Happy Thanksgiving 2017

 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 [NLT]

Go through his open gates with great thanksgiving; enter his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name. For the Lord is always good. He is always loving and kind, and his faithfulness goes on and on to each succeeding generation.  Psalm 100:4-5 [TLB]

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 6:16-18 [NIV]

hello again

I have begun this post so many times I cannot even count them all.  What does one say to follow up a post on God is good when life falls completely to pieces in an instant just after penning such a declaration?  How does one return to this place to write when the words they left here most recently seem completely foreign?  When the person is wrestling with whether those words are even true.  When the author herself has trouble believing that when cancer relapses God is still good.  I have re-read that post as many times as I have started this one.  Sometimes, over these past 9 months, I have held tightly to the words I wrote from when we seemed victorious.  Other times, I have looked back on those words believing they hold such hypocrisy.

Blank.

Blank seemed like the best way to leave this place.  Maybe figure things out first & then return.  But certainly not accumulate any more words here until I was sure they’d be “pretty”.  Which is exactly why 9 months later nothing has been added here.  I haven’t been able to wrap up my faith into a neat, pretty package.  My faith is no longer the noun that I display proudly as something I have.  It is now faith the verb.  It’s wrestling.  It’s struggling.  It’s silence & yelling & singing & crying. It’s praising & praying & pleading.  It’s running away & crawling back.  It is completely not understanding.  It’s anything but “pretty”.

It is well with my soul.

True.  It is all well with my soul.  But my circumstances bobbing around like a buoy in a storm scream “this is not well”.  And while the edges of my soul are crisp & neat, they do not nicely fit the tattered & fraying edges of my circumstances.  I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to make sure those two edges fit nicely together…to present my faith package all pretty & neat.  Something that when looked upon would shine through revealing a woman of great faith.  But as the edges of my circumstances have been torn deeper day by day, I cannot make the two fit beautifully together.  They just don’t line up.  I no longer believe they are meant to.  It is one of the great lies of our modern times.   And the gaps left between my soul and my circumstances?  I’m learning that’s where God’s sovereignty lies & where I must trust.

Trust.

This word more than any other has filled my silent moments.  Do I trust Him?  Sometimes yes.  Sometimes no.  That seems so scandalous even to type.  A perfect faith package certainly has no room for distrust.  But it is true.  My life reflects it.  And I find myself in great company.  Examples abound in Scripture of people just like me…who had trouble trusting.  Even those who witnessed the Red Sea part and water flow from a rock and those who actually walked step by step with Jesus.  They all had trust issues.  I am among them.

Don’t be disheartened.  I am certainly not.  I have never sat more closely with my Creator than I have in these recent months.  Gazing on the edge of letting go of all that I attempt to control & slowly releasing my grip to surrender it to the One that knows how to make it all beautiful…it’s the greatest view.  Notice I haven’t completely handed it over.  I’m still working it through.  Maybe for the rest of my breaths.  But finding gorgeousness in the frayed edges filled by sovereignty as He puts my faith package together in His mighty hands has been {and continues to be} spectacular.

And He is good.  Still.  All the time.  Good.


Alex is currently doing really well.  We received word of his relapse on March 7.  He received chemo through a rather new immunotherapy drug followed by one round of intense traditionally chemotherapy in mid-May.  After an additional round of chemo and radiation, he received a bone marrow transplant from a donated umbilical cord blood on July 7.  Today he is 130 days since transplant.  It has been a very long and difficult 4 months!  And while every week we see improvement, we know that the road ahead is still rough and challenging.  But today Alex is cancer free.  We are grateful for that & celebrate!

The details of the transplant can be found at his caring bridge site.

 

SaveSave

He is good

Tomorrow marks 142 days since Alex was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma.  Tomorrow marks the end of everything we’ve been holding our breath for over those past 141 days.  We sat in that room, overwhelmed with emotions I cannot put into words, listening as his oncologist explained that this is “very treatable” & “this would just be a 6 month detour” in the road.  “Soon” she said “we would be having final scans & getting back to life”.

And that’s tomorrow.  Final scan.

