When I was a kid, I got to sit at the table with many missionaries who had experienced incredible pain. As I would hear stories of their hardship, I often only attached myself to their words, not the tone of them. I didn't hear them recount God's faithfulness, nor did I take note how they were returning to the pain unafraid. No, all I saw was that God often calls us to painful realities. A trembling question formed: " Is there anything God won't take?" 

I began to not want to hear the stories. Afraid they were somehow contagious, especially if the narrative looked too similar to my own. As a mother shared of her stillborn daughter while I swelled with pregnancy, I was paralyzed with the thought God might allow my daughter to be stillborn as well. As I read the accounts of Elizabeth Elliot, I feared God might take my husband too and so on..

And then, God gently brought us into our own story of pain. First financial, then through miscarriage, and then through marriage woes and international living... So it goes. Until we've now found ourselves here with a diagnosis of our youngest child. 

As I share with others, I sometimes see the same widening of eyes I often had. I see the same computation happening. "If God asks that of her, will he ask that of me?! Is there nothing God won't take?" 

Even now I'm not immune. Now that we're nearing the end of the treatment, I notice a similar fear creep up in my heart. I don't want to hear stories about relapse, afraid they might attach themselves to me. 

As I was praying through my fears this morning, I realized something. God, the incredibly gentle, incredibly kind, incredibly supportive, incredibly wise, deliberate narrator of this story.... Is infinite in his storylines. The Bible holds no two stories the same. 

One of the most masterful things about my God is how he reveals himself uniquely to all who call on him as Lord. Yet, they all conclude the same characteristics of Him. He is good. He provides. He loves us so...And the fruit of walking with him is the same. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Self control. Faithfulness... 

Our God, I'm finding, doesn't type cast. He isn't a lazy writer, plopping new characters into old plot lines. He's more creative, more lovely than that. He takes his beloved children and leads them into stories he wrote with care... each filled with joy and grace and pain unmeasurable. Each unique. Each unlike the other. Each time revealing to those walking their narrative his character, his deep love for them, his relentless allegiance to their good. I have begun to worship him for his incredible ability to take every situation-every evil and terrible and good and whole situation- and weave its threads so that those wrapped in the narrative of his story all say: "what can the Lord NOT do? He can take sorrow and turn it to joy, death and defeat it, he gives fortitude to the much-afraid....Yes, he takes it all. And He gives us abundantly more. " 

As Simon Peter says " Where else can we go? Only you have the words of eternal life."

When I appreciate how God weaves individual stories through time, all tying into this incredible larger narrative... I begin to understand just how precious the church is. I see her purpose more clearly. The church exists so that we can see and be seen. So we can come and know the story. So we can see where God's been, what He's doing now, where He's going. 

There is good work in the seeing: We who are part of His body see Him working in others when they can't see it. We speak that truth over them so that they too can then see God at work. We volunteer to have others see sin in us and gently help us kill it before it ruins us. We celebrate God's goodness in song and testimony and weep together at this world's brokeness as we wait for what we know to be true to be seen. God is coming. He'll make it all right. He makes things right even in the land of the living. Many have resigned they won't see it until heaven, but His word says otherwise and I've seen him perform miracles and do the unthinkable under the same skies I currently live under....No, my God is working even now. I believe those who have resigned to such a reality of "only at heavens gates" have, through much pain, resigned to no longer seeing. I understand how. I just wish them a different hope. 

All of this to say, I don't fear relapse quite so much as I did a few hours ago. Of course I beg God to allow this all to be done when our treatment plan is finished and I believe he delights to heal and may have already. But I simply do not know what story God is weaving. While I see terrible sadness from others who have faced similar, I have also seen a missionary woman share of deep grief and then smile when she returns to it. 

I didn't understand it now. I couldn't see it. 

But now I see, when Christ is walking alongside, he gives the fortitude for the journey. Where he calls, I'll follow because he's there. I can smile at what's coming because as the hymn boldly proclaims:

" because He lives

I can face tomorrow

Because He lives

All fear is gone

Because I know

He holds the future

And life is worth the living

Just because He lives"

This life is worth the living (although I've at times prayed to die) just because (for no other reason) than because He lives. He's writing a narrative I've never read before. I'm honored to be one of millions of characters before me who get to show his Goodness- however he chooses to show it-and experience his deep love and faithfulness during the journey. 

There is nothing he won't take. And that is good news. Because everything he takes he heals. He makes all things new.

2 degrees of separation


"What are your weekend plans?"

I was just explaining to my husband before driving to this late night grocery run how much this diagnosis has changed everything. I used to know how to navigate conversations; to keep things just real enough to be meaningful, but to not make the other person uncomfortable. 

But this grief? 

It's invaded everything. It's like the 2 degrees of separation thing where you're just two handshakes away from a famous person... But instead I'm two questions away from sadness and from paralyzing the other person with not knowing what to say. 

What do you say to someone when they tell you their 5 year old has cancer? 

What does that someone do when everything in their life revolves around how their 5 year old has cancer?

So I ponder a second before answering her question. It gets a bit weird. How hard can weekend plans be? 

Instead of something casual like "oh, laying low." I choose honesty. 

"My son has cancer and has chemotherapy tomorrow. So, this late night grocery run is to try to buy him all the foods he might like to get him through the weekend." 

I've learned to quickly tack on an escape phrase. "Good thing is he's doing well! Only a few treatments left." 

I see them sigh relief. "Oh good. Hope he feels better soon!" 

But one cashier didn't take the escape route. She looked at me and didn't look away. Then she got flowers and chased me out in the parking lot and said "I hate that that even exists in the world... but keep going. You've got this." And I cried. And her eyes began to match mine. 

It wasn't an anthem. It wasn't a trite "you got this." It was a gentle shared hope. 

I balled all the way home. Yet again, I shook hands with sadness. 

I've been tempted to wear the mask of okayness, but then I'm building a fortress that might keep out more than I bargained for. 

I'm perpetually two questions away from tears. But, sometimes, I'm two questions away from kindness.

I'm two questions away from sharing gutting news. But I'm also two questions away from shared hope. 

This week, both were wrapped up in weekend plans. 

On growing unafraid.



So much of my anxiety stems from future dread. I, at times, can even begin to resent God for not bringing me peace when I ruminate over those future moments.

 I recently read "God doesn't give you the grace for the what ifs. He gives you the grace for what is." I wish I could remember who wrote it. 

In the past few months since this all began, I can affirm these words to be true. In the actual moments of suffering, he has been near and has sustained us with a weird okayness. My worst moments have been in anticipating future moments, not actually living them. Even the darkest nights have been made darker by fear of what lies ahead. But as Amelia Earhart has said"Fears are paper tigers." Right now they roar, but my worst fears are not yet coming true. Perhaps, Lord please, they never will. 

To all my anxious ones, and even to my own heart, if you know Jesus, let me remind you from this now familiar place: He'll give us what we need for what is actually coming. But we don't need to sort that out.  Some of you have reached out, and in honest admission, have shared that reading our grief makes you fear grief is coming for you or has exasperated your own anxieties....I get that fear....but that isn't how it works. Grief like this isn't contagious like that. Praise Jesus. 

And so, take heart. God doesn't equip us for the imaginative doom you and I so easily create in our minds. It isn't real. It isn't real. Friends, it isn't real. 

Yet it's stealing real energy and hope from today. And that means less energy to do the good work he's prepared for us to do. 

This is where obedience comes in with taking every thought captive. (2 cor 2:5) And if I can ask anything of you, it's to get on with it. Good overcomes evil because good keeps showing up. Fear makes it so hard to think straight, let alone do good. (Want to hear something crazy? The Bible commands "Fear not" 365 times. Why that number?)

And while this diagnosis and path is something I don't think I ever could have even imagined.  And at times I feel like God may actually grind us down to dust, I remember this: if he does....God took us from dust, and he can breathe new life into us if he decides to crush us completely. We're his. But his character has shown me he does not do such things. 

But here are some things He has done: He's walked thousands of kids and their families down this path... And while we don't know the way, he does. So many who have known cancer have told me. He frequents these halls.  He knows the effects of it all. He knows the world and her people groan at all the brokenness. And he works to make all things new. He's working to make my boy new. He's working to make my own heart new. Perhaps soon I won't be so afraid? And perhaps soon, my son will be healed. In Jesus' name. 

And while I wait,  a question comes to mind: how does one live through such unknowns?  So far, this is how I've found a way through: I wake up, realize God has continued to push air into my lungs, and I do the work of this minute.   While I do it at times weeping, I want to do it less afraid. And perhaps by reading this, you can do your work less afraid too. 

 Because we've always known living and loving was dangerous business...so, why are we acting surprised? We Christians know an additional truth: Christ knew our terrible situation and came to lift the heaviest burden we could never carry. The grave doesn't get the final say. He lived and loved us to death and back again....so that we never have to face the fear of our final breath. I don't have to fear my son's final breath. 

To truly live, we must do the same as he. We must love sacrificially as he, we must give up our claims to a future we never controlled and we must say "Your will be done." And just as he wept, so do we. We drink the cup we're asked to drink. 

But we also must remember, our Jesus laughed. 

Even knowing the cross was coming. Think about that. He laughed. When he knew the cross was coming. How? Perhaps  he was convinced the suffering allowed by His good Father would always bring joy. For our good. For his glory. Pain never gets the final word in Christ. He knew all the terrible things would become untrue. 

I don't understand it all, and right now pain seems pretty loud and there are lots of terrible things. But I'm getting a front row seat to see how it works, how he works, how he makes all things new.

So, courage, dear heart. We get to laugh because the cross has come. We get to laugh even knowing we may have to face a broken heart, body, mind...because even still what's coming after is even brighter than what's behind. We have good work to do. We have kingdom come..And our King tells us we can take heart. He's overcome the world and all the terrors in it. 

I'm learning this in this season. 

As one of my favorite quotes from Fellowship of the Rings goes: "

I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." 

We have good work to do. So we must get on with it. And perhaps in the doing, we'll learn how to do it unafraid.