When his beloved wife, the mother of their four children, was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma at the age of thirty-eight, everything changed. Sixteen months later, she lost her battle.
Even in heartbreak and grief, Roix learned to have complete trust in the one who loves him the most-his "Papa" God. Out of the ruins of his life grew an unquenchable thirst to know who God was, and, in the process, Roix also came to learn who he was.
What he learned on his journey is that hope triumphs over every obstacle. He learned that in faith, there is no amount of suffering that cannot be overcome by the amazing love God is willing to pour out.
This is their story, and it can also be yours. Whatever challenges you face-grief, rejection, fear, financial ruin, abuse, and more-there is hope. His deep wish for you is to experience how close your "Papa" is, even in the darkest night.
There is a reason to live.
There is always hope.
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WHAT'S NEXT, PAPA?A Story of Cancer that Awakened Hope and Brought Life
By S. R. Roix
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 S. R. Roix
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA Look Back
I left my childhood home of northern Maine in the fall of 1990 to enroll in a small Christian college in Dover, Delaware. The very first day I was there, while still unpacking, I looked out the window and saw her. I was absolutely taken. She was beautiful! It has been a tendency of mine to go headlong into something and my pursuit of Annette K. Stanfield was no different. Nette, a popular third year student who had a large network of friends, I, on the other hand, didn't. I was mostly there on my own with only a few acquaintances from Maine. I began the quest to find out who this girl was. At night, my roommate would hammer at my vulnerability informing me that there was no way she would ever notice me. I knew he was right, my thoughts about myself were anything but favorable. I felt like a nerd; I had extremely thick glasses that magnified my eyes to the size of saucers and at twenty years old, already had a receding hairline. In spite of my insecurities, I somehow won her affection.
The college we attended had very strict guidelines for first year students regarding dating. As I think about it ... they had strict guidelines about everything! One of the policies was that new students were not allowed to date until Christmas banquet. That was our first "official" date. Already there were feelings that the relationship had potential beyond casual dating. So the timeline goes: met for the first time in August, first date in December, married the following August. I only offer a sketch of the next fifteen-plus years, leading up to the main point of my writing.
Upon completion of my studies at Kent Christian College, we accepted the offer to work with the youth at Annette's uncle's church. Freshly graduated from a two year Biblical studies course, we were eager for the chance to implement our training. When we arrived in Ottawa, Illinois, we did not know what was stirring just below the surface. The pastor belonged to an organization that was applying pressure to its members to hold a more strict interpretation of Scripture.
Within a year of being in our new surroundings, the whole religious landscape changed. The college, from which I had recently graduated, was also a part of the religious tradition that I had grown up in. Everything I knew of God was viewed through that lens. These were unsettling days. It felt as though my whole foundation of faith was being shaken. There was no way of knowing it was the first of many tests. I vividly recall a church service during that time. The speaker was being obnoxious, in my opinion; I left my seat and headed for the door. My pastor was close behind. "What's going on?" he inquired. My response was that I didn't know if there was a God ... and I really didn't care. That was not true! I cared more than anything. I wanted to know Him! I wanted to know more than anything that He was true. Even though I held a degree in Biblical Studies, it appeared that I did not have a clue whom God was. In that discouraged mindset I laid down any thought of "ministry." I did not know the answers for myself, how could I expect to point anyone else in the right direction?
I began working construction with Annette's family and did so for the next seven years. Life began to have a rhythm to it. We had two children during that season and began to settle into familiar routines. All was well—so it appeared. Cracks were beginning to form in Annette's veneer; you know, the exterior that you try to portray to everyone that everything is fine/I'm okay/can't you see my smile? The reality was that she felt close to having a breakdown.
One of the cornerstones of our relationship was our ability to communicate with each other. Annette joined a group of women from our church attending a weekend retreat a few hours from our home. It was around 8 o'clock on Sunday evening when she returned. When Nette walked in she announced we needed to talk—sometime. I felt there was no better time than right now. Over the next several hours, I heard things that sent me reeling. It felt as if a professional boxer had taken his best shot to my unguarded solar plexus. The air was completely knocked from me. My wife began telling me how several people had sexually abused her from an early age. She was recalling places ... times ... things in the room ... smell—on and on. Later, after months of counseling she was able to put her finger on a simple phrase that was told to her as a young child: you have nothing I want. She would come to say that those five words set the course for her life.
She often thought of herself as a prostitute as she would try to disprove those words that had been planted in her mind. The stories that came pouring out held incredible shame for her; they had an opposite effect on me. She thought that if anyone really knew who she was ... really knew the filth that she had been dragged through ... she would be rejected, an outcast. That is why it was easier to adopt the "I'm okay" look. That can only last for so long before the truth begins to seep through the cracks. What Nette found, to her amazement, was not rejection. She found people who loved her ... people who were the arms of God with their embrace. She found words that gave life ... words from people that Nette loved and respected. She found that I did not want to leave her, as her thoughts had been informing her. I did not look at her as a prostitute. What I did next was not to say, "Look at how great I am," but rather to say "Look how loving God is."
