You are being held

A new year is coming, and I am thinking about other years. Years when I looked forward with joy to a new baby, a milestone, a graduation, a wedding. Years when I wondered about change, even feared it. Years when I hoped to accomplish something, years when I wanted everything to stay the same. There was always a looking forward, an expectation. There was sometimes fear. There was always hope.

And now there is this new year. I already know so much of what it will hold. And never has knowing felt so much like not knowing. Never have I been so uncertain, so vulnerable, so afraid. Never have I needed truth more–needed it to seep deep down in my soul and soothe the turmoil, tame the terror, still the storm.

Never have I needed God more.

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

I am speaking this truth to myself and to my children.

I am speaking it to Marissa.

Precious child, He is with you. He will strengthen you. He will help you. He will hold you in His hand.

Do not fear–He is with you. He is the only one who participates in every moment. When you are alone in your bed at night and the tears will not stop falling, He is with you. When you are being wheeled away for a test or for surgery and you feel panic rising up within you, He is with you. When you are waiting for a test result and your mind is frantically tumbling with both hope and despair, He is with you.

You are being held.

Do not look anxiously about you. Don’t look. Don’t look at the statistics or the studies about recurrence or long term side effects. Don’t look at the cancer and its horrors. Don’t look at your own small faith. Look at Who God is. Don’t focus on the battle around and in you. Focus on your God. His strength, His character, His absolute ability to keep you safe.

You are being held.

He will strengthen you. He will help you. He will hold you up.

And I love the truth of this verse. I love when He strengthens–when He gives that supernatural ability to endure. I love when He helps–when He enables us to carry on when we are past our own strength.

But what I love most–what I have needed most–is His promise to hold us up. His promise that we are being held. His promise that we are being kept safe in His righteous right arm when we would certainly be falling hard if not for His strong and gentle hand. If not for His faithful, covenant love. If not for His kind and constant care.

It is not your faith that is pulling you through. It is not your strength that is lifting you up. It is not how well you are holding on.

It is Him.

You are being held.

When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. (Psalm 37:24)

He comes

Christmas is almost here and I am not ready. Three nights in the hospital last weekend didn’t help, but frankly, I would have been behind anyway. I’m a little lost this year, a little distracted, a little slow. I’m a little scared.

But I keep remembering that He came. I keep remembering the baby boy born long ago. I listen to the songs about His birth and I am stirred. I listen to the songs of why He came and I weep.

He came.

He chose to come and I am undone. He chose to come for me. For Marissa. For my family. For you. He came as a baby but showed His great love by living His life intent on dying. Intent on suffering. Intent on saving.

He came.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)

The God-man lived His gentle, selfless, serving life with no thought of His rights or His position. Focused on His plan. Focused on loyal love. Focused on grace and His Father’s glory.

He came and He will come again.

But He also comes to us today. He comes into our heart if we invite Him. He comes near when we draw near to Him. He comes when we are tired of self and sin. He comes in the bleakness of a cancer diagnosis. He comes when we are struggling–when we are failing and falling and sad. He comes when we are overwhelmed. He comes when we are full of doubt, when we are scared, when we are weak.

He comes. He brings peace. He brings light. He brings joy.

He brings Himself. He comes.

“O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here.”

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

In the darkness

I walk out my front door almost every day before 6 a.m. I run most days, but even on non-running days, I walk. At first I dreaded going so early, especially on dark and cold days. But something happened along the way. I made friends with the dark and the cold. I made friends with early. I made friends with alone. Now I breathe deeply and feel at home in the morning darkness.

There is a phrase I would often tell my children growing up. “Happiness isn’t doing what you like to do. Happiness is learning to like what you have to do.” The Bible teaches us to be content and to be thankful and I’ve mostly found it easy enough. There’s always a silver lining, right? You can always find something to be grateful for, can’t you?

But there have been a few times in my life when I have faced a darkness that I couldn’t befriend. A darkness that sucked the air out of me. A darkness that seemed heavy with fear and evil and heartache. A darkness with no silver lining and no silver at all.

There is no learning to like some things. It seems impossible to make friends with cancer. It seems impossible to embrace and be thankful for this disease and all of its ramifications. Cancer is an enemy and we are fighting it with all we’ve got.

So what is God asking me to do?

Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

He is not saying be thankful FOR all circumstances but IN them. Be thankful–not for the darkness, but in the darkness.

So I cry out to the Creator of this darkness. I remember how He has given songs in the night. I remember how He has gently carried me in the past. I try to settle into the path instead of trying to figure it out or light my own way. I trust. I pray. I submit.

And I do it every day. In the lab, on the chemo floor, in the doctor’s office, at home. Waiting for test results, watching my daughter’s physical fight, seeing my children wrestle with fear. Trust, pray, submit.

And be thankful. Be thankful in the darkness. Notice the sparks of light along the way. Pay attention to the kindness of friends and strangers. Keep track of answered prayers. Focus on what God is doing, how He is helping, how He is carrying. Lift your eyes up to Him, the light of the world.

The darkness is what enables you to see the Light–be grateful you can see it.

God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:15)

 

 

 

Lessons from pie

In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I felt torn. Full of awareness of all I have been given. Heavy with gratefulness for this moment, these people, this grace. Yet grieving this changed life. This never-can-go-back reality. Tossed between cherishing this moment and fearing the moments to come.

So maybe I was a little distracted. And maybe I shouldn’t have started a major project two days before Thanksgiving. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited to make the pies until 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. But I did and it was all right–they were beautiful (in an artsy, non-perfectionist kind of way.)

Before the meal, my husband read Psalm 100 as he always does. And then around the table with our spoken blessings, and there were beautiful words and many tears. And we were thankful.

After the meal, we cut the pie in big slices and added whipped cream. And really, it wasn’t until you took a bite that you realized the pumpkin pie was missing something–something major. I had forgotten to put the sugar in the pumpkin pie. I was more distracted than I thought.

Lesson 1: Sometimes we’re going to fail. Sometimes we’re going to try our best and it won’t be enough. Sometimes we will disappoint others. Often we will disappoint ourselves. Failure isn’t only an option, it’s a guarantee. Because we are fallen people. We are made in God’s image, but we are not God. We are constantly falling short of God’s glory, and we are constantly being reminded that we are not enough, that we need to be rescued.

The wonderful news is that we have a Rescuer. We don’t have to be enough. We can trust in Someone who never changes, never fails. We can lean hard into the saving power of Christ.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him. (Hebrews 7:25)

Lesson 2: It’s the inside that matters. When they were in the oven, the pies smelled wonderful. While sitting on the counter, they filled every expectation. It wasn’t until the first bite that we realized they were deficient–that they were not what they were supposed to be.

When the hard times come, we need a heart of truth. We need a heart that has sought God, a heart that has found Him. We need a heart that knows Him. It won’t be enough that we can say the right words. It won’t matter what we look like or where we are–what will matter is what we believe.

What we feed our soul–it matters. What our heart is holding on to–it makes a difference. What fills up the nooks and crannies of our mind–it changes us.

What we love makes us who we are.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)