Friday, January 10, 2020

Into the Unknown

A picture I unknowingly took before things went south. 
         Wow. I did not think this would be so hard to write about. As a matter of fact, I don't really want to write about it at all, I'd rather just pretend that it wasn't happening, that I wasn't suspended in the terrible "unknown" where the good is as likely to happen (maybe even more so) than the bad, but that is exactly where I am.

    You may be wondering what exactly is going on, well, I would like to know that, too, but I will tell you the little that I know. I want to write it all down, every detail, because regardless of how it turns out, I already know this is a memorial stone. So here is all I know.

   Monday I made (or thought I did) appointments at the eye doctor for the kids and me. Wednesday, the day the appointments were, I called to double-check the time. And was informed that I did *not* have any appointments. There had been a mix-up. A little frustrated, but I was able to reschedule for Friday. We ended up seeing a new optometrist, and he wanted to dilate the kids' eyes. Jocelyn wears glasses, but Carson has 20/20 vision so I thought it was a little odd. But the optometrist felt it was a good idea to do it every few years and Carson has never had it done, so we went ahead. I have had my eyes dilated sooo many times, so I knew exactly what to expect. Which is why when the doctor repeated part of the exam I felt my stomach drop. He asked Carson to look up and to the right with his right eye. And stared. And then asked him to do it again. As soon as the doctor finished looking he said he wanted to "get a few pictures". Again, not the norm. He led him to a machine in a different room and I knew for certain something was off when he could not seem to get a shot of a very specific something. When I saw the images come up on the monitor in the area, even though I am not well acquainted with how the back of an eye should look, I was well aware the large black dot on the image was not right.

      The doctor was wonderful. He informed me my intuition was correct, the chorodial nevus, the official name for the black dot, was not normal. It is like a mole on the back of your eye, and while they are not rare, it isn't something they want to see, because like a mole on your skin, they must be monitored and are often the first sign of cancer. Never something that a mom wants to hear. I was trying not to panic, and I know it seems like there wasn't much at that point to be concerned about, but as soon as the doctor mentioned that they need to be monitored to ensure they aren't cancerous I flashed back to over 10 years ago, to the last time that I was hearing a doctor mention the possibility of cancer in my son's eye.  And, then the doctor proceeded to tell me that this particular chorodial nevus did not have the halo they like to see, or the white dots, in other words, my son might have a common condition, but it was presenting in an uncommon, or concerning, way. Kind of like if a mole has irregular borders, or is growing.

     I did manage to find the presence of mind to ask about the concerns we had when Carson was little-could it be possible that issue had anything in common with this one? Instead of allaying my fears, the doctor immediately started taking notes on everything I said. He did assure me that he was directing us to the best specialist he knew, and that it was important to convey all that information to the doctor at the referral. He did mention cancer, again, and the importance of catching and treating the type of cancer that can be caused by this type of thing as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, much of what he said was kind of fuzzy around the edges, because I just kept hoping he would say, "But I'm sure that is not what this is." He didn't say that.

     And that is where we are. I'm waiting for a referral appointment to find out if my son has cancer. In his eye. Which if he does, he will lose. And cancer that can metastasize and be fatal. I am *really* trying not to think about that. Why do I want to remember this pain, this uncertainty, this feeling of someone holding me by the upper arms, pushing me down? Because God is good. In this place called the "unknown" He is very much known and knowing. I firmly believe that our appointments on Wednesday never materialized because we needed to see this doctor, today. He was the one who would strongly urge dilation, a procedure that I would have declined, except for his gentle insistence. And I have no idea if Carson has cancer, only God does at this point. But the thing is, this memorial stone will be there either way-and I don't want to forget that God is the same, whether my son is healthy and whole, or if he is at this very moment headed towards a painful medical ordeal. I don't want to forget that I need to cling to Him every moment the way I am clinging to Him right now. When the end of this particular chapter of my testimony closes, I don't want to dismiss it as "nothing". God is working here, He is working now, He is working always. And while I can't see how this will turn out, He can. And when He puts the finishing touches on this part of the story I don't want to forget any part of it, because all of it is in His control and He is working it all together for my good and His glory.

     I picked a word for 2020 a few weeks ago. It is "flourish". I always base my word on the Scripture I choose, this year it is Jeremiah 17:7-8:



“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in Him.


They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”

     I don't know if this is a year of drought. I don't know if the heat will come. My frail human spirit prays that it won't. But I do know that the unknown is the very best place to trust, and confidence in the Lord will never be misplaced. I know because He always keeps His promises. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

To Jocelyn, on Your 14th Birthday

Dear Jocelyn,
             Happy Birthday! It is easy to celebrate all the wonderful things you are: Christ-like, talented, creative, loving, kind, smart, pretty. I wish that you could see in you what I do. I see the fears that are fighting to steal that light. I wish I could hide you from those anxieties and protect you from the things that try to steal your joy. However, that isn't truly my job. My job is to teach you to turn to the only One who can take away all your worries, and protect you from anything that comes against you.

      My job is to remind you that He alone can truly bring comfort and peace. My words can only be a poor imitation of His, but as long as I have breath my prayer is to point you to Him. In everything, big and small. I keep telling you that things won't get easier, not to frighten you, but to say that now is the time to fully trust Him. Your dad and I do our best to be a loving, safe haven for you, but we are flawed. We will let you down, frustrate you, at times we will even hurt you, because we too are humans. But if I only teach you one thing let it be this: You can trust Jesus fully. He will never let you down, He will never hurt you, He will unconditionally, eternally love you. He will always be there.

       Life isn't fair. Life isn't for the faint of heart. But Jesus can help you learn to live without fear-only imitate me as I imitate Him. My hope has never been to have a daughter that takes after me, but rather one that takes after her heavenly Father. Perhaps one day, instead of hearing that you are like me, people will say that I am like you, as you follow after Jesus completely, unashamedly, without any reservations. That would bring me more joy than anything I can think of. This is my constant prayer for you as you navigate the complexities that maturing brings:


"Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." Psalm 105:4
   If you can grasp this now, during these tumultuous, coming-of-age, times you will find true success. I could not care less if you are famous, or rich, or even happy. None of those things matter, what truly matters is knowing that you are worth so much to Christ that He gave His life for *you*. And you were created to "glorify Him and enjoy Him forever". You do not have to wait to be a "grown-up", whatever that means, to do those things. Christ is fully in you now-You have complete access to every promise in Him that you ever will. Don't wait to follow Him without reservations. Today is the day! And all I want you to know is I am behind you, cheering for you, praying for you, and at many times, learning from your example. Jesus is all you will ever need. And it is my honor to be able to remind you of that when you need to hear it. I love you.
                                                                                                              Love,
                                                                                                                       Mom

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Cardigans and Kindness

   
     Today is "World Kindness Day". And because Hollywood loves nothing better than a tie-in, they have co-opted this celebration by encouraging people to wear a cardigan, which is posited to be in memory of Mr. Rogers, but is really a promotion of the new bio-pic of his life. 

     Since I am a lover both of cardigans and kindness, I am willing to buy-in and, therefore, I have on a cardigan today. I don't really know that this particular "movement" will gain much traction, because here's the thing: wearing cardigans doesn't make you kind any more than it made Mr. Rogers who he was. And I want to say something else: it won't even be beneficial if it only reminds you to be kind. 

    I am quite certain that there are many who would argue that point with me. "Of course being kind is always beneficial!" "Why don't you want people to be kind?!" "What sort of monster are you?" Here is the thing: there is no goodness apart from Jesus. There is no kindness without Him. That is why I said, "only". Being kind serves no purpose if it isn't based in glorifying God, because apart from that, anything we do is only to serve self.

    I know that it seems that unbelievers do a lot of "good". They feed the poor, they clothe the naked, they visit the imprisoned. And all those things, on a surface level, are "good".

"'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good-except God alone.'" -Mark 10:18 NIV
"'I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.'" John 15:5 NIV
    Those things that we perceive to be good, noble, perhaps even righteousness, are "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) apart from salvation in Jesus Christ. We can do no good thing apart from Him.

     So, as usual, I have taken something rather benign and made it heavy. I've dragged the Bible into something innocent and silly, right? I disagree. I am firmly convinced that every aspect of a believer's life, even the "little" things actually add up to something very important. And I am certain that even pertains to wearing a cardigan.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV

    If what I eat or drink is supposed to point other to God, then I think what I wear can, too. And that is why I am wearing a cardigan on World Kindness Day. Because Christ showed the ultimate kindness to me when He gave His life. When I placed my faith in Him I vowed to "do it all for the glory of God". So while others might be wearing a cardigan to draw attention to the latest Tom Hanks' movie, I am reminding myself that kindness is showing sinners the way to salvation, that true goodness only can be found in Christ alone, and that *any* "virtue" apart from Him is worthless.

    So wear a cardigan today, or don't, but whatever you do remember this:

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." 1 Colossians 3:12 NIV 1984

   If you put on those things, it won't really matter what else you are wearing, because those suit  everybody and they are not a result of anything we can do apart from Christ. It's a good look for all of us.

   

Friday, September 6, 2019

Feeling Freaky

 

    I have been on an "oldies" kick. For many people that means listening to the pop hits of the 80's and 90's. For me that means Rich Mullins, vintage Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith. Old school Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, Jars of Clay. My teen years soundtrack was these pioneers of Christian "contemporary" music. They shaped my understanding of myself and my world, and in many ways, they helped me understand what it meant to follow Christ.

    I still listen to Christian music, it isn't the same, for better or worse. I miss many of my old favorites that aren't around anymore (The Waiting, Geoff Moore and the Distance,  and more that I am too old to remember the names of!) but I especially miss DC Talk. I know that pieces of the band are still making music, and I am so thankful for that (Toby Mac still makes me turn up the radio!) but during my sophomore and junior years of high school you could find "Supernatural" and "Jesus Freak" on endless repeat.

    So today, feeling nostalgic, I requested that Alexa play DC Talk for me. She busted out "Colored People" and "What If I Stumble" and then it started playing: the one that everyone talked about: "Jesus Freak". I smiled as the song started, it brings back so many good memories for me. But then I started *listening*:

"What will people think when they hear that I'm a Jesus freak?
What will people do when they find that it's true?
I don't really care if they label me a Jesus freak
There ain't no disguising the truth
There ain't no disguising the truth
No, I ain't into hiding the truth."

   A thought suddenly pierced me: what if they *don't* label me a Jesus Freak? What if all my long-hidden desires to be "normal" have finally been realized? Who in my life would say that Jesus has made me a stranger in a strange land? What if they look at me and see themselves?

"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us." 1 Peter 2:12 NIV

What if I'm not a freak?
What if I'm blending in?
What if I'm unnoticeable?
What if I'm normal?

  I've struggled with fitting in my whole life. I deeply desired to be accepted. To be a part of the group. To fit in. I was hideously awkward as a teenager. I didn't realize that in my decades-long fight to ditch those labels from my identity, I have accidentally shelved something that shouldn't have just been a descriptor of my character, it should, He should, be my identity.

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9 NIV

   What if I'm not any different?

"If you belonged to the world it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." 1 John 15:19 NIV '84

What if they don't hate me?

It's not good, man. It's not good.

But it isn't too late.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's might hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV '84

   We break those verses up so often, but read them together. I don't have to be anxious about my position, I can cast those cares on Him. I don't have to be concerned about fitting in, or finding my place. I don't have to worry about standing out, either. It isn't about me. It's about Him. I don't have to keep my eye on the clock, or on my social ranking. He has it all planned out, I just need to submit.

   And that's what will really make me a freak in today's world. Surrender control? Give up my "rights"? Stop trying to micromanage every teeny detail and forecast every possibility?! Get real! How much will I stand out if I am fully submitting to God? How crazy will I look if I quit looking out for number one and bow before the Holy One? I think that would be pretty darn freaky.

  "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded....Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up." James 4:8 and 10 NIV '84

   That all will look awfully strange. I am quite certain that it will stand in opposition to anything the world requires for me to fit in. And I'll be honest: it isn't all it's cracked up to be, this being "normal". I am ready to be changed, to be different. I'm ready to be a freak-because I really can only have time to care about what He thinks of me.


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Beautiful Feet



My Dearest Daughter,

    I wanted to apologize to you for something: we tease you about your feet sometimes, and it isn't very nice. You, unfortunately, have your Dad's feet. We jokingly refer to them as "Hobbit feet" (although, just to clarify, yours are not hairy!). You often lament that you wear a bigger size shoe than I do, evidenced by that span of less than three months you jumped two sizes. Don't feel bad, I am definitely out of the running to be America's Next Top Foot Model, too.

    But I wanted to tell you something today: you have beautiful feet. (And not just because we got pedicures earlier this week.) And you are smart enough to know that I am not talking about the things that are at the end of your legs. You have the kind of feet that Isaiah was talking about:

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!". Isaiah 52:7

   I learned that verse in VBS before you were even a thought to me. The summer of my junior year in high school, a single year spent at my grandmother's, feeling adrift because I knew that my time there was fleeting. Frustrated, because I had big hopes and dreams but no way to give them...feet. Knowing so strongly that I was called, but only hearing a Voice, with no words.

    It would be many years before there was you. You and your beautiful, beautiful feet. You and your going feet. Finally, my dreams are starting to become clearer: it was you. You are my calling, to raise you up in the knowledge of the goodness of God. And while you may not have my feet, you do have your grandmother's: feet that love to take the Word to everyone. And your great-grandmother's: feet that long to share the greatest Gift to the ends of the earth. And maybe, just maybe you do have a little of me, after all. Because in knowing about those beautiful feet from Isaiah, all those years ago, I've spent all your lifetime praying to God to help me prepare your feet. Feet that are literally taking the Gospel in answer to this:

"[F]or everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"" Romans 10:13-15

    You are the beautiful feet of my dreams. You are living boldly-and I, along with the Body of Christ, am sending you and your precious feet. It is the hardest thing I have ever been asked to do, this sending. But, I know this to be true: the Good News that you and your feet are carrying is far too wonderful for me to keep here at home, no matter how much I want to. And I hope that in this, one day, my feet will be as beautiful as yours. I love you.
                                                                                          Love,
                                                                                                   Mom

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