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. 

On Poetry and Presence



I've heard it said that poetry is an effort to share reality, feelings or truth in as few words as possible. It works to connect the reader to the writer in a deeper way than mere storytelling may. Yet, with its brevity, comes a great chance for misunderstanding. How many times have I read poetry with another and one of us says "... I don't get it."?

But give it time and tragedy and joy, and I've found I can return to a poem old and read it new. The poem I didn't understand, I now weep through. 

I think in many ways, the bible is poetry. It has literal poetry in its pages plenty, but I think the whole book has a poetic essence to it. When I consider the vastness of God and how he has contained so much of his truth in a book I can hold in my hand, I marvel we understand any of it at all. How many times have I read my Bible with another and one of us says... "I don't get it."?

But give it time, and tragedy and joy, give it his gentle leading and revealing and Holy Spirit's care, and I can return to its pages old, and read them new. The gospel, the parables, the tragedies I didn't understand, I now weep through. I see myself in them, I see how he moves towards us through them and most importantly, I see him and his character and his all encompassing goodness. He's the Blessed Controller of all things. 

It is something tender when a reader reads a poem we ourselves wrote. When they groan at the right parts, laugh at the right bits, nod at the deepest phrases, we feel revealed. Isn't it such a sacred thing to share our poetry with another and for them to see us deeper for it, to understand? 

 It's a sacred thing God has offered himself up so willingly, in his word and in Christ and in Holy Spirit, so that in our wanderings on this dusty earth we can understand him deeper, and yearn for him greater, and soon -soon-join him in a place where understanding comes easy.

His parables- poetic patience, His word- a gift of healing, Jewish and Gentile history- to see there is pain in our past and pain in our future but soon soon, soon, there lies an invitation. Soon we will go where we always belonged and where poetry is not needed to understand one another's deepest parts. He gives us his words, himself, his presence and his beauty in the fullest measure our bodies here can hold. Can we even imagine what it will be like when those limits are gone? 

I understand my God's poetry a bit more because of this heavy season. And perhaps that's enough. To see a bit more clearly where we've been, where we're going, and the most cherished reality-to whom we belong. 

An update.



(scroll down for the TLDR update. 🤍) 

Here is an attempt to answer the tricky question "How is Rowan? How is it all going?"

Tonight I was in my daughter's bed. As my oldest cried, we talked about how this is far worse than we could have ever thought. Yet, this is not at all as bad as we imagined. Both were fully true.  She asked if we could ever go back to the way it was. When I said we would-sort of-she rightly said "but I won't be the same." And there it was. Truth laid plain in the dark.  We can't go back, baby girl. Her insightful knowing makes me proud and breaks me into pieces. 

I can now control when and how much I cry. This is a skill I did not previously have. My husband, who used to pass out at the sight of blood, can help the nurses with the blood draws as my youngest screams in protest.  My son has grown a vocabulary for symptoms in record speed when he hardly spoke much at all before this. My older son has developed a knack for making legitimately funny jokes. My daughter is growing spicier and more clever by the minute, as any good preteen should. She also is beginning to test a faith she's been developing.  She's had such deep spiritual insights, I find I believe in God a bit more just seeing how he's caring for her. We all are changing leaps and bounds. 

We live in perpetual tension. We  hope for the future, while just doing the next thing. We have no clear end date, but we build schedules and life keeps going. Every hiccup feels acute. Yet, we have developed incredible skills of holding a fair amount of pain and sorrow. We cry at medicine and  laugh at the latest silly video all within the same morning. It always feels like something is fraying,  yet we feel held. Some friends have proven extra patient, others grow slightly sharper, fed up with the extra load. I get it.  Me too. I feel the sting, but I don't feel bitter.

And so, we walk a tight rope. Or perhaps we are the tight rope. Whatever it is, we hang in between two points of tension and are grateful neither has let go. 

Life is hard. Life is good. 

God is here. He hasn't taken us out of this. 

Our mouths can praise. Our mouths can groan

We try to show up for the kids. We feel maxed out. 