I had a desire to marry my wife again. This time I would marry her with full knowledge of who she was—scars and all. It was in this season that the story of Hosea became so poignant in Nette's life. God told the prophet that He was going to show Israel an object lesson of how much He loved them. Hosea was to marry a prostitute and repeatedly go after her and bring her home. Show her love—true love ... beautiful love. I did not think of Nette in terms of a prostitute; that was a label she had given herself. I know God used me to bring healing to one of His beautiful daughters who had been so mistreated.
I cannot report at this point in the story that Annette was completely healed of her past. I can say that she began to heal by degrees for years to come. It was in this atmosphere of new beginnings that we decided to have a child. We gave the name Karrigan to our new baby girl. Our pastor gave a masterful use of words at her dedication back to God. He spoke to Nette directly and prayed that every time she called out the name of our daughter she would "Care-Again."
I pause from the telling of my story and write to those who are holding onto secrets ... secrets that are informing you about who you are—or are not; secrets that are toxic—with an end result that is not very appealing. The Bible says that there is indeed an enemy. This enemy comes to steal ... kill ... and destroy. If this power of darkness can get an individual to hold onto a secret and have no one be able to speak truth to that darkness: Enemy—1, Victim—0. You lose! But if you find a safe place: a counselor, friend, spouse, pastor—someone you know who loves you—I encourage you: get it out into the light. Enough of letting those thoughts that can be all consuming control your life. I am not a professional counselor, by any means ... I have lived through it! I only speak with experience. I saw how destructive those thoughts could be and I also witnessed the unwavering truth of Scripture. 2 Kings puts it this way: "Choose life and not death" (18:32). You will need to make the deliberate decision to move your feet up those stairs, open the door, and begin forming words about your story. It can be terrifying; it takes a huge amount of courage; it is worth it!
The next several years blur together—family growing in age, and in size. We had an unexpected gift in the form of Zachary. I have often joked that our kids' names are Lo-Gan, Meg-Gan, Karri-Gan, and finally ... Not-a-Gan. We didn't have the nerve to name him that, but we did break the rhyme and called him Zachary.
I joined an electrical union, Nette homeschooled our children for several years. We were doing okay. I was making the most money ever in my life; we were able to do most things that we always wanted to do. At one point I read a book that inspired me to buy rental property and managed to lose a few more hair follicles. There is a book in the telling of those stories. I leave it at: I am not cut out to own rental property!
Life was good. If I were to finish the story of where the Roix family was headed, it would have had kids growing up, heading off to college, beginning their own lives, bringing over the grandkids ... meanwhile, Nette and I would travel for both mission and leisure. But—I am not the author. God is! God is the One Who knows the number of our days. And, as we were about to learn ... those days are not without end.
The words on the pages that you are about to read record some of the darkest, loneliest, disorienting days of my life. I never dreamt it would happen to me ... not to my family ... not my children.
Chapter TwoWalking by Faith
Thrilling, terrifying, God, I want it more than anything (what in the world am I doing): Walking by faith. Lately I'd been reading the account of Abraham. I had been viewing stories and characters in the Bible with a new perspective that I had never before considered. For some reason, I'd read the stories numerous times with the thought that the characters in the stories knew the outcomes already. It's probably common to think that way: "Well, you know, that was Abraham ... or the superstar, Noah; they had an inside track with God. When He spoke to them they knew it was going to happen." I can only imagine what Abraham's conversation with God must have looked like:
Abraham is going about his business and Genesis says God showed up and spoke to him. Something along the lines of giving Abraham so many descendants they would be numbered like sand, as numerous as stars. God continued to tell this ninety-nine year old man the terms of the blessing: he has to go home and take a sharp stone and circumcise every male in his house! Anyone with a Webster's dictionary and a good imagination knows that it is not a pleasant afternoon at the Abraham residence for the male gender.
Hello! Not sure it is God talking anymore. Imagine the conversation when Abraham comes back to 1805 Tent Ave.
"Hey, Sarah, I had a visitor today. It was God! He told me we were going to have a lot of children ... No, really. He said they would be numbered as many as there are grains of sand."
No wonder Sarah laughed. She is in her nineties, her husband nearing the century mark: not exactly People magazine cover material.
Even though his wife is rolling on the floor, thinking that the old guy has gone mad, Abraham continues. "Yeah, He said we are going to have a child a year from now and He wanted to make a contract with me. I am to take a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of every male in our house. That way we are marked as His."
Now, the way I had read this story in the past was, of course, that Abraham, his teenage son Ishmael, his servants ... all the guys jockeyed for position at the front of the assembly line. No question! As I mentioned, my thinking has had a shift. I'm guessing from Sarah's response of laughter at the thought of the geriatric birthing of a nation that Abraham's family was a little skeptical of Abraham's lunch appointment, especially the male gender!
The stories go on and on like that. Noah builds a gigantic vessel that holds enough animals to keep the species going ... even though it had never before rained. What must the neighbors have thought? "He is nuts!" Gideon, leading an army that is already vastly outnumbered by a powerful enemy, reduces his force to only a handful after an encounter with God. Joshua, another one of scripture's crazies, gathers his leaders to inform them that God let him in on a plan of how to destroy an enemy city:
"Okay guys, here's what we are going to do!" (I picture a huddle of middle-aged men playing football on a Sunday afternoon).
"Guys, we're going to walk around this enormous wall once a day for six days. On the seventh day we're going to make seven laps, and ... listen to this ... here is the good part: on my mark, everybody yell as loud as you can, break your jars and blow your trumpets!"
That's what God said. Yikes! What kind of plan is that? Wonder what I would have had to say if I had been in that huddle? "Well, you know, Joshua that might be a fine plan, but what if we try this first?" Then I would try my best to get this nut job to do something a little more conventional and not cause a whole group of people to look like a circus freak show while being annihilated.
Story after story, book after book, God continues to say—and do—the ridiculous. Here's another case that baffles me. Imagine this scene:
Hosea ... today, we call him a prophet. Not sure everyone among his contemporaries gave him the same title. He hears God say to marry a prostitute. Seems God wanted to send a message to the Israelite nation by giving them an object lesson. The prophet Hosea hears that he is to marry a lady of the night. Mmmhmm ... sure ... that's what God said. I've worked with a guy who dated a stripper. If he had come to work saying it was God who said to do it, well, I would have had another label for him. It would not have been prophet.
Each of these men of ancient times believed. They were unsophisticated enough to do what God asked them to do. I tell myself that was then and this is now. We are much more enlightened than they were. It's just different ... we have iPads now.
In each of the stories to which I refer, I can hear my own voice in the crowd. It is often on the side of those ridiculing the one who reports, "God said." I can imagine if I'd sat in the circle as Abraham gathered his family around to fill them in on God's plan to make a great nation from their clan. What if I were a bystander as Noah begin gathering materials in preparation to build a boat after "hearing" God lay out the plan to destroy the earth by flooding it.
What if someone were to have a visit like that today? My skepticism would be on high alert. It all seems too unbelievable ... impossible ... improbable. Why would God interact with humans to clue them in on His activity?
My mind has been traveling to these places of late as a result of where the journey, called life, has been taking me. Twists and bends along the path have delivered me to a place where I, too, like the stories I have written about, have a choice: trust and live the impossible, or ... turn on my heel and reject any notion that God is involved in any way.
The past year and a half have delivered me to Christ. I have often read the Bible as an obligation ... a duty: if you call yourself a Christian, you should do this. Yeah, it may be tedious and somewhat irrelevant to my 21st— century life, but I must do it in order to check it off my to-do list of being a "good Christian." But now, like the man named Job in the oldest writing of the Bible, in the famous story of suffering, he reports at the end of his experience, and I paraphrase, that he had heard hearsay of God, but now, now, after all he'd been through ... "Now I know him." My own passage through grief has given me a similar perspective.
Before this past year's struggles, my faith was something of a theory with a few experiences along the way that kind of kept it interesting enough to keep going. I have always had a hunger for God. Jesus preached (Matthew 5:6), "You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat." I can read that and it doesn't even register. "Best meal you ever tasted," ... okay, a little hyperbole going on; I have had some very good meals and I'm not so sure God had anything to do with it. Yet, still, I wanted to experience it. Could that, and a thousand other verses, actually be true? Is it really possible to "taste" of God ... and find it to be "the best meal I have ever tasted?" Oh, how I want that to be true. I want all of it to be true.
Excerpted from WHAT'S NEXT, PAPA? by S. R. Roix Copyright © 2011 by S. R. Roix. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction The Call....................xi
Chapter 1 A Look Back....................1
Chapter 2 Walking by Faith....................6
Chapter 3 He Loves Me....................12
Chapter 4 Anyone Need a Truck?....................19
Chapter 5 Consider God....................26
Chapter 6 Dance Partners....................33
Chapter 7 It Is for Purpose....................40
Chapter 8 Entering the Unknown....................45
Chapter 9 Round #1....................53
Chapter 10 Dread ... Round #2....................58
Chapter 11 Freefall....................62
Chapter 12 The Struggle Is Over....................80
Chapter 13 What's Next, Papa?....................83
Chapter 14 Transition....................87