Dare To Believe

Lately I have been walking around in a bubble.  We all know what that feels like.  Disbelief, anger, and grief.  So much grief.

When the doctor comes to you with a bad report, a really nasty one,  it’s like someone has cut off your arms and legs and left you to die.  Not only do you feel so helpless, you are literally OVERCOME with hopelessness; like an elephant is sitting on your chest.

Last night as I was laying in bed,  I was remembering lives that have gone on before.  Lives cut way too short from cancer, meningitis, strokes.  My best friend, my good friend, my friends parents, and the list goes on.   I began to feel overtaken with grief and weariness.  Weary to the bone. 

 Suddenly out of nowhere I remembered something.

Many years ago, before we had Sean we wanted one last child.  I had 4 miscarriages.  When I had the last miscarriage,  the doctor sat us down and told us that my body could handle as many miscarriages as we had.  That it wasn’t hard on my body.  But he said that we needed to make a decision as to how many our heart could handle.  We understood that and we decided that our heart couldn’t handle another loss.  It was just too hard.

Two years later found us in England ministering to Churches.  I began to suspect that I was pregnant.  To say that I was terrified can’t even begin to describe what my heart and emotions were going through.  All I could think of is what it would be like to miscarry in another country I wasn’t familiar with. Away from my friends.  Away from my family and my doctor.  I began to wonder if I was going to miscarry while I was speaking in a church or in the middle of the night.  Was this one going to be worse and complicated and could it be life threatening?  Was I even safe?    I couldn’t do anything; be anywhere without that gnawing fear in the back of my mind.  When was it going to happen??  How was it going to happen?  Why here,  Lord?  Why now? I had given up by dream.  I had let it go.  Wasn’t that enough?  It seemed cruel to me; the timing, the situation, everything.  

Then one day I was laying in bed and the Lord spoke to me.  Clearly.  Not in an audible voice but in my spirit.  He said,  “Dare to believe.  Dare to believe that your dreams of having another child will be fulfilled.  Dare to believe that THIS time will be different. Dare to Believe that you will carry this one to full term. ”   I couldn’t shake the words.  It shocked me.  I am sorry to say that I hadn’t even thought of that as an option.  

Immediately I grabbed ahold of those words and I clung to them.  They were in fact life to me.  Dare to Believe. 

And in the end I held a beautiful boy in my arms.  But I had to take it one second, one minute, one day at a time. I gathered around  me encouragers and supporters so that they could spur me on if I got stuck. 

So today I choose to DARE to believe that this time cancer will be different.  Today I choose to believe that God will raise my father in law up from his bed of sickness. 

To dare is risky.  To dare is scary; it’s like laying your heart down on a bed of rocks - bare and vulnerable.  But today I raise the sword and I DARE to believe. 

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Sometimes

I cried.

I cried because of the madness that this world is sometimes.  I cried because you don’t ever know and not knowing makes it as scary as a big black hole in the earth.  I cried because some days I live wondering when the next bullet is going to hit; wondering when the next massive wave is going to overtake me and I am going to feel myself drowning again.  I cried because sometimes I just want to leave the scary, the hard and painful bits of my life and live in a bubble for a while.  Sometimes I want to drive as far as I can possibly drive and just sit there and stare at the sky.  Sometimes nothing makes sense -   everything is going in all the wrong directions and its just too painful to breathe.   Because we really have no control do we?  We aren’t in control of our days or months or years and sometimes the only One that is, doesn’t seem to hear us and or want to know our opinion. I wish I was a woman full of faith but sometimes I am just a woman full of questions and no answers.

As I sobbed,  I talked to God.   I was asking God to help me navigate through the dangerous season of my life right now.  It almost seems as though it is stretched too thin.  Like thin thin ice on top of freezing cold waters - waiting for it to crack and open up.

  And suddenly I saw David, a young boy standing in front of a king named Saul.  And this is what he said,  “God rescued me from the lion.  He rescued me from the bear.  He is going to rescue me from this giant too.”

