration.  We’ve had an endless stream of treats, cards, visits, texts, emails, and gifts delivered to our home.  I think we had written about 45 thank you cards by the end of January and couldn’t keep up and had to stop that practice.  All I can say is THANK YOU, to all of you, for being in my corner.  For cheering me on.  For taking care of my family.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Thank you for a wonderful 2017.  Let’s get after in 2018.

 

6 thoughts on “Reflections on 2017”

  1. Just felt a need to pray for you tonight and see how you are doing. You inspire me. Your understanding of the Father’s plan defies your age. Prayers and love from Mesa.

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  2. Thank you for this. I’m sharing it with my kids this morning as part of our family scriptures. I’m praying for you. Tell your wife she’s awesome. Bekah Lewis Jennings, Brent’s older sister.

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