It was dark 141 days ago.  Although we trusted his oncologist, it only takes a quick WebMD search to see that “treatable” for oncologists and “treatable” for mamas are two very different percentages.  Knock-you-to-the-floor-fear loves to creep into the space between those two numbers.  And doubt is close beside it.  Darkness surrounds you.  It is heavy and cold and damp. It is a scary, awful place to sit, that space between percentages.  But with every passing round, improvement is made and you begin to believe & the gap of fear & doubt closes ever so slowly until it is just a crack.

Right now darkness has been overtaken by light.  Things are looking very good.  Every indication is that sweet ginger has fought hard & cancer has retreated.  Hallelujah!  God is so good.

hmmmmm…God is good.

But what if?  What if things aren’t so bright tomorrow?  What if scans come back with signs of disease?  What if sweet ginger still has cancer?  Then what?  Do we assume that God is not good?

I’ve wrestled with the goodness of God before in my life.  Perhaps we all have.  I’ve searched for how God can be a good God when my circumstances have screamed “this is not good”.  How can God be good when life is not?  When babies die and mamas die and teens get sick and tragedy strikes?  How is God good then?

“In the beginning…” it says, he created everything.  “And he saw that it was good.”  God was good and He created good things.  And everything was good.  Until it wasn’t.  And the only thing that changed, was us.  We disobeyed & the world has been in disrepair ever since.  And all these generation later, we are dealing with the consequences of those that walked before us.  And these consequences make our circumstances really, really bad sometimes.  But God has never changed.  He is the same always.  He is still as good as the day he created good things.  He is still good.

The Bible has the phrase “he is good” nine times.  {for some light reading: 1 Chronicles 16:34 & 5:13, 2 Chronicles 7:3, Ezra 3:11, Psalm 106:1 & 107:1 & 118:1 & 118:29 & 136:1}  Each of these verses says something almost exactly the same – “he is good; for his mercy endures forever”.  He is good.  But it’s not that “he is good; for he healed my son of cancer” or “he is good; for he made me have lots of money” or “he is good; for he allowed that mama to give birth to a healthy baby”.  “He is good; for His mercy endures forever”.  His character drips with mercy and grace and faithfulness and love.  God’s character is nothing but good.  God’s goodness isn’t about my changing circumstances, but rather all about His unchangeable character.  He’s not good when good things happen & not good when bad things are happening.  He is always good.  Everyday, every moment, every circumstance.  His goodness never wavers.  He is good because in the end, when everything that we hold onto so dearly with our death grip in this life is gone, His mercy will still be there covering over our disobedience.  All the junk we do that we ought not {love the phrase ought not} do will be covered by His mercy.  All of it.  And that will be very, very good.  Forever.

Do I wish my circumstances to be good?  Absolutely! But if they are not and I am staring at the darkness, He is still good.

February – NT in 2017

We did it.  If you’ve been reading along, join me in celebrating reading through two full books of the New Testament and a good way into a third.  It’s amazing.  Many verses have been familiar, but have also hit me fresh – smacking me upside the head when necessary or stirring things around in my heart in new, fresh ways.  That’s what’s so wonderful about the Word.  Don’t get me wrong, there have been days that have been more along the lines of “hmmmm  nothing.  Well, at least I read the chapter.”  It’s not all overflowing emotions all the time.  At least not for me.  There are desert moments along with the dessert ones.  And just because everyday isn’t a sundae with whipped cream and a cherry on top does not mean that something’s wrong.  It just means that some areas God really wants me to see, feel & let settle in the depth of my soul today & some He’s waiting until another day to reveal to me.

A new month.  Are you ready?  If you haven’t gotten your “Make It A Great Week” sheets for February yet over at Etsy, here they are for your printing enjoyment.  Again these may not be perfect.  All are designed to print on letter size paper in the color you see.  All can also be trimmed to a nice 7×9.25 size to fit neatly in your Happy Planner after you’ve punched them with your handy Happy Planner puncher.  {best purchase!}  And if you’d rather not use all your printer ink, feel free to head over to the Etsy store & let me do the printing, trimming and punching for you.