David didn’t wonder why on earth he had to face this giant.  He didn’t moan and groan about the fact that he had fought a bear and he had fought a lion and NOW - NOW he had to fight the giant TOO!!?? He didn’t cry and stomp his feet or hide and cower like the rest of them did.   And so many of us do.  We do.  We get angry or sad or scared.  But David just acted.   He saw a giant  in the camp.  He saw a giant defying his God, and he rolled up his sleeves and said,  “Let me at ‘em.”  What rose up in him that day - that he would face a giant?  He was a young man.  He was a human like you and me - who loved and valued his life.  He got scared and insecure and frightened and intimidated - just like you and me. David was not capable. He was not a warrior.   What rose up in him??  Was it faith? Hope?  Confidence?  Anger?

His brothers told him to shut up and go home.   They basically called him a brat.  “You just wanted to see the battle David. That’s the only reason you came - you just wanted to be like a big boy and see what was happening over here.”

The king told him that it wouldn’t end well for him.  But since he was the only one brave enough to fight the giant,  he let him.  But I know as he walked out of that room,  Saul felt sorry for the poor brave boy who was going to die very soon. He wasn’t even big enough to wear his armor.   And I know that David knew what Saul was thinking but he didn’t care.

When David faced the giant, he ridiculed him. He called him a dog.He made fun of him and humiliated him.  I wonder if at any point,  David wondered what on earth he was doing standing in front of this giant daring him to a fight with his little rocks.  What was going through his mind as he stared up into the face of the giant who was mocking him and mocking the rest of them for sending him someone like David?

I don’t think that he let his mind go there. He didn’t wonder whether he was enough for the job at hand because he knew that God was.  He didn’t wonder if his dream was too big for him because he knew it wasn’t too big for God.   I think that David was absolutely propelled by the knowledge and faith he had in his God to save him because he had seen God save him before.  He had forged that relationship with him and he knew that God was going to rescue him.  Yes,  David was risking it.  He was risking his reputation; his future, his very life - but that didn’t matter.  Because there was a giant standing there and he wasn’t supposed to be there.  He needed to be gone.

My life right now is like looking up into the face of a giant.  It’s way too big for me right now. Its way too complicated and loud and crazy.  But I remember - I choose to remember.  God rescued me from the lion.  He rescued me from the bear.  And he will rescue me from the giant too.

Do you have giants in your life right now?   Does  your life seem upside down in so many ways?   He has given you the tools to deal with that giant.  He has given you the courage.   He has given you the grace.

Don’t get me wrong.  I understand.  Sometimes,  when life hits you hard,  you need to scream until your throat is raw.  Sometimes you need to run until your feet are stinging.  Sometimes you need to cry until your belly aches.  But at the end of the day,  when you stare up at that giant, with your tear streaked face,  you need to slowly roll up your sleeves as you feel that hope rising up within you,   as you feel that faith carrying you,  as you feel that relationship with your God anchoring you, and you need to tell the giant that he doesn’t belong.

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Heart Friends

 

Heart friends.  That's what I call them.  You know - those are the kind of friends that are easily connected to your heart.  I have a few of them.  I have a few of them here and a few of them scattered across the globe.

Yesterday was spent with friends that were not from around here; two of which we hadn't seen in years.  To say that it was a treat would be an understatement of the year.  It was not only touching,  it was epic to see them; to spend time with them again.  Sitting around the table,  eating meat and cheese with soft white buns, and bright red strawberries with fresh homemade whipping cream,  we realized that we had been friends for 3 decades.    We hadn't talked in years,  but it was as if we hadn't left each other; like we had just taken a long breath in order to start talking and sharing again.  It was that magical.

We have created a thousand memories together,  laughed until our bellies ached and cried buckets of tears.

