When the new is not so shiny

Our Christmas was sober but not without joy. We were all together and reminded of just how precious that gift is–the gift of together. Reminded, too, of that greatest gift of love–God sent down to man. God becoming man. God redeeming man.

The packages are unwrapped, and we all have something new we are enjoying. Some desired item or some delightful surprise. My favorite gifts to give are the surprises. I love to think of something unexpected but perfectly fitted.

I think about God and His giving. How everything we have is from Him and how we take so much for granted. All the perfectly suited gifts that we don’t even notice. All of the daily delights that we fail to appreciate.

How can I doubt this Giver of good gifts?

And yet…

This new year doesn’t feel like a shiny new present full of possibilities. It feels more like sorrow. More like pain. It feels more like old fears and can’t-do-it doubts.

It feels like shivering on the cold, hard ground on the night before a great battle. We’re not warm enough and certainly not brave enough.

Nothing inside us could ever be enough for this battle.

Can we trust the Giver of good gifts to provide what we do not have? Can we expect perfectly fitted gifts and unexpected blessings and provision of needs we cannot know?

Can we expect a miracle?

You don’t need a miracle when you are in the middle of happy. You don’t need a miracle when things are going well. Miracles are for the sick and the dying and the broken. Miracles are for those who are weary and worn and beyond human help.

I’m certain there will be good gifts this year. I’m confident that God is good and that He never changes. I know He will give blessings every day that are perfectly suited to us and that remind us of His love.

I believe in His miracles.

My husband was digging in the empty garden yesterday. Nothing but damp dirt and rotted plants. But seeds will be planted in that dark earth, and I have seen the miracle of spring. I have seen how somehow in that darkness, before it ever sees the sun, the seed will begin to grow. It will push through the darkness to the light.

One of our miracles might be an enabling to continually push toward the light. To seek God even when we don’t understand. To take each step with purpose because of His promises. To trust Him in the dark.

The miracle might be what is unseen.

The miracle might be what He is doing in the dark.

For it is You who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God–His way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; He is shield for all those who take refuge in Him. Psalm 18:28-30 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18











We will know you are praying

Grief comes in waves of emotion. Even with the comfort of truth there are many tears and much fear. When people ask what they can do, we are not repeating trite words when we ask for prayer. We are counting on you to hold the ropes. We are counting on you to pray.

When I wake in the early morning darkness and feel calmness instead of rising panic, I will know you are praying.

When my family gathers around the table and there is soft laughter and easy conversation instead of more tears, we will know you are praying.

When my teenagers ask hard questions and we can answer with calm assurance, we will know you are praying.

When the heavy cloak of sadness is lifted enough for us to enjoy the moments we are given, we will know you are praying.

When our steps are weary and yet we do not stumble, do not falter, do not doubt–we will know you are praying.

When there are pieces of mercy–bits of good news, financial provision, acts of kindness shown–we will know you are praying.

If spiritual eyes are opened and the blind are made to see, we will know you are praying.

If my children move toward God instead of pulling away in confusion or bitter sadness, we will know you are praying.

When pain and darkness come and we are able to kiss the hand that brings them, we will know you are praying.

If Marissa is strengthened and enabled to walk this pilgrim journey with eyes of faith;

if she runs sure and strong down this appointed path to the finish line;

if she doesn’t doubt, walks without fear, leans hard on everlasting arms;

if joy sustains her and grace surrounds her;

if she walks by faith and not by sight–

then we will know.

We will know you are praying.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2




I am sitting in the waiting room while Marissa has her scans and I am wiping away the tears that just keep falling down my face.

Because she was so close, or at least it felt that way. Her skin was so much better and she was just starting to get her strength back. This morning I was so thankful that her step was firmer and quicker than it had been for awhile.

Last night while I was helping her with her dressings, I noticed a spot. Really, it is the smallest nodule. It hardly seems possible that it could be dangerous–that it could mean the spread of this snarly, aggressive disease. When we showed it to the doctor, she was immediately concerned. Within an hour, we had a positive biopsy result, a consultation with her oncologist, and now she is having her CT scan with a bone scan to follow.

Because this crazy cancer is still hanging around and still trying to spread. This race is not over. Ready or not, it’s time for another lap.

I’m not ready. Marissa’s not ready. Nobody feels ready to fight this enemy.

Christmas songs are playing and there are decorations in the waiting room. People are sitting all around me, waiting for news. It is so hard to wait.

But this waiting reminds me. It helps me know. Truth curls around me like the mist on a foggy morning, surrounding me and covering me.

Immanuel. God is here.

Someone once told me that it is hard to feel God’s presence in a doctor’s office, but I have learned Him well in these cold, hard places. He is always there.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

I have confessed Jesus to be God and He dwells in me. His light shines. The darkness of sin cannot overcome it. This journey of cancer cannot dim it. No diagnosis, no pain, no suffering can remove us from His presence. Even death cannot sever the tie that binds us to His heart. We are safe. We are not forsaken. We are never alone.

And that is Christmas. That is hope that does not disappoint.

He came. He saves. He is near. I am letting the joy of it settle into the saddest places of my heart.

Immanuel. God is with us.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
















They have hit her as hard as they can.

I can see the flash of something in their eyes–amazement and relief, I think, that she is still standing. They love her spunk and she is only 26 and every doctor realizes this is a battle for her life. So when they tell her they are giving her six weeks without treatment, her first response is panic. Her first response is no.

She is a fighter, my girl. I think about her childhood filled with dolls and books and singing, and I wonder where she learned these warrior skills. I wonder when God put courage and strength and endurance in her heart. Was it when she was formed or did He grow it inside of her or is He pouring it out on her now?

And it must be yes. Yes, to all three. They are gifts from her Father’s hand, and she wears them well.

She has had a couple of hard weeks. Fevers and blood transfusions and layers of skin falling off. Pain and weariness and tears. But radiation is done; that battle fought. Now it is time to recover, to rest. Now it is time to regain strength for battles ahead.

The timing of this rest keeps filling my heart. We will be home for Christmas, and Marissa will have her first real break in 14 months. Time to savor family and celebrate truth. Time to observe the light.

I long to associate Christmas with rest. I feel pulled by a thousand strings as I am jumping back into my life after being away for seven weeks. So much to be done, to catch up on. I am pushing away a feeling of panic. I am refusing to be frantic in my doing. I am determined not to be overwhelmed by to-do lists but to be overwhelmed by grace.

I know about Christmas–it’s in my heart. I know why He came, and I am grateful for the knowing. He came to rescue us from the overwhelming, frantic doing. It is never enough. We can never do enough or be enough to satisfy our own expectations or to satisfy God.

There is rest in that.

There is rest in a baby being a burden-bearer. There is rest in the satisfaction of God’s wrath when His Son died on a tree for our sin. There is rest in embracing truth and confessing truth and relying on truth.

There is rest in being rescued.

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10,11

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. Acts 16:31