A father’s love

Marissa, your daddy loves you.

We didn’t begin our married life thinking we would have a houseful of children, but we saw them as a blessing. We welcomed each one with the same kind of excitement, the same kind of awe. They were precious gifts from our kind Father.

Your dad loved the little ones. He held and rocked and bounced with endless patience. He worked so hard and sometimes in the evenings he would fall asleep on the floor with children jumping all around him, happy to be surrounded by love.

You know how hard he works, how almost every moment of his day is poured out for us. You know how much he loves God. You know how much he wants all of his children to love God. Some things you know.

But there are things you don’t know–how the only tears I have seen him cry have been over his children or how much he wants to take this trial from you. You don’t know that sometimes in the night when we are both awake, he comes into your room and prays. You don’t know how much he loves.

But there is One who loves you more. He formed you and wrote your days in His book. He gave His only Son to rescue you from sin. His Word is filled with promises for you. He loves you with an everlasting love.

You don’t know how much He loves. But it is worth finding out.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. (1 John 4:16)

Hands and feet of Jesus

We thought the party would have to be canceled. Hurricane Joaquin was moving up the east coast and we were expected to get dangerous amounts of rain. But we moved the location inside, and as the day wore on it looked like we could go ahead.

Marissa was looking forward to seeing people she loved. She wanted to face them on a happy occasion where it wouldn’t be awkward for anyone. She wanted to put them at ease.

The house began to fill with people. There must have been over a hundred who came out in the cold rain to hug her and tell her they loved her. They shared stories and memories and laughter. The house overflowed with love.

I don’t remember when I have ever been so overwhelmed with the kindness of others as I have been these past weeks. At every turn, someone has helped, someone has lightened our load, someone has lifted us up.

“Let us be the hands and feet of Jesus,” a friend said. And we have felt that gentle, compassionate love this week. We have experienced it in warm meals, thoughtful cards, and helpful gifts. We have seen it in tear-filled eyes. We have heard it in whispered words of grace.

We have seen Jesus in you.

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)

Tears in a bottle

Yesterday was a good day. Yesterday was a hard day.

I woke with a physical ache in my chest, and it followed me all through the rainy, cold day. I sang songs, I breathed deeply, I spoke truth, I prayed.  And still, the pain.

Because you know what? I don’t want to be buying slippers to keep my daughter’s feet warm during chemo. I don’t want to search for hats to keep her head covered when her beautiful, soft curls fall out. I don’t want this next year to be filled with pain.

I walked into the warmth of my home and felt some relief. I hugged my husband hard. I marveled at the kindness of friends, filling our home with flowers and food and love. I listened to my children and the language of family. I watched my daughter laugh.

But in the end I cried. I cried and my daughters held me. I cried and it was better.

God is not disappointed with us when we cry. He remembers our frame. He keeps count of our tossings. He puts our tears in a bottle.

It’s okay to cry.

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Psalm 56:8

Today we celebrate

Happy 25th birthday to my brave, sweet, beautiful girl.

I remember your birth so well. You were in a hurry to be born and you have been full of joyful energy ever since. You were a gift, a treasure from God.

I remember first noticing your love of children when the twins were born. You were almost 11 and Kendrea was 9, and the two of you carried them and played with them and sang to them. Now you teach a room full of children every day. I have seen you work with them, and you have a unique gift of understanding them, loving them and teaching them.

You are a favorite sister. You are the first to suggest something fun, whether it is wrestling with the boys or watching a family movie. But you are also a good listener and counselor, a good friend, a good roommate.

I don’t remember when I first noticed that people were drawn to you, but I have watched you gather friends from every age group. You have an exuberance for life that people love, and you are genuinely interested in others.

You are a lover of God. You accepted Jesus into your heart when you were a small child, but it was in your teenage years when someone very close to you turned from faith and God that you confirmed what you believe. Since then I have watched you navigate life with eternity in view.

Today is your birthday. Today you will be celebrated. Today you will open gifts.

But Marissa, your greatest gifts will come in this next, hard year. Your heavenly Father will give you packages each day to open exactly when you need them–His words, alive and powerful; His strength, lifting you when you are falling; His love, sure and steady through the darkest storm; His peace, like a blanket of goodness warming your soul. There is an endless supply of these gifts and a kind Friend Who carries them.

I love you, Rissa. Happy birthday.

Trust

We received some discouraging news last night.

We were all hanging on until today when Marissa would get her PET scan and final diagnosis. It felt like some sort of finish line before the next race began. It seemed like we could relax a little, breathe deeply for the first time in three weeks when it was over. The fear that the cancer has spread would be settled. Then yesterday we received word that our insurance had denied the test. So now we will be waiting another whole week for two other tests to give us similar information.

A week isn’t a long time. A week flies by. Except when you’re waiting to see if your daughter’s cancer has been “upgraded” from a curable stage to the next one. The one we don’t want to think about.

Optimism is different than trust. Hope is different than trust. Trust is anchoring ourselves in God’s sufficiency. It is actively letting go of anxiety. It is resting in His providence. It is feeling safe in the midst of turmoil.

So we are speaking truth to ourselves. We are not trusting in test results, statistics, or words of men to ease our anxiety. We are trusting in the perfect providence of God.

Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. (Psalm 143:8)