Friendship is something money can't buy.  It's something that you have to give yourself to - your heart, your journey.  You have to be vulnerable - even raw at times.  That's what we have shared with these guys.  We have gone through moves, and babies, and deaths and weddings, and prodigals and everything in between,  together.

Time is a beautiful thing for some friendships.  Time tries and tests and weighs - how important;  how deep you dug that well of friendship. and for these friendships, time proved that we dug the well deep.  Rich, filled with power, redeeming, satisfying, loving, friendship.

How I love these people and how I love God for bringing them into our lives 30 years ago.   Yesterday,  I needed them so desperately.

When my oldest son heard that all six of us were getting together he said,  "You know, Mom,  things could get really silly."  He remembered the laughter until the wee hours of the morning.  We've talked about crazy things - silly inside jokes that make ONLY US laugh.  We've talked about deep things - like faith and doubt, beauty and sorrow, lovely things and ugly things.  We've shared meals, and vacations, and plays and missions trips and dinners and dozens of cheesecakes and saved the world a million times through our plans and thoughts.  The list goes on and on.

This is what life is all about.  Finding people who will become the words to the heart song you choose to sing; finding your people - your friends - who walk with you through the confusion, through the beauty, through the gross darkness and through the streams of light.

Time and distance has never separated our hearts, our lives from intertwining.

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I was disappointed when I saw that this poignant picture was blurry.  And then I realized how significant that was to our lives.  Through the mess, through the clouds, and the haziness and vast valleys; through the blurriness that the journey brings to us sometimes,  we link arms, we hold hands - because we can - because we are heart friends.  Imperfect but vastly beautiful all the same.

Thank you, my friends.

  

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Summer, Storms and Holly Hocks

This summer I could see it from my kitchen window.  Every morning when I turned on my dearly loved keurig coffee machine,  I looked out the window and I smiled.

It was my tallest Holly Hock. I think that Holly Hocks are my favorite flower.  It’s definitely ONE of my favorites for sure.  I think that they are so romantic and free flowing and strong and beautiful.  They are kind of artsy and I love artsy things.  But this one - well this one taught me something.

It taught me that in the midst of hail, and hurricane force winds and cold, cold spurts when it was supposed to be hot - I can stand strong; I can stand tall and I can be beautiful.

I remember after the third hailstorm this summer - looking outside at my flowers.  It looked like a marigold massacre.  Bit and pieces of petals and leaves and stems strewn all over my garden; vegetables had totally given up and pansies were one dimensional - they looked like a cruel painting against my steps.  It was awful weather for any plant to survive.

Then a day or two later,  I noticed something.  My holly hocks - even though they were horizontal - they were blooming.  They had been flattened; trampled by the weather, but still they found the strength to bring forth this beautiful bloom from their gangly stalks.

And then a few days later I looked and gasped.  There was my tallest one -standing upright.  Not laying on the ground anymore.   It was taller than I was.  It was beautiful and extravagant and strong.  You would  have never guessed in a million years what storms that Holly Hock had to weather.  In amongst the weeds, the less than perfect soil, the terrible weather, it chose to be outrageously lovely.

It felt like it was cheering me on every day.  “Yeah, Faith, you can do it!  It doesn’t matter if you’ve had an achingly cold and harsh summer; it doesn’t matter if the storms keeps coming - you can do it I I’ve done it so can you!”

The bible talks about being more than a conqueror.  I preached on that a few months ago.  I have come to  believe that being more than a conqueror has a lot more to do with your resolve to serve Jesus in the midst of “it all” rather than having all the circumstances line up perfectly in a row for your enjoyment.   I think that being more than a conqueror means that you weather the storms of life knowing that you won’t run away from the one who calls you his son or daughter.  You may have questions - you may be confused ;and you may even be a little bit angry - but you know Jesus enough.  You have forged that relationship enough. You have dug the wells of friendship with Jesus in a deep way.   You have enough  history with Him to know that he is still God, he is still good and he can still be deeply trusted and loved with abandonment.  That’s what I believe being more than a conqueror is.

So this summer I found myself looking out my kitchen window, first thing in the morning - for my Holly Hock to greet me.  Yes, I can do it - through the storms, through the ugliness and the upside down seasons, through the mixed up and crazy turns of life; through the cruel and really really hard parts.

I can do it,  I know I can.

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Dearest Theodore,

By now you have met your lovely Grandi. I am sure that he threw his arms around you and peppered you with a hundred kisses all over your face because he hasn’t been able to do that yet. So it would be fitting even though you are 23 today. And then maybe he growled in your ear a little bit - that playful growl he does when he is so happy to see someone.

He has talked about you lots. I have heard him mention you in his sermons. He has talked about how sometimes we go through really really hard times and we always have to run to Jesus in those deepest painful moments. That we should never run AWAY from Jesus - but run TO him. I was always proud when he mentioned you in sermons - sort of like a proud mom - like it was always special to get into one of his sermons.

I don’t know how birthdays work in heaven. Did he make you a cake? I have always wondered every year on your birthday how they celebrate in heaven. I have always wondered if Jesus baked you a cake - this year I have wondered if Grandi baked you a cake.

I am sure that he is sitting with you in his beautiful garden drinking a cup of tea and talking about his family, and talking about Mosaic - how it’s the best Church in the world to go to, or talking about Taiwan and his heart for China. Or maybe he is just talking about his beautiful flowers in heaven; exquisite flowers and giant roses that he has never seen before. I am sure it’s an amazing garden - so full of lovely, precious flowers and blooms. And there aren’t any dandelions at all. And maybe he will take you fishing after he has had his cup of tea.

You are 23 today. Wow. It seems so long ago - but only a moment ago that I held you in my arms and said good bye. My heart is a little bit raw today. But there is a little part that is comforted and warmed - knowing that you get to spend your first birthday with Grandi this year.

I love you deeply. My heart aches to my toes. You will always be missed and our family will never be totally complete even though I know that you are with Jesus and you are happy.

Happy Birthday, my dearest Theodore. I love you to Heaven and back.

With all my heart,
Mom

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Not Enough Time

When Sean first heard that his grandi had gone to be with Jesus,  he cried,  “No!!  I only knew him for seven years.  That’s not enough time!”  Jer looked at him understandingly.  “I only knew him for 50 years and that’s not enough time either.”

We went to his house the other day and I wept. His slippers were by the fireplace - empty.  But I know he is walking and dancing and leaping  on streets of gold now.  His recliner chair sat empty, with some of his items on a coffee table beside it.  But he doesn't need his chair anymore because he is seated with Jesus in heavenly places and he is happy.   His clothes hung in the closet - empty.  Emptiness that is so full and so heartbreaking it takes your breath away.  But he doesn’t need clothes anymore because he is clothed with robes of righteousness, he is clothed in heavenly robes.  He walks and talks with the Master that he so fiercely loved.  And I know that he is fulfilled and he has no more pain and he has no more suffering.  But really -  as selfish as it is - I just want him here with us again.  I just want him holding Mum’s hand again.  I just want to be able to go to his house and ask him what he thinks about the refreshments on Saturday or ask him what he thinks about what kind of building we should get for the church.  Or I just want to ask him anything.  Anything at all - just one more conversation.  Because I didn’t have enough time with him.

We admitted Dad into palliative care on the 11th, Wednesday.  I remember it well.  He was so tired; so depleted.   I looked at his room.  I knew that we were going to fill his room with pictures my son had taken of his garden for his last days.   There was another picture I was going to hang up - a picture of a cross.  Then the very next day,  Mum alerted us that if we wanted to hold another conversation with him,  that we should come because he was fading fast.  But we never got that last conversation.  We all came very quickly.  But it was too late.  He tried - he knew we were there.  He even tried at one point to sing with us.  But he was too sick.  We stayed by his bed constantly those last days.  He knew that he was loved and we knew that we were loved.  We had had many conversations with him in the last two months after the first time he almost died.  But we wanted one more conversation.   Just one more.  But let’s be honest - would one more have been enough?

