Dancing in the rain

In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song; this Cornerstone, this solid Ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease! My Comforter, my All in All, here in the love of Christ I stand.

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Where does my help come from?

It was a difficult week emotionally. I saw a beautiful, young girl and a loving father both lose their battles to cancer. I sobbed and sobbed, asking God over and over how He can let that happen, how He can sit by and watch. I only see but a glimpse of the suffering, He sees it all. I don’t understand. I would like to say that He imparted me with great understanding that makes it all better, but I don’t think that is possible. Even in all His omniscience, I don’t think it’s all better with Him either. But my cries did not go unanswered. Over the last week He has carried on the same theme with the things that have crossed my path. First and foremost, the beginning of Psalm 121 kept playing in my mind: Where does my help come from? I finally looked up the whole verse:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—  where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—  he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel  will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,     nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—  he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

My help comes from the maker of the heaven and earth! He who holds the earth’s waters in the palm of His hand and set the stars in the sky… that’s who comes to my aid! And even more? He doesn’t sleep on the job. He does know, and He is right there by my side.  When I read verse 3 that says He will not let your foot slip, I picture a parent standing protectively behind their child as they climb at the park…with one hand hovering over their back and the other near their foot.

Then verses 6-8 come crashing in. He didn’t keep that sweet girl or loving father from all harm. Still, the idea of Him being the source of my help would not leave me. I wrestled with it a few days, and then I opened Facebook, and there it was…

“There are times when people need solid Christian answers. But there are also times to just weep together with no answers at all.” – Lysa TerKeurst

And so I wept again. No questions. No seeking. I just sat in my big comfy chair (my Jesus chair) and wept. As I began to settle, I was reminded of a line in Natalie Grant’s song “Held” that says, “And to know that the promise was when everything fell we’d be held.” Yes, that’s right, the fall. The fall ushered in sin, evil, destruction, death. I went back to psalm 121 and began to rethink those last few verses. Was the promise not that we would be shielded from all that, but that we would be held? My mind went back to the parent standing guard over their climbing child and thought of all the times the child falls anyhow… and how the parent then holds them. I looked back through the first several verses, soaking in the love and protectiveness of my Abba Father, and there I saw something that I had missed in the countless times I have read this Psalm… “the Lord is your shade.” There is something about the word shade…how it denotes relief. Indeed, the sun, like trouble, never fails to rise…and sometimes it scorches…but we can find shade.

“If hope is born of suffering, if this is only the beginning, can we not wait one hour watching for our Savior” (Natalie Grant)

(I would like to post the lyrics, but this is already a long post so here’s a link to Grant’s song…it speaks candidly about, and ministers to, suffering.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-hJ87ApWtw)


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Rocking the boat

Every time I seem to get perilously close to that edge, God shines his presence that much more just to pull my back. Several months ago I had the opportunity to buy tickets for Casting Crowns. The group rate was amazing, but I was worried I might not feel well enough to go. I decided that it probably wouldn’t be that hard to get rid of the ticket if I couldn’t go. The concert was a week and a half after treatment, but that didn’t mean much as I was pretty much down the whole two weeks after my first treatment. Then, it happened… the sun broke through the clouds. No, not the day of, but two days prior to the concert! It was my first good day in 3 weeks, and with the advance, it was enough to build me up for the actual day! What a blessing, and what timing!

The concert was nothing short of amazing…and so were our seats! We had gotten them on groupon, so who knew….who knew that they would practically be FRONT ROW! Ahmazing!!! What was more amazing was how God ministered to my heart, reminding me of his provision and goodness, showing me two important things. One, since chemo started, I have been trying to do this on my own strength rather than his. I can see that. That’s a hard concept to explain…sometimes even harder to live. It’s not something tangible, more of a state of surrender. It should be something we welcome as it means an end to our striving, but it goes against the grain of who we are. From birth, we are raised to be independently minded…self-reliant… and now, now we are to surrender all our efforts to a God whom we cannot see or touch. Ahhh, but when we are able to navigate this paradox, there is great relief! I wish I could lay out a lesson plan…a sure-fire way… but I can’t. Seems my own success rate rarely surpasses 500. I can, however, tell you that it often involves replacing thoughts such as “I can’t” and “this is too hard” with “please help.” And there, in that moment, an intangible God provides a tangible presence. Not that He always fixes, sometimes He just holds.

