Monthly Archives: December 2013

Joy and Sorrow


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My husband had a PET scan on December 16th, the day before he had his 5th chemotherapy for treatment of his stage 3 lymphoma. We learned the scan showed No sign of any residual lymphoma. We praised God for His gift of healing.  Our joy was off the scale, beyond measurement.  The relief was so immense, I could hardly process the reality of the news. We were singing, “To God be the Glory. Great things He has done.”

A few days later, our daughter-in-law called with sad news.  Her sister in Brazil had delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl, her first child.  After the delivery, her sister became ill and quickly decompensated, slipping into a coma.  Testing revealed widespread cancer in a late stage.  We began praying desperately with all the faith we had for a miracle of healing for this young woman, but our son informed us in a subsequent phone call that his sister-in-law had become septic and had gone into organ failure. She was placed on life support, and all of us kept praying for a miracle.  We learned she died the day after Christmas.

There are no words to describe the depth of heartache we feel for our daughter-in-law and for her entire family.   Our sorrow cannot be measured.

I ponder how one can carry such joy and such sorrow in one’s heart at the same time, as well as all the wonderings.   I wonder why God gave me back my 68 year old husband of 43 years and why He took a young woman from her husband of one year and her newborn child.   I wonder why the God of miracles sometimes grants them as we pray with faith and why He sometimes denies them as we pray with faith.   Faith is a constant.  His power is a constant.  His love is a constant.  With the prophet Isaiah, I admit that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts – that His ways are not my ways – that His thoughts and His ways are higher than mine.

I suppose that I am experiencing a type of survivor’s guilt, the guilt the loved one of the survivor feels.   I have felt this guilt before, long ago, when my second son was born.  My friend gave birth to her second child shortly afterward.  The two of us had enjoyed being pregnant at the same time.  We had anticipated watching our second born children grow up together.  Our first children were best of friends.  We called them the dynamic duo.  What trouble those boys got into.  We wanted our second children to be girls.  My friend got the girl, but I got the healthy baby.  My friend’s baby girl was born with multiple heart anomalies.  We prayed desperately for a miracle for months.

As I relive the guilt I felt for having a healthy baby, I recall the night God spoke to me as I prayed.  It was the first time I had ever really heard Him like I did that night.   I said, “please, God, please heal baby Kirsten.”  I was disturbed by the response I heard in my thoughts, “I will in heaven.”   I slept fitfully that night and was awakened by a call early the next morning.  Our friend’s baby had been placed on a respirator.  Her entire bowel was necrotic.  Later that day my friend and her husband asked the staff to turn off the respirator and they held their little daughter in their arms as she died.

As I wonder why God granted a miracle to my old husband and denied one for a young mother,  God reminds me that His miracles don’t always look the way I want them to.   He reminds me that healings sometimes are completed in heaven, rather than on earth.   Does that make the healing any less miraculous, any less wonderful?  It is not how I would write the story, but I agree the miracle is just as miraculous and wonderful – indeed, I concede, more wonderful, more miraculous on the other side of eternity.   It doesn’t take the pain away.   It shouldn’t.    But it does return me to the place where I can be comforted by the truth that THE HEALER is always GOOD and always LOVES us.   I will chose to believe today that He loved this young wife and mother in her life and in her death.   I will trust Him for Grace to keep my heart intact as I rejoice in my husband’s healing and grieve over the loss my daughter-in-law suffers.

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Prayer Metaphor

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Coverings come in different sizes and forms.  They are a provision.   They warm, although sometimes they cool.  They often protect and shelter.   I am grateful for a roof that doesn’t leak; a secure covering over my home.  Last summer I was thankful for the umbrella that shielded me from the hot sun when I sat at the patio table.   This winter, on these sub zero days, I am grateful for throws and blankets to snuggle under.   They keep me warm.

In Exodus 40: 34-38, we learn that a cloud covered the tabernacle and the Glory of the Lord filled that portable, moving place of worship.  The children of Israel did not break camp and travel unless the cloud over the tabernacle lifted.   The fire was in the cloud at night.   The cloud was God’s presence and provision.  His presence, His covering provided protection, light, warmth, guidance.   The cloud was His covering of love.

Our spiritual daughter, Linda, made a covering – a soft, warm throw.   She stitched it with love, packed it with love, and mailed it to us with love.  The throw arrived with a letter telling us to remember we are covered with her prayers and the prayers of others who love us during this winter that is devoted to fighting my husband’s lymphoma.

Our friend Jen fasted and prayed for Howard’s cancer to be less serious as he waited for his biopsy.   The fear of kidney cancer gave way to a diagnosis of lymphoma and words of hope regarding the efficacy of it’s treatment.  Our friend Nancy has prayed during every treatment that the chemotherapy would be filtered through the blood of Jesus and anointed to kill the cancer cells, while not harming the healthy cells.   There are prayers being spoken for us that we will never hear about.  There are blessings we will experience without ever realizing they are answers to prayers on our behalf.

When I snuggle under Linda’s throw, I feel warmed by the love of God’s people expressed through the covering of prayer.   I am thankful for this metaphor that reminds me of the real covering that exists over my husband and over me by the power of prayer.

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I Can Do All Things

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My husband was always the one to clean off the car and shovel the side walk,  the one who drove on slippery roads during snowstorms.   All that responsibility fell to me when he became ill.

We woke up to fresh snow on December 5th.   The top layer was light and fluffy but beneath it was wet snow and ice.   My husband, who is getting chemotherapy for lymphoma, was scheduled to have his weekly blood tests drawn at our clinic, which is 18 miles from our home.    I bundled up and pulled on my boots.   As I pushed snow off the car and scraped ice off the windshield,  I wondered if I should cancel Howard’s appointment.  I didn’t want to do that.  It was important to know his current white blood cell count and hemoglobin.  I also wondered if I could get out of our driveway and down our street without getting stuck.  After cleaning the car, I grabbed our shovel and carried it down our street to the main road.  As I assessed our circumstances, I was sure I could drive through the fresh snow.   At the end of our street at the main road,  I saw that the county plow had pushed large clumps of iced snow into our street.  I tried to shovel out a path for our car, but soon admitted to myself that the cost of lifting and throwing those heavy clumps to make a path for the car might mean injuring my bad back.   I knew I needed to stay healthy to care for my husband.   As I walked back to our home, I prayed for help.   After I was inside and out of my coat, I grabbed my cell phone and called Dan, who plows our driveway.  I explained that I needed to have our driveway plowed and a path down our street cleared before 9 am.   To my relief,  he said that he could do that.   Dan arrived right at 9, and I called the clinic to say Howard was going to be late.   We got in our coats while the driveway and road were being cleared.   As I started the car,  Howard and I  prayed for safety.   The roads were slick, and I couldn’t drive more than 40 the entire trip.

That evening I thought about how different my life is this winter than past years.  I thought about the adjustments I am having to make.  In the midst of my self pity, a thought was inserted, a gift was bestowed.   “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13 – New American Standard Bible)  My attitude was changed as the Holy Spirit gave me grace to recall and believe the truth and grace to speak thanksgiving and praise.

Yes, Lord, you are right.  I can make these adjustments.  I can do all these things because you are giving me strength.  You are helping me.  Thanks for Dan who  plowed us out today.  Thanks for a safe trip to the clinic and back home.  Thanks for our sons who were praying for us.  Thanks that Howard’s white blood count wasn’t so low he needed prophylactic antibiotics.  Thanks that his hemoglobin didn’t fall so low he needed a blood transfusion.   You are a good Daddy, God.   You are the Best Dad.   Thanks for your tender, loving care for us.   Amen.

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Paul’s Accounting Method

 

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“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Jesus Christ – the righteousness that comes from God  and is by faith.”  Philippians 3: 7 – 9

I’ve been meditating on these verse for quite some time now, pondering their significance.  I want to fathom the meaning in a way that will allow me to apply it where the rubber meets the road in my life, in the nitty gritty of the here and now.

It seems that the Apostle Paul had a ledger with a plus side and a minus side.  One side stood for all that was worthwhile.   The other side stood for all that truly didn’t matter compared to what was actually important.   Amazingly, as he sorted through his life, the plus side of his ledger had one item: knowing Jesus Christ.  Everything else, in comparison,ended up on the minus side.

When and how will I come to a place in my life when there is only one thing listed on my gains ledger? When will I realize that everything I ever gained, compared to Jesus was rubbish?

Life has forced losses on me and on my husband.   We certainly wouldn’t have chosen them.   I was not chosen as assistant head nurse when that position seemed so important to me.   My husband never received another position as pastor after he left a church without a call to serve another one.   He was a pastor, and not having his own church to serve was like being disconnected from himself.  It was excruciating.   Yet, according to Paul’s accounting method, these hoped for gains in our lives would really have been rubbish compared to knowing Jesus.

Everything – every loss and every gain – serves the one goal, the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ.   For every experience – every heartache and every suffering, as well as every joy and happy gift – is just another opportunity to know Jesus better.

The disciples pulled their boats up on the shore and left everything behind to follow Jesus, to know him, to be with him.   They considered all they had gained in life as rubbish compared to the great gain of being students of the Master.

Lord, please let my husband, who I lovingly call “the Count”, keep counting lymphoma as a valuable gift, as an opportunity to get to know Jesus better.  Let me keep counting this fight with cancer as a gain, if it helps us be better students of our Teacher, Our Master.  Let us pull our boats up on the shore and follow you, in sickness, as well as  in health.  Let us, as Paul said in Philippians 1:10, share your suffering and become like you in your death.  Let us keep saying no to our own will and yes to yours.   Amen.

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