February looks to be a great month of reading.  We’ll finish up 1 Corinthians & read through 2 Corinthians then jump into Mark.  So many opportunities to learn & grow in the days ahead.  You with me?

submission:: like a four letter word

If you’re reading along with the New Testament in 2017 reading plan, you know today we find ourselves in 1 Corinthians 11.  Paul is continuing to address questions that the Corinthian people have asked him.  Today we find instructions for worship & order at the Lord’s supper.  Seems simple enough…

Not quite.  Beginning in verse 5 we see Paul’s instructions regarding women covering their heads during worship services.  Specifically if she is praying or prophesying.  Hmmmm.  Head coverings?  I would love to just fly over this part of Scripture, call it irrelevant & move on.  But something holds me here.  Makes me pause to consider “should I be wearing a head covering at church?”

On the surface the answer appears to “yes”.  Paul is pretty darn adamant.  “But a woman dishonors her head if she prays or prophesies without a covering on her head, for this is the same as shaving her head.”  Yikes!  But let’s dig a bit deeper into the meaning behind Paul’s instruction.  Paul’s message in these few verses is pretty clear from the get-go…Authority.  The head of man is Christ.  The head of woman is man and the head of Christ is God. {vs.3}  I realize that this is not a popular world view.  I am not writing this, just copying the Word.  And Paul clearly states that there is an authoritative chain-of-command.

With authority there comes submission.  Everyone cannot be in authority.  Someone has to lead.  Someone has to be submissive or follow.  According to this part of scripture and others like it, God establishes this lead/follow structure pretty clearly.  God leads Christ.  Christ leads man.  Man leads woman.  {I know.  Not a popular world view currently.  But Biblical nonetheless}  And in the culture that this was written, one way that signified submission was head-covering. It was not an uncommon practice nor was it thought to be out-of-place.

Today, however, head covering is not very common {at least in Western Judeo-Christian  cultures} and certainly does not necessary signify submission to my man.  If I were to suddenly begin wearing a head covering to church on Sunday, I would cause quite a stir.  No one would associate my wearing a head covering with submission. At all.  And in fact, I might actually feel incredibly uncomfortable, perhaps even embarrassed.  Paul’s instructions regarding head covering were intended to show submission not bring about embarrassment.  In order to fulfill the spirit of the instruction {showing submission} it seems more likely that a culturally relevant way to show submission would be a better fit.

What does that look like? I’m not sure, to be honest. For this, I don’t have an answer.  This is one of those sections of Scripture that may require some searching & praying to discover.  I’m not willing to just toss it out as irrelevant & move on though, because I believe that if it’s in the Word, it is important somehow to me today.

If you’re interested in reading up on this particular passage regarding head covering, perhaps digging a bit deeper & forming your own opinion on what it means, I found a great resource that does a great job of explaining the verses & going through several possible options.  Please check it out here.

The idea of submission to a man isn’t a super popular one.  Especially right now in our current culture.  I get that.  This was not a Scripture I wanted to try to lay out here & comment on.  Believe me.  But I couldn’t just let it go & move on.  Submission isn’t an easy word…or verb to live out.  Whenever I begin to feel like I want to be in charge, I want to lead and direct this ship though, I need only look at Christ.  In the hours before they nailed him to a wooden cross & lifted him into the air to die he submitted to the will of the Father.  Submitted.  It wasn’t easy for him {“take this cup”}, and he understands that it’s not easy for us either.  But He is good.  His instructions are good.


But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

In any case, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman. But all things come from God.

Un-Understandable

I’m working on a little project.  A little something-something.  I’ll post the finished work in a few days {fingers crossed} but for now you can have this sneak peek::

If counts look good tomorrow, Round #6 will begin in just 2 days.  The last round.  The final chemo.  The End.

It’s tradition on Floor 7, especially with the older cancer kids, to decorate doors to celebrate the end of treatment.  And I’ve been keeping myself busy this week with just that.  The young fellow at the CVS counter {I’m officially old when I call the kid at CVS a “young fellow”} laughed as he handed me the poster with our favorite hashtag #WeedsAreTough.  He found it a bit more amusing than most.  And the Cricut has seen a lot of action cutting out lime green ribbons and vinyl letters.  “LAST CHEMO”

As I pressed the black vinyl in place I couldn’t help but remember where this began.  I didn’t know then that I would ever get to make a “last chemo” poster.  Those early days were filled with so much unknown.  Anxiety.  Fear.  He was SO sick.  So sick so fast.  We didn’t know how this all would end…how it all would go.  I couldn’t know then if I would be making a “LAST CHEMO” poster or one for a memorial service.

I don’t know why God does what he does.  Or allows what He allows.  However that works.  I don’t understand His thoughts, His ideas, His vision or His plans.  Why my baby gets a “Last Chemo” celebration while another mom on Floor 7 gets the horrible news that the treatments aren’t working.  I cannot fathom.  It is un-understandable.

I am about as analytical a person as you can get.  Those silly Facebook quizzes usually peg me at 85% left brain, 15% right.  The left side are all those traits that made me an amazing accountant; analytical, rational, systematic, symbolic, objective, orderly.  The right is that artsy side…which clearly I lack.  Unless of course it can be contained in systematic patterns, usually a lot of symmetry & very precise layouts. Anyway, I would love for everything in life to fit neatly in a mathematical equation.  Solvable.  Understandable.  Predictable.  Believe me, I have tried with many life circumstances over the years.  Trying to control the uncontrollable.  I don’t handle un-understandable very well.

I could spin my wheels attempting to determine the formula God uses to heal.  I could try everything I can imagine to ensure a particular outcome.  But God, just doesn’t operate on the same line as my human thinking.  Bad stuff happens.  To so-called good people & so-called bad people.  To people who pray fervently & those who do not believe in a god at all.  To those who are building their own kingdoms and those who are doing amazing Kingdom work.  To those with deep faith who abide in Jesus & those with no faith who live contrary to every word of the Word.  Un-understandable.  And this side of eternity, I don’t think there will ever be adequate answers as to why.  Because we simply cannot understand the thoughts and ways of God.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.

But as un-understandable as His ways are, He has revealed His character to us.  And while I cannot plant my faith on every situation turning out the way my thoughts think it should, I can always stand firm & rely heavily on the character of God.  Always.

  • He is always faithful {2 Thes.3:3}
  • He loves me always
  • He will provide strength {Isaiah 41:10}
  • He is watching me & cares enough about my hurt to collect my tears {Psalm 56:8}
  • He is mercy & comfort {2 Cor 1:3}
  • He listens to my prayers {Psalm 116:2}

So much of what happens in this life just can’t be understood, can’t be determined, analyzed & formulated.  I don’t know {& neither do you, lest you think you are God} why I’m decorating sweet ginger’s hospital room door for a last chemo celebration while another family grieves the loss of their child.  Un-understandable.  But I know that I know that I know, that He will not fail when the circumstance of life do.

1 Corintians :: NT in 2017

This week we begin 1 Corinthians.  You can find it here.

1 Corinthians

 

A quick flyover of the Book of 1 Corinthians:

  • It is widely accepted that Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians.
  • This letter is partially an answer to questions written to Paul.
  • Paul’s first 6 chapters rebuke the church for their sinful behavior, both the divisions and the disorders in the church.  The last 10 chapters answer the specific questions the church asked Paul and cover many different topics.
  • Main theme :: Christian community and behavior.

Two weeks & two books completed!  Hooray!  I hope there’s things stirring around in your heart like there are in mine.  The Word is truly active and moving and personal and applicable.

    Be Strong

    Finishing up another book in our goal to read the New Testament in 2017.  Ephesians 6 takes us to the end & concludes the book with instructions on how to be strong in the Lord.  Armor.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. {vs 11}  We do not fight what we see, but the battle rages on in a behind-the-scenes manner.  And our armor as described in verses 13-20 is our only chance to stand firm.  Be strong in Him for he is Mighty.

    Next week…drumroll please…1 Corinthians.