Spend time with the ones you love.  Walk with the ones that are dear to you. Set down your phones, and your ipads and your computers and your games and everything else that so easily distracts you and keeps you from listening to their heartbeat.   Carve out time in your busy schedule for them; invest and pursue and live life with intention never forgetting what is most important to you.  Because you never know when you will be breathing your last breath.  You never know when they will be breathing their last breath.   Grab the person next to you.  Hug them, link arms with them; hold their hands - hold them tightly and never let them go because those things are the only important things in this world.  Those things are the only meaning that this world gives.  The other things are shallow - they are meaningless.  Our fancy houses or our not so fancy houses - our cars- our lives here on this earth - they are nothing without those around us.  Let’s not forget that.   Our things........ none of that matters next to those people; our people; next to the ones that we walk this journey with.  Nothing.

No matter what happens - there is never enough time.  Make memories and hold onto those moments like gold and never let them go until they are taken from you.

Because I promise you - it will be too soon that life or death will pry your fingers from the grip of the one you love.

Life is like precious and fragile glass - you never know when it is going to break and shatter into a million pieces on the ground - never to be recovered again.  But some of us spend so much  of our lives occupying our minds with the wrong things - with the petty things; with the meaningless things.   And we waste moments and days and years - for nothing.

Don’t waste another moment,  not another beautiful second,  worrying about the future or regretting the past.  Time is far too short, it’s like a flash of lightening; a vapor.   Laugh with your family; your heart friends;  sing with them; dance with them; do silly things with them.

Because one day that moment will come when you will wish with all your mind, heart and soul,  you will wish more than anything else in the world for one more song, one more conversation, one more meal, one more day.

Because it’s never enough...

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Everything is Not Okay

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There are seasons in the journey of life where everything is not ok.  I am not talking about the bad days where everything seems to be going wrong.  Your car doesn't start, your dog runs away or you get into a fight with your best friend.  I am talking about those stretches in your life where your heart hurts - where the hurt reaches to your toes.

You go through life because you have to.  You put one foot in front of the other simply because you are not dead - at least your physical body isn't.  You smile with your lips but your heart is crying.  You act ( to strangers) like everything is ok.  But everything is just not ok.

Things move and swirl and dance around you - but you're in a bubble.  You're not in that world anymore.  Things look different, dull and lifeless.  Forever different.  And you are not ok.

And then out of nowhere, for seemingly no reason, comes a moment - a tiny moment - where things are ok.   Not wonderful or beautiful or even happy - but ok.  And somewhere deep in your soul is that glimmer of hope that there will indeed be other tiny moments where you are ok.

This was that moment for me.

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Together

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I know all the "Sunday School" answers. (And I believe them as well.) I know God's mercy and His strength - I know that he will sustain me and I know that he is good all the time

But mostly today,  I just feel really really sad.  And really empty - an emptiness that reaches down to my toe.

If I have learned anything in this season is that you should never go through life alone.  You should never live alone - isolated, in your own bubble,, with walls around you.  Because if you live alone, you will die alone.

When we first found out about Dad's cancer, I remember a sacred moment very well.  Dad was talking to Jeremy and he looked up at him,  eyes pleading,  "What are we going to do now?"  Jeremy took his Dad's tired hand in his and said,  "We will put one foot in front of the other, we will hold hands and make it through - step by step; just how we've weathered every other storm.  Together.”

I applaud that.  Everything about Dad's life has been together - helping, strengthening, encouraging, building.  His life's passion is for others.

If you don't have someone to walk through life with - find someone.  Live your life with an open heart and outstretched hands.

The doctors say that Dad is dying.  If I am to be honest,  I don't know yet what Jesus says.  But I know what I see.  I see a man vulnerable, weak and tired - and really ready for this journey to be over - one way or the other.  But I will tell you what else I see.  I see a man who threw his whole entire life into the passions of Christ.  I see a man who knows who he is in God.  I see a man who knows his God well and knows His people very well too.

But mostly, I see a man who lived his whole life with arms outstretched, palms up - inviting one more person into his life - one more people group into his world - always building the bridge between man and God; his life's purpose.

So I don't have all the answers.  In fact, today, I don't feel I have any of the answers.  But the one thing I do know is that I don't want to live life alone.  I want to go through pain together.  I want to go through joy together.  I want to tear the walls down around me, to live my life poured out for others.  Because if I don't live alone,  I won't die alone.

I believe in community.  I believe in walking hand in hand with those around me; in sharing my tears and my deep fears.  I believe in linking arms and leaping or treading into the unknown.  

I believe in TOGETHER.

 

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Healing Tears

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The other day when I walked out of Walmart I was literally struck with a sky that took my breath away.

I love beautiful skies.  They move me.  They get me right in the heart.  But this one was different on so many levels.  I NEEDED what I saw.

I snapped a couple of pictures with my iphone and then heart racing (yes, thats what sky pictures do to me) rushed my van to another parking lot to see if I could see it better.  As I stepped out of the van, to my amazement the entire sky was spectacular.  What I had set out to look at was beautiful enough with its hues of soft fuzzy pinks and blues - sort of like a baby shower or a soft baby blanket.  But as I turned around I actually gasped.  There were clouds that looked like they were exploding with fire.  There were rays streaming from all different directions in the sky and other clouds that looked like the tips had been dipped in exquisite gold.  It was fantastic.  It was  as if the sky was literally alive.

I stood not even knowing which way to look.  I stared,  awestruck.  It felt sacred to me.  In the very deepest part of my soul,  I knew I was having a moment with God.  Heaven touched me.  God breathed life into me.  He took my tender heart and held it in His vast and strong hand. 

And right there in the parking lot of the liquor store  at Superstore,  with cars whizzing past me and people milling around,  I wept.  I wept and I wept and I wept.  Healing tears- like smooth ointment on a newly cut wound; or water on a really really scorching hot day.   It was as if a dam had broken within my belly and I couldn’t hold the tears in any more.  I was so deeply moved and so deeply touched that even now,  I feel it.   All of the pain and the stress and the worry and grief and the questions flowed out of me.   With tears streaming down my face,  I was completely, absolutely overcome with gratitude -  for my family; for my heart friends, for love,  for so many things in my life.

But mainly I wept because the God who made those clouds and made that sky and made the whole beautiful earth is my friend.  I felt like He had painted the sky just for me that night,  that moment in time.

Healing in my heart, refreshed in my spirit,  after a long pause,  I went home a stronger woman. 

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Cancer

 

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Everywhere I look I see cancer.  I see cancer in the sky, in the air, in the sun.  Every moment fills my mind with all the hurt and pain of what I see my father in law going through right now.  I try to look ahead.  I try to think of something to say other than subjects with death and dying and cancer, and life, and deep subjects and I can’t.  I try to write about peaceful things, ordinary moments and all my words seem hollow.  

I go to Walmart and people are laughing and skipping and talking and loving the life they are in and I wonder how they could.  I wonder how anyone could go on with life in that way.  I wonder why the world hasn’t stopped.  Because mine has.  I wonder why everyone is walking faster than I am.  I wonder why life is going on without me.  

Cancer is vile and ugly and mean.   There is nothing about it that is remotely ok.  

And then I read Ps. 46:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear,
though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though it’s waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
 the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within,
she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
 he lifts his voice, the earth melts
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress...
He says, “Be still and know that I am God…”

 

THE LORD ALMIGHTY IS WITH US; THE GOD OF JACOB IS OUR FORTRESS.

  And I realize that Jesus is enough.

  He is enough to get me through my day. 

  He is enough to get me through my moment. 

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