The other insight He gave me had to do with Peter. I once wrote in a paper how Peter is my kindred spirit. Two peas in a pod we are… two big mouths with even bigger hearts and the best of intentions. And, oh, how we love our Jesus. My favorite scene is when Peter sees Jesus standing on the shore after the resurrection. So overwhelmed and excited, he couldn’t wait on the boat and instead jumped into the water, clumsily making his way to Jesus. How many times, in such glee and excitement have I clumsily made my way to Jesus?! Not recently, recently I have taken to sitting quietly in the boat. Then the bigger realization of another correlation with Sir Peter. Suddenly I saw him standing on the water…and then sink into the waves. Like Peter, when I was first diagnosed I confidently walked on water with my Jesus, but then I took my eyes off of him and fixed them clearly on the news of a recurrent type of cancer. But my confidence lies not in cancer or what it can or cannot do, but what God says He can do…and he said I was His miracle girl! Right on cue, the band began to play Voice of Truth….

Oh what I would do to have

The kind of faith it takes

To climb out of this boat I’m in

Onto the crashing waves

To step out of my comfort zone Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is

And He’s holding out His hand…..

But the voice of truth tells me a different story The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!” The voice of truth says, “This is for My glory” Out of all the voices calling out to me I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

crowns2 crowns

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Friends help the medicine go down

While I knew it was fairly certain to happen, I had hoped, but still, there I sat on the edge of the tub sobbing. Cleaning up the endless strands of hair seemed futile. The tears weren’t so much for me as they were for my son. He is so visual and I knew this would be a blow for him; trigger his concern. The hair loss would officially make it real for the both of us. I was right, and as I sat on the bed telling him, my heart broke for him as his broke for me. “It could be worse,” doesn’t offer much consolation in those moments. Nonetheless, it could be worse.

The next day a ray of hope and sunshine arrived in the form of two friends. They whisked me off to Walmart for a new head wardrobe and, of course, big hoop earrings J. Then back to the house to refine our novice head-shaving skills. I’m happy to report, no blood loss. By the end, I couldn’t believe how amazing I felt… I felt pretty… and confident. One of the most treasured part of the day? That they brought my Jesus with them. I cannot explain the calm that washed over me as my friend stood with her hand on my shoulder. It wasn’t her hand that she stretched out to hold mine, it was Jesus’. Then, we concluded with a time of communion. I will not debate the theology or properness of communion. It wasn’t about the ritual, it was about the relationship. I needed my Jesus, to know and reflect on his restorative presence.

Exodus 17:11-12 tells us that the battle was being won while Moses held his arms high… more significantly, when Moses grew tired, Aaron and Hur held his hands up for him. My arms were tired Thursday as I sat looking down at the seaweed of hair drifting in the tub water, I am thankful for the friends who came along and held them steady. The image of Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses has been one that God has reminded me of frequently. Most often, it is when I think about all the prayer warriors out there lifting me up. My struggle runs deep right now, and, honestly, there are times when even prayer is difficult. I don’t know what to say…what to ask…what to cry, so it is a comfort to know that others are crying out for me. I also feel great strength when I think of the chorus of prayers being lifted… a wonderful mix of a beautiful medley and a persistent knock that will not be turned away.  

before nerd dino cape after-us scarf

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All that glitters….

I have not felt very glittery. This journey started for me about a year ago…August 2013. Immediately, I was filled overflowing with an unshakeable faith. I was a comfort to those around me, confidently declaring God’s promises to me. “I will be calling you with my good news.” Suddenly that was gone, and there I sat on my first day of treatment scared and completely void of any sense of God’s presence. I knew I couldn’t do this without him, yet my heart seemed to have very little interest in earnestly seeking him. But true to his word in 2 Timothy 2:13, he was faithful when I was not. He was there, showing himself in the Christian nurse who cared and comforted me with her testimony. He was there in the loving message from a friend, and the beautiful song he had her deliver to me. He was there, making me strong enough to do homework. Everywhere I looked, whether I could feel it or not, I saw evidence of his presence.

It reminded me of the closing verses of Jonah when he is so angry with God, and in response, God grows up a plant “to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort.” I know that the passage goes on and that God removes the plant the very next morning, but I have always seen such comfort and compassion in God’s action of growing up that plant over Jonah’s head. Such love. I feel like that’s where we are now. He knows the ache of my heart, and in response, he provides shelter and ease of my discomfort.

In the couple weeks since, I continue to struggle with what I label as a lack of faith. He may not offer words of contempt, yet I can’t help but feel like a disappointment to him. Everywhere I look I see women with shiny happy faces that scream courage and strength. What happened to mine? And am I truly weaker? Less faithful? Or could it be that I’m just a little more transparent? I began to ponder that more and more and am left with the question of why is it that we only show our best side? Yes, a testimony of strength and courage is empowering, but doesn’t the same hold true for one of tears? How are we supposed to know it’s ok to cry if we never see anyone else cry? How are we supposed to share the compassion of a tenderhearted Jesus if we never allow anyone to see him catch our tears in the palm of his hand? Maybe that which is gold, doesn’t always glitter…maybe it streaks like a tear.

The song he sent my way that evening was “More than Conquerors” by Rend Collective. He was planting an anthem in my resistant heart… growing up a plant to ease my discomfort.