Friday, March 29, 2013

the blog post i didn't want to write

you may have noticed it has been pretty quiet around here the past couple weeks.

this is a post i really do not want to write, but if i don't write it i fear i will avoid blogging in general. it is super long, so we will see if anyone actually makes it through the whole thing. i am writing it more for me really - and a little bit for you to have perspective as my readers of where i am coming from in everything i have written over the past year and will write in the future.

saturday, march 9th was my 11 year anniversary with this wonderful guy.

see how happy we are? no we don't have a perfect marriage (if you didn't know, they don't exist), but as i have pointed to so many times in my marriage series joy in the journey, we have a darn good one.

saturday morning i posted this as my facebook status:

ok, so i used the wrong "to" ... i am a real person for sure.

my husband and i, who haven't had but a couple hours together with no kids since hosea was born almost a year ago, set up a day of dates by arranging 3 different slots of times to get our kids watched with nursing breaks in between. it was like a day away that worked with our very real life of 5 kids 9 and under with one as a baby.

it was nearly magical.

this past year has been a really hard one. the night hosea was born (while i was actually in beginning labor and stopping to breath through contractions while making dinner), i got that horrible phone call no one wants to get. it was my daddy. he needed to tell me that he got some medical results that were not good news. i tried to relax through a contraction that left me breathless as he fumbled to utter the horrible diagnosis with tears mingling through his words. "it's cancer. it's back. it's not good. God is good and we will get through this."

all i could manage to say at first is, "okay... okay... okay..." i frantically tried to sort through my thoughts and ask the questions that were popping up all over. "how bad? what do we do from here? how is mom?" all the while trying to breathe through the contractions that continued to build. i didn't even think to tell him in the moment that i was in labor.

from there the rest of the evening and wee hours of the next morning are a bit of a blur. i did manage to call my mom back, and let her know that it was time to go to the hospital because the baby was coming soon, and that it was up to her if she could handle being there - i understood if it was too hard. she came; i know how hard it was for her, but she was there. the half hour drive to the hospital i read lamentations 3 on my iphone in between contractions starting at the first verses of:
i am the man who has seen affliction 
because of the rod of His wrath.  
He has driven me and made me walk 
in darkness and not in light. 
breathe. connect with the Holy Spirit. where is Jesus in all of this? i breathed, read, cried, and prayed as we drove to the hospital.
He has filled me with bitterness, 
He has made me drunk with wormwood.
He has broken my teeth with gravel; 
He has made me cower in the dust.  
my soul has been rejected from peace; 
i have forgotten happiness. 
so i say, "My strength has perished, 
And so has my hope from the LORD. 
i felt each word so deeply. in both physical and intense emotional pain, i could connect with each word penned so beautifully by the prophet jeremiah. i read, i cried, i breathed, and tried to relax - aching and searching for hope to hold onto while i faced both the immediate trial of birthing my 5th baby, and the impending trial of walking through this fearful diagnosis with my dad.
surely my soul remembers 
and is bowed down within me. 
this i recall to my mind, 
therefore i have hope.  
the LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, 
for His compassions never fail. 
"the LORD is my portion," says my soul, 
"therefore i have hope in Him."  
the LORD is good to those who wait for Him, 
to the person who seeks Him. 
it is good that he waits silently 
for the salvation of the LORD.  
silence. it is interesting that the birthing approach we use centers around silence and letting go to ride over the waves of pain. surrender. silence. waiting. so much was aligning in my life in just moments that all felt unending.
for the Lord will not reject forever, 
for if He causes grief, 
then He will have compassion 
according to His abundant lovingkindness.  
for He does not afflict willingly 
or grieve the sons of men. 
He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men... wow. all that we suffer coming from the curse of death as fruit of the fall... and the picture of the Lord weeping with our weeping, not far from our suffering but oh so near... desiring to take away all the affliction and grief that all men walk through in this life. the Lord waiting for the day when He will take it away forever, wiping away every tear once and for all. 
my eyes pour down unceasingly, 
without stopping,
until the LORD looks down 
and sees from heaven.  
though jeremiah wrote of jerusalem's destruction, i could feel his words describing my own acute pain.  and then i found it - the words that became the anchor to get me through the next hours of labor. the anchor that gave me focus in the time i most needed focus but felt most distracted:
i called on Your name, o LORD, 
out of the lowest pit.
You have heard my voice, "do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, 
from my cry for help."
You drew near when i called on You; 
You said, "do not fear!" 
and for the next 4 hours til i held my sweet baby in my arms, i said these words in a whisper over and over again: i called on Your name... out of the lowest pit... You have heard my voice... and You drew near when i called... You said do. not. fear!

i will never forget the first time my daddy held hosea (salvation comes from the Lord) justus (justice in greek - the wrong things will be made right).

the way he looked at my hour old baby and the way my baby looked back - no one can ever take those moments away from me. the grief. the uncertainty. the hope. so much intermingled.


the next several months were a roller coaster - conflicting doctor reports, one saying no cancer, another saying contained cancer, the original said cancer throughout the liver... wanting so badly to believe the report of no cancer, and yet my dad started losing weight through the summer and getting fatigued. at one point we were told there was cancer, but that he was an excellent candidate for a transplant. then came the painful news in november, at the end of a ton of tests and appointments prepping for a transplant, that there was too much. the original report on the day of my labor with hosea was indeed correct.

so many people asked me why we hadn't talked about what we were going through. for one it was a confusing time with a lot of conflicting medical reports, and lots of tests and waiting for results. also, my family is pretty private. my dad didn't want it all blasted on facebook, or the entire internet web, which i respect. he shared with those in active close relationship who would pray with us, and with the university he taught at; we were free to share with anyone we would like and i had an amazing core of women who were praying with me. to blog about it openly didn't feel respectful or right. my dad also didn't want to be labeled with the hopeless diagnosis when we had our hope in the Lord.

we did have hope. my dad had a God dream 9.5 years ago of a river of healing - he had confirmations that the word was from God along the way of almost 10 years of health struggles. in the same dream my dad saw the baby my sister is currently pregnant with - what a encouragement of hope! we were praying for a complete miracle of healing, and believed God to sustain my dad's life even in the midst of the medical field offering no hope or solutions. throughout the whole journey my dad constantly reminded us that God is both good and trustworthy. in the midst of my moments of doubt or fear, he did not waiver in his faith and steadfast quiet trust. i don't understand entirely why things turned out the way they did, but i know the Lord is so pleased with my dad's tried and true faith. i guess we wouldn't need to trust God completely if we always had perfect understanding or all the answers. so much falls into the area of trust.

so with all this going on over the past year of our lives, and having 5 wonderful kids filling our hearts, hands, and schedules, it was amazing to get time together. however this time was filled with thoughts of how my dad was doing in the back of my mind and in our conversation throughout our day. it had been an intense couple months, bringing us to the point where we needed to see God's one touch now. we started our anniversary morning with 45 minutes over at my parents' house, and i made my mom promise to message me on my phone if she needed me for anything, even though we were going to be on a day full of dates. she promised.

at the end of a great day, laughter mingled with tears, we were at my cousins' house picking up a couple of our kids to go home for the night. we had set up a group imessage with my mom and siblings a few months back to make communication with my mom and helping her easier. we had been chatting on it some through the evening sharing prayer and verses together. while getting the kids ready to go home, bill handed me my phone saying there was a strange message from my mom. right after a verse that had been shared she wrote, "come now if you can." it was a few minutes of wondering if she meant for all of us to literally come over at 9:48pm or if she was talking about healing coming... i felt the urgency somewhere inside, mostly likely the Holy Spirit, and told bill we just needed to go and left our kids with my cousin. my siblings and i wrote back and forth on our phones quickly making a plan for all of us to get over there, which involved waking and transporting sleeping kids, still with no info of what was going on or what my mom meant.

in all the crazy swirl of emotions, the very little actual information, and my literal freaking out in the car ride to get our younger kids from my brother's house so they could pack up to go to my parents' as well, i cried out for a miracle and for total healing for my dad. the next hour or so is just too raw and personal for me to write out here right now, but in God's mercy we were all in the room with my mom when my dad went to be with the Lord. all of us. the kids were downstairs with one of our best friends ever who had on a movie for them and was putting them back to sleep, my older two in transit over by my dear cousin who was there to support me however i most needed it.

my parents never obtained hospice. my dad never took even a pill of motrin for pain, refusing anything even on the last day. my mom had not once had someone stay the night with her even in the last couple hard weeks. we were praying and hoping and waiting for a miracle, and though i know a lot of people may not understand, this is how we walked through this as a family - our hope and trust only on Him. i do not say that using hospice or pain medication is a lack of trust or hope, i just mean to paint the picture of how life looked in the middle of it. it was very hard and my dad was very weak, but he fully believed and waited on the Lord to touch him. that saturday night, while i was out to dinner for my 11 year anniversary, on our group imessage we decided as a family that my dad's brother would stay the night with my mom in case she needed help. i am so thankful we made that decision and believe it is largely why we were all able to get there in time to be with my mom when my daddy went to be with Jesus. i am so thankful. so so thankful.

we not only prayed for healing up until the last moments, but we prayed for resurrection in the hour or so after his spirit departed. the right people were all there - i just can't express enough how much this meant: both my mom's brothers, my oldest cousin, all three of us kids and spouses, my dad's brother... all in the room, all together, all asking the Lord to do what only He could do. my aunt brought over my grandma, my cousin leah came with my boys, and my uncle's wife came as well... we sat and we cried. and we cried. we called my dad back, and when he didn't come back my mom started to sing.
great is Thy faithfulness, oh God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;
how Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

great is Thy faithfulness! great is Thy faithfulness!
morning by morning new mercies i see.
all i have needed Thy hand hath provided;
great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
in the midst of the greatest sorrow of her life, my mom led us in worship of the One in whom we had put all our hope and all our trust. she led us in the hymn written from lamentations 3.

and in the middle of it all, i heard the Lord, with that still, small, steady voice, whisper loudly in my mind "those who put their hope in the Lord will NEVER be put to shame."

as foolish as we may have looked, as my dad may have looked, putting all our hope in Him and making the decisions to wait for a miracle up until the last moments - believing and trusting in a Good God, there will be no shame. no shame. only a faith tested by fire proven to be true and real and unmoved - a faith like the 3 hebrews who would not bow, but trusted God to deliver them; and yet if He did not, their faith would remain the same.

even in the Holy Spirit's sweet comfort, i am left with so many questions. my most recent post, with almost 650 views in the past couple weeks, is the marriage advice of my parents. the dream from the Lord that got my dad through so many hard years, and the last very hard year, seems only partially fulfilled. my trustworthy Lord took my daddy to be with Him on my anniversary, and only a couple days before my mom's birthday and my sister's 10th anniversary (the day we ended up holding the memorial service to celebrate his life)... only a couple weeks before this miracle baby that he saw in his dream was due to be born.

i do not believe cancer is from the Lord. i do believe it is one of the fruits of the fall and the curse of death that isn't fully reversed until the day Jesus comes back. i do believe God heals and works miracles, neither of which we will need any more when He returns. i do not believe the devil took my dad out - the devil and God are not equals. if my daddy is with Jesus instead of with me, then it was because Jesus decided to take him now; i do not understand why now and not a lot later than now, but i know that nothing can pluck us from His hand. yet even with this, i have so many questions. i think i will probably still have them when i finally get to see my Lord face to face.

but i trust.

               and i believe.

                                    and i have hope.

because He is faithful even when it is hard to understand; there is so much so hard to understand.

and i have to ask, why on my anniversary? why the day i was in labor with my 5th baby, my grace baby whose name is salvation and justice? then why on my happy day of celebrating covenant?

i almost am afraid to write that out because inevitably well meaning people will try to give me their answers. i do not want your answers. in the midst of pain i need the Lord's encounter, not the reasoning of mere mortals, even well meaning mere mortals.

as the words of the poem i posted on facebook, the poem that we quoted in our vows (and were also in my parents' vows as well), the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life... rang truer this march 9th than anytime in all my life. i am so thankful for my husband and that i can love him with

the breath, smiles, tears...
                                          of all my life

my heart aches. i am greatly in need of the Comforter. there are a lot of tears right now, and i am still here waiting for the Lord to save us from this fallen state of this world and bring His perfect justice, maybe waiting for it more eagerly now than ever before. 

wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
at the sound of His roar, sorrows will be no more,
when He bares His teeth, winter meets its death,
and when He shakes His mane, we shall have spring again.

                                                          c.s. lewis

i know and hope in the true Aslan. and i can trust Him. with all my many questions and my hurting heart, i can trust Him - 
for if He causes grief, 
                           then He will have compassion 
according to His abundant lovingkindness. 
                                      for He does not afflict willingly 
                or grieve the sons of men.

i know this is a long post and it is painfully raw. i think it needed to be said now, since out of respect to my dad i didn't share along the way. thank you for your prayers for me and my family - my siblings, my kids, my nieces and nephews, my mom.

daddy, i love you more than any amount of broken, incomplete written language could ever begin to express. every day, even the hardest ones, were all a gift from God to me. i am waiting for our next date together, though a lot longer than i was hoping. thank you for showing me what it looks like to fully lean on my Beloved One and what real faith looks like. i will miss you every day of my life until we meet again, either in heaven or in the air on His return. i love you.


Monday, March 4, 2013

the secret to longevity

i asked my parents a few months ago, who have been married 40 years - 40 years folks! - the secret to longevity in marriage. (closer to 41 at this point...)

i sat them each down separately and asked, "if you could say one thing that would help couples build a marriage that stands the test time, what would it be?"

it was so interesting for they both said almost the same thing without hearing the other's response.

my mom said, "perseverance - never. give. up."

my dad told me, "a marriage is built through the hard times - like winston churchill said, 'never, never, never give up.'"

so, if two people who have gone through 40 years of for better and for worse both point to the secret of staying married being perseverance, why are we so tempted to quit when things get tough?

i know i have written this before, but no one has a perfect marriage. everyone goes through hard times, and sometimes they are extremely hard times. yet, part of the beauty of marriage can only be experienced in the hard times. no one thinks that having to persevere is fun, but in learning perseverance we learn to lean on God. we experience His love on a deeper level in the leaning; in turn, we are able to walk out the self-denying love of Jesus in a more tangible way than we ever would if relationships were always easy.

timothy keller put it this way:
the reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. the gospel is—we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared to believe, and at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.
sometimes the hard times we persevere through are outside circumstances - job stresses, money strain, sickness, difficult extended family relationships, etc. other times the very thing that demands perseverance is the breakdown of our relationship with our spouse be it through impurity, unfaithfulness, or merely conflict and tension in communication. any one of these situations can cause serious need for perseverance on the side of both the husband and the wife.

in the midst of extreme or mild tension, we usually expect the other person to be amazingly patient and understanding with our issues and end up less patient and merciful with theirs. so many different circumstances can cause a divide in even the happiest looking marriages if the couple isn't proactive at choosing to walk together through the present challenges.

duke university ethics professor stanley hauerwas said an amazing statement on why people often do not persevere:
destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become "whole" and happy. the assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. this moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. it fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person. we never know whom we marry; we just think we do. or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. for marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. the primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.
we need to learn to love the one we are married to - in all the different changes that person goes through. i have heard the reason for divorce so often said that, "well, i just realized i got married too young and we were never right for each other." listen, none of us are really "right" for anyone because we are all terribly flawed and changing all the time. when we get married we are signing up to love this other terribly flawed, ever changing person. it is a beautiful blessed mess we are entering into, for better or for worse... for as long as we both shall live.

so why is it so incredibly important to never give up if you are going to be successful at this beautiful painful thing called marriage? 

because Jesus never gives up on us in our most fallen and unlovable state. His undeserved and merciful love draws forth love out of the most broken person, and we have the opportunity and invitation to do the same towards our spouse.

Jesus said,
he who is forgiven much loves much.
undeserved love in the bad times can draw forth so much love in the better times. when we can forgive someone and just stick by them in their messy weak, maybe unlovable, state, then we have shown what true faithfulness looks like. the demonstration of faithfulness and forgiveness makes the other person want to love in return. how can you refuse someone who looks right into the worst of you and still says yes?

as my dad so realistically put it, a good marriage is built in the hard times. when even just one spouse is willing to continually say yes in the hardest seasons, it lays a foundation for the rest of the marriage that is solid. if both are willing... well that is so helpful!

we do not have the strength to do this on our own - we must have the grace of the Holy Spirit working in our lives to say yes when it gets really really hard. but He will always give the Holy Spirit to those who ask, so if you are in that really great building time called "hard," ask! 

one more timothy keller quote because i just can't say it any better myself:
...we must say to ourselves something like this: "well, when Jesus looked down from the cross, He didn't think 'I am giving myself to you because you are so attractive to me.' no, He was in agony, and He looked down at us - denying Him, abandoning Him, and betraying Him - and in the greatest act of love in history, He STAYED. He said, 'Father, forgive them, they don't know what they are doing.' He loved us, not because we were lovely to Him, but to make us lovely. that is why i am going to love my spouse." speak to your heart like that, and then fulfill the promises you made on your wedding day.
if i were looking at you from across my coffee table right now we would pause, take a sip of coffee, and breathe deep. because we both know... we know that this thing called marriage will take all we have to give and then more. we cannot do it without leaning on His strength. we cannot do it without the grace of His Holy Spirit. but eventually we would look each other in the eye after a long silence and nod. this is the life He has called us to - a demonstration of His love when it is undeserved because this is the same love He gives us every. single. day.

my friend, you can do this one day at a time.

never, never, never give up because He never, never, never gives up on you. on the other side of this thing you will look back and see how all the painful moments of saying yes built something beautiful and of great value lasting so much longer than you thought possible. and you will have entered into a deep knowing of His tender love towards you.

persevere. it really is worth it.


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