We absolutely believe. We absolutely need God to hold us fast. 

We feel anxiety and anger. We practice regular repentance. 

We're in a season of extra grace required. We don't want to require extra grace. 

Ben's parents are here and it's been such a kindness. Ben and I got to go to this last chemo together and we get to go to the next one too. This is incredible as next week we may have to sign a new treatment plan depending on the results of one last test. I'm grateful for God's timing in bringing them here, now. Come what may, we'll face it together. 

Chemo is going well. Rowans doing well, considering. Life feels almost easy-since we now define easy so differently. Easy being we made it a whole week without an ER visit! Or his blood levels are good so we don't have to weigh the possibility of a transfusion! He didn't kick the nurse during treatment! (P. S. My son can swing a proper fist and has in fact knocked glasses off a face. Bless you nurses. My skills of holding a child have improved. I'm both wildly impressed and ashamed of my child's knack for fisticuffs. If you're wondering, he 100 percent gets this from his mother..🙈) 

There's also the deep knowing in every other parents face on friday. When they say "have a good weekend!" there's an eery-ness. A low-grade anxiety.  Their knowing eyes send us hopefully on our way.   So many kids are facing so much of the same thing we are.. I've sat with 8 ethnicities in the same room. All holding the hands or the bodies of our babies. All smiling, holding. Knowing. Praying. Trying to sound okay. All going home to care for children fighting to live. All things considered, Rowan isn't the most complicated case. Cancer just had a tendency to bring quite a few complications. 

I hope I'm not making things sound too bleak. They actually aren't. Truly.  Certainly not bleak in the paradigm we live in. I suppose a better phrasing would be " We're getting used to it. " We get donuts on the way home and Rowan is getting accustomed to 'butterflies' in his port and teaching himself how to breath through nausea.  The bigs are getting clever with their entertainment and getting good at voicing their needs. We're taking time with each one and we're baking more together. We're outside a ton and we're all figuring it out bit by bit. Homeschool has been fun.  We're all eating and sleeping and dancing and crying and bathing somewhat regularly. 

Our capacity for it is growing. It's hard. It's good.

 The kids still laugh daily, so do we.  By Tuesday life feels normalish.  I'm learning to be like my husband and just focus on the next day and be faithful to it.  Rowan still lives for every 15 minutes, so chemo is old news by donut time.  I'm learning to hold Eowyn longer when she cries and laugh at Eli's jokes even when he follows me around the house while he thinks up a fresh one.  I've never spent more time snuggling each child every night. Asking hard questions. Making space for answers.  And perhaps that's the best part. I've seen my children better than I ever have before. 

 If we look at what's just infront of us: These rascals, this warm home, this good food and this homeschool, Ben's work, occasionally getting to go back to church when no one is sick, even chemo just on Fridays instead of daily....it doesn't feel so scary. It's just life right now. And soon life will be different. Even if it is never going to be the same. 

TLDR; update: it's been a good week! The best so far. Chemo went well. 5 left weekly. 3 left after. Maybe more, we'll see. Kids are still laughing, parents are too. Tears abound, but we were always big feelers around here. It's much worse than we thought.  It's much better than we imagined. God blesses through suffering. I'm convinced of it. And hopefully by the end of this, we'll laugh at the days to come. Right now that's a lot of work so we just laugh at silly videos and dark humour. 

The Care and Keeping.



I found this on our table after my daughter had worked long and hard on it and it has kept me teary eyed. 🥹 The word choice. 

We've been working hard to talk with our bigs about all this. There's a lot of studies coming out about how siblings of a child with a cancer diagnosis tend to feel like "the forgotten children." The effects of this reality can follow them well into adulthood. 

While this can cause anxiety in me at onset, it also makes sense. This past month has been a blur and it can be hard to hear every emotional bid our children offer when our heads are swimming in "what ifs" and medicine routines...but Christ can equip us to do this too. Every good work. This work is ours to do. So we've been working. Working to fight against numbing out and being non-responsive, working to talk with the kids and help them process again and again. Working to go back to the source of strength when we want to tap out. 

And as we show up to this day,  I think the bigs will be alright. And I think this is in large part because we follow our Christ. 

Being a believer changes the tides. As a Christ follower, we are called into the act of seeing. But in seasons of grief, we become so acutely aware of our limitedness. And while I, as a follower of Christ, am called in to seeing as he did, fellow believers are called the same. I can't fully see my kids as I need to. I know this. But my children are seen by so many more than just me and Ben. There are no forgotten children when a church loves their little lambs.  And what's more, the church keeps looking when others look away.  Seeing each other in the hard places is holy work. And I don't think you can keep doing it without Christ. It is too hard. 

Yet, because Christ saw our deepest dark and still moved toward us, he equips us to go and do likewise. 

I've been seen in more vulnerability in this season than I ever have before. There is no way to put a bow on this. And yet perhaps this is the best gift in suffering... When a friend prayed with me and wept and lamented " God, WE hate this. " I fully knew it was not just my family that carries this diagnosis. 

I was trying to explain to Eowyn that she doesn't have to hold us together as a family ( a common fear/idea big sibs carry from this) and that her dad and I can carry her big emotions too.  And she paused and said "but who carries you? Don't I have to a little?" And I told her no, because God has me. And she quickly replied "God carries ALL of us. " And I teared up because she spoke gospel to me. I'm not the only one caring for my girl. Or my boys.  He's carries us and he sends his people to make sure we know it. 

I think, if a ten year old girl gets a front row seat to how God carries an entire family so she doesn't have to, if she understands that this diagnosis can use words like "care and keeping." If she can look at this dark thing and walk away more nurtured and bright....this tells me something. 

God only wounds to heal. Like the surgeons working on my son, he only wounds to heal. I keep saying it to myself, He only wounds to heal. 

My little girl may walk away with wounds from this. But we know the healer. And she will know she's not forgotten. She'll be able to say "You are the God who sees me." Because she's being seen by his people and her God. 

He only wounds to heal. I may not see the fullness of that healing but I know him. And I know he deals gently with us. I know his heart. And now my girl is getting to know him too. She is in his care and keeping. 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

The next 15


 One of the gifts of a very young child getting childhood cancer, At least in the case of my child, is his inability to dread. He lives for today. He lives for the next 15 minutes. He lives for the opportunity to get the thing we said he could get after he ate the food, said sorry to the sister, patiently waited for his turn....

And so he goes through life just like this. He faces the next 15 minutes. He fights the blood draw. And then he's over it. He fights the chemo. And then he's over it. On to the next 15 minutes. Even after an epic meltdown his parents are both frazzled by, he's back to cracking butt jokes and other tomfoolery. 

But his mother...

She dreads. She has a countdown of days for chemo, she examines her calendar carefully and argues when her husband says they have longer than she calculated (why would I challenge the math major?!) She internalizes all the potential what ifs and stays up late reading medical journals  her husband has cautioned her not to read, because he knows who she is.... The downfall of loving research and logic and statistics is then you understand research, logic, and statistics. 

But research, logic and statistics do not include God's involvement. You can't statistically measure divine intervention. People have tried. And isn't it all in some ways divine intervention? 

The reality is, as every cancer patient knows, statistics do not bring peace. Even a 99% cure rate means there's a 1% who has a sweet face who is now in a grave with a weeping mother. 

So what does the mother of the living do? 

"And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

It's never felt more real to me. the call never felt more urgent and beautiful and hopeful. I'm called to humble myself. To take stalk of who I am and who he is and how little I can control. I'm called to be like my boy. I'm called to rest like my Rowan.

 If my father holds all the information, and the future, if he holds even more than Rowan's mother could ever hope to hold....if he's holding Rowan and his mother and his father and his siblings too... 

I'm to be like my son.

 Has there ever been a kinder command? To trust. To wait. To not anxiously look at my circumstances and make judgement calls about my God, but to look at my God and make judgement calls about my circumstances. And if I can't accurately do that.... Then to just look at my God and at the next 15 minutes. 

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

My Christ spoke this to his grown up children and their families. To the masses of them.  He already knows tomorrow's trouble. He tells me I don't have to fear tomorrow's pain. Does this also mean I get to weep and be angry the way my child weeps and has anger? Does my father wait patiently with me as my husband waits with my son? Cries with my son? even knowing the outcome? I think he does. I know he does. 

 Take today. Take heart. Do not fear tomorrow's pain. 

We can face the next 15 minutes. 

Belly Laughs



He belly laughs on a September day and I record it on my phone. Just Incase. 

I see a video of a maker who takes a strand of hair and weaves it into a sacred piece, and then weep at the thought of needing such a thing.  

I contemplate cutting a little tendril while he sleeps, tucking it away, Just in case.

but then I remember: it'll all fall out soon and I'll have plenty to keep. 

My husband laughs at the weirdness of mothers who keep their children's teeth. And I laughed too. But I get it today. If I can't have him breathing, I can hold bones that once belonged to the same mouth that laughed belly laughs. 

Except he's too young for that. He hasn't even lost any baby teeth. 

And so instead of a box hidden with teeth, my ribs shake with pre-emptive grief. I weep at the wrongness of it all and yet the rightness of it all. Why us? Why not us? 

I hold his small face and smell his little breath and beg my God to please, please, please.... 

A million other words finish that sentence, all a plea:

 To not need to re-watch 

a video of a boy belly-laughing in September 

from grief. 

Our voices still work in the dark.



Tomorrow is the first day of chemo. 

I've always hated the idea of it. It didn't make much sense to me until recently. I've asked countless questions, suspicious of it. And I've landed here with my husband, knowing it is a blessing even with its thorns. We've prayed. Felt God speak into it. And signed papers. 

But I still hate it. 

I'm scared. Every time I ponder it I cry. It's not what should be. 

 But today I sat in the autumn sun and heard my daughter laugh during her horse-riding lesson. Today I made a bouquet for a neighbor and ate food I didn't prepare and read my Bible. 

And the thought came in and it has remained. This cancer diagnosis is here. As is its treatment. But this is just one aspect of our life in this season. My God has not only written sorrow for my husband and I or our children. 

The temptation for me is to numb myself at the sight of grief. The temptation is to shove down all my feelings and wait to process them until this is over. Depression has weaseled whispers ever since the diagnosis and I have often wished to just find myself in deep sleep. My sister and I have a weird love of Schitt's Creek (honestly, the writing is brilliant) and there's a mug she bought me a while ago that says " I could really use a good coma right now."

It was funny then, but it feels a bit more like a real request sometimes. 

It's a dark thought. And so I don't think on it long. I'm gentle to myself, though. I don't think it's wild that my body doesn't want to be in the same time and space where my 5-year-old has cancer. 

But my body is in this space and I have to decide how present I will be to it. 

I once took a Master's class online about novel writing..I have no intention of writing a novel, but in the course, the author mentioned something along the lines of how different being a storyteller changes your reality. He mentioned grief has a tendency to make us numb, but when you're a storyteller, you pay attention to the details. He joked " as painful as [a situation] it is, at least it makes a good story." 

As Christians, one of the first jobs we get is that of the storyteller. "Go and tell." While we humans were telling stories long before Christ called our names, our Jesus challenges us to get new eyes and tell a new story: tell what the Lord has done. 

And so, while a novelist is not a future I crave, I am responsible to this story and its telling...even though I'd rather not tell any of its kind. 

Heres a few of the details I've observed. I don't know where to place them yet, just as I don't know how this chapter will end.  They're like puzzle pieces though and have grounded me to this reality; Breadcrumbs giving me hope. 

The first oncologist I ever met had goose glasses. Black rims with orange tips. She looked me in the eyes and said "I need you to hear me say this. This cancer is curable. Let me say that again..." I kept thinking she was like mother goose. And she was. She had been here much longer than the rest and I watched her encourage fellows and young doctors as they spoke to me. She wouldn't lie to me and corrected any doctor who tried to be an optimist. She talked straight to me. When I would propose huge hopefuls, she didