I met Jan Holsclaw when she and husband Jim were speaking at Idyllwild Bible Church. Dave and I have a cabin in Idyllwild and were at IBC the same weekend the Holsclaws were visiting. At that time, Jim and Jan worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators and they were giving a report to IBC who helped support their ministry.
Jan spoke of her battle with ovarian cancer that was in remission. After the service, I introduced myself to Jan as a fellow cancer survivor and gave her a copy of my book Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer. Jan and Jim live in Florida, so an email friendship developed over the miles. Jan often referred to our “chance” meeting as a divine appointment.
A Team of Rope Holders
Sadly, it wasn’t long after we met that Jan’s cancer returned and she was in for the battle of her life . . . for her life. Jan and Jim started email updates to a team of friends and family they called their “rope holders” from the story in Mark 2:3-5 and Luke 5:18-20 where friends tied ropes to a mat and lowered a paralytic man through the roof of the house where Jesus was preaching. Loving friends displaying their faith in Jesus—that’s what Jan’s rope holders were to her too.
So over the next few years, Jan and Jim sent the rope holders email updates of Jan’s journey through extensive and ongoing chemo and treatments, and we lifted Jan and Jim before the Lord. We prayed for their specific requests and rejoiced in their good days and praises.
The doctors told them to do all the things they wanted to do and see family as much as possible. Use the time they had wisely, and that’s just what they did. Jim retired from Wycliffe, and during Jan’s good times or breaks in treatment, they traveled to see their children and grandchildren spread throughout the United States and China.
Lesson: We need each other. Learn how to “receive” well. Life is precious. Live like you’re dying.
A Praise Journal in the Midst of Crisis
Jan started a “Thankful List” which she often shared with her rope holders. When I asked her about it, she said:
How does it encourage me? When I’m down or discouraged or sad or ‘tired of the cancer/chemo routine,’ if I start adding to my “thankful list” it doesn’t take long before my focus is no longer on “poor me,” but on the Lord and on how incredibly blessed I am. I can literally sense my spirit being lifted into His presence. It’s sort of like a 180 degree turn around. Absolutely amazing. Even when I think to myself… “I can’t think of ONE thing for which I’m thankful” . . . all I have to do is START WRITING, and then my mind is filled with TONS of things for which I’m thankful.
“I Will Trust You” was the subject line of a rope holders’ email on February 6, 2014, as Jan’s health was rapidly deteriorating. She continued to tell us how much our prayers and emails meant to her and Jim:
Again, thank you SO MUCH for your precious words that touch us so deeply, and often bring tears. You simply can’t know how much they mean, and how they minister to us…over and over and over again! We’re trying to keep our hearts focused on Him, reminding ourselves that whatever we find out, He is with us, He’s holding us close, we need not fear and we can trust Him. A song that has been SO meaningful to us in the last few days is Sovereign by Chris Tomlin.
Lesson: If your faith is a little shaky today, listen to praise music. Jan and Jim found comfort in the YOU TUBE version of Sovereign.
On February 7, 2014, Jan wrote to her rope holders—
The sobering part of it all, is that when I now return to a chemo that has worked in the past, there’s generally only a 20-30% chance that it will now be effective against the cancer.
Still Jan finds things to be thankful for—
I am SO THANKFUL for:
A good appetite. (And I don’t want to EVER take that for granted!)
Restful sleep at night.
My wonderful, godly doctor.
My amazing husband who cares for me 24/7.
Our precious kids, their spouses, and our grandkids.
God’s Sovereignty and His tender, loving care.
Our incredible team of rope holders (YOU) and your touching words of encouragement.
Lesson: If you’re going through a tough time, start a Thankful List. It’s hard to stay down when you’re looking up.
February 24, 2014 Jan with her “therapy dog” Wally Jon
How to Live Well for Jesus and Die Well in Jesus
March 4, 2014 the rope holders received an email from son Jon, “Finally Free!” Saturday March 8, thanks to the technology of “Streamline,” I watched the Celebration of Jan’s Life. Jan didn’t want a sermon; she wanted casual dress, her favorite music, and a chance for everyone who wanted to share their memories at an open microphone.
We heard from friends, neighbors, hospital staff, fellow ministry servants, and her doctors. All had the same message: Jan showed us how to live well for Jesus and how to die well in Jesus. Here was some of her legacy shared at the celebration:
- She showed us how to behave in suffering. Not to be inward focused but to reach out and let her rope holders know how much she needed them.
- There was a width and breadth of ministry during her last seven years. Her mission: May God get the glory and win the day, every day.
- She taught us how to be a gracious “receiver.” When she was well she gave, but when she was ill, she could receive our help.
- Jan loved life and fought it through to the very end.
- She loved her family so much and taught us how to be better wives, moms, and grandmothers.
- Jan had faith and trust and gave thanks in all circumstances.
- Jan and Jim didn’t just talk about the Lord, they lived out their faith.
- From a hospital staff member: they were always encouraging to the hospital staff—even the lady cleaning the floors. They left their mark on the staff.
- A neighbor who saw Jan and Jim walking hand in hand while she did her morning run soon was getting hugs and friendship from Jan.
- Her doctors considered it a privilege to be in the presence of patients like Jim and Jan. They ministered to their doctors during the doctors’ tough times and struggles.
- Jan taught us how to die.
Lesson: How we live our life in good times and hard times is a ministry—it’s our legacy.
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
Jan and Jim on their 48th Anniversary August 2013