Marissa’s testimony

This is the testimony that Marissa gave at the Praise Service at our church on Wednesday evening.

This year I turned 25. By 25 you feel like an adult. You have more responsibility, you move out on your own, and best of all…you can rent a car. 🙂 Turning 25 is a big deal. I had no idea how big this year was going to be.

On September 24, 2015, a week before my 25th birthday, I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. The month was filled with fear, despair, test after test, going through weeks with no answers, realizing that my life would never be the same, and having to make choices for my future that I had never even thought about. Between making choices about treatments, a new schedule, work, and future children, my mind was overwhelmed.

When I look back at the first month, I see all of these things. But I also see one overpowering thing. I see peace. A peace that truly passes all understanding. I have always been taught about the peace and strength that God gives in difficult times. I have read about it in my Bible. I have heard testimonies about it and I have even experienced it myself throughout my life, but never in this way. Isaiah 43:2 became my lifeline. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

Through each test, through each moment of panic, this verse would come to my mind and the Lord would give peace. There is so much the Lord has shown me about Himself in the last few months. I love having peace knowing that God has chosen me for this. This is one way He is going to mold me and bring me closer to Himself.

About a year ago I remember talking to a friend and saying how I felt like I was at a point in my life where I needed to make a choice. Keep living the way I was or start living more for God. I chose my way. It was easier. One of my first thoughts when I found out about this cancer was that now I had an easy choice. My God loved me so much that He was not going to let me choose my own way. He is bringing me closer to Himself through this trial.

What a blessed life I have. I know that I will have days where the fear is overwhelming and I will wish that my life was different. But I know I have a big God who loves me so much and He will give me the strength for each day. And with that hope and peace, bring on tomorrow!

Thank you for your prayers and support. I am truly blessed.

Gratefulness

I am generally a positive person, known in my family as an optimist. I’m a silver-lining, glass-half-full kind of girl. But Marissa’s cancer hit me pretty hard. The swirling thoughts just didn’t settle into normally pleasant patterns. There was so much bad that it was hard to wrap my mind around the good. There was no escaping to my happy place. I needed more than optimism, more than positive thinking, more than myself. I needed God.

I started this blog to chronicle our journey through this trial but especially to see God’s hand, to notice His work, to trace His goodness. To find Him present when we felt alone. To know His love in the midst of fear. To settle our thoughts in His truth.

This is Thanksgiving week. My favorite time of the year. And while this has been one of the hardest periods of my life, it has also been one of the richest. Maybe there is no explanation for how the beautiful things are enhanced during dark times, but maybe there is. Maybe it’s God. Maybe He is enabling us to see light in the middle of darkness.

Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous. (Psalm 112:4)

In the darkness, He is gracious. In the darkness, He is compassionate. In the darkness, He is righteous. In the darkness, He gives light.

So we are grateful, so grateful. We are thankful for each other. We are thankful for all the wonderful gifts we have received–for home and shelter, for physical needs met, for friends and family who have walked beside us and helped us through, for simple comfort, for daily joy.

But most of all, we are thankful for the Light.

 

 

Suffering

My college roommate used to say that every person has their own level of suffering. I have found that to be true and so helpful in navigating circumstances and relationships. In my own life, there have been varying degrees of hardship. I can’t compare having a colicky baby with having a daughter with cancer, but the reality is that those were hard days. Those were days I had to endure. Those were days I had to cling to hope.

Every person has a degree of suffering. A child is afraid of the dark, a student is overwhelmed with classes and responsibilities, a mom is pouring out her life for her children, a dad is burdened with a heavy load of care. People are dealing with loneliness or weakness or pain. They are disappointed and disillusioned with themselves or with others or with life in general. They are trying so hard to make sense out of life. They are broken.

We are all broken because of sin and its curse. The whole earth is groaning, waiting to be redeemed, to be rescued from suffering. (Romans 8)  We all want to be rescued.

And that is why the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the World. That is why He died for us and rose again. That is why He lives to intercede for us. He longs to rescue us. He longs to lift our burden. He longs to give us hope. He longs to bring us peace.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)

Saved from our sin. Saved from eternal suffering. Saved from separation from God. Saved from despair. Saved from brokenness.

There are hard days in this life. Some are harder than others. But if you know Jesus and His redeeming work on your behalf, you are saved. You will never be separated from God. Your eternity with Him is sure. You have no need to despair.

There is hope. There is peace.

You are healed.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

 

What I meant to say

My girls say I didn’t tell them they were beautiful when they were young. It must be true but it surprises me now. Really? Because I was daily astounded by the beauty of my children.

I was constantly aware of the fragile preciousness of the moments. The chubby baby faces staring up at me. The countenance of toddler joy. The surprise of discovery as the young ones opened their eyes to the beauty of life. Those were chaotic days, but I remember joy. I remember feeling almost frightened at the goodness of the blessings I had been given.

My children were beautiful, but I didn’t tell them.

Why? I wanted them to understand that every good gift is from above. If you are lovely, it is not your own doing. There is no virtue in a pretty face. Real beauty lies within you. Real beauty is not what you see when you look in the mirror. It is what is seen when you reflect your Creator.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

We are being made beautiful. God created us for a specific time, a specific place, a specific purpose.

We are His poem and we are living out the stanzas right now. We might be confused by the words. We might not understand all the rhyme. We might resist the twisting of the plot. But haven’t you seen how the beautiful stories are the ones with hardship, the ones with pain?

We are His sculpture and He is carving and molding (and can you feel how painful that work is sometimes?) But though it is unfinished and messy right now, it will be beautiful in its time.

He has put eternity in our heart. We are a forever project. We don’t know all His ways. We don’t trust in what He is doing, because we don’t always know what He is doing. We trust in Who He is.

He is a Creator and Potter and Master Builder. He does all things well.

This is your time to reflect your Savior. This is your time to be beautiful.

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Beauty

Her hair is gone.

She didn’t want to wait for it to fall out in clumps. She didn’t want to be sick and hurting when she lost it. She wanted it to happen when she was feeling good and when she was surrounded by people she loved. She wanted to feel strong.

So we gathered in the little wig shop. We came in out of the rainy night to be together, to help her face this latest challenge. There was nervous laughter and small talk. When the stylist began to buzz off her curls, we took pictures and we didn’t cry. We blinked back tears but we didn’t cry.

What is it that is so special about a woman’s hair? I was on a college campus this week and I kept watching the girls. Every one is different–God’s creative genius evident on every head. Unique color, unique texture, unique style. When Marissa was ordering her wig, we tried to match her color and curl and we could not. Out of hundreds of choices, there wasn’t one perfect match. There wasn’t one that really looked like her.

So now her hair is gone. Her head is beautiful. Her wig is beautiful. But they are not familiar, not what we know. There is this new stretching, this new acceptance of how things are. There is a new wondering of how things will be.

But there are also new mercies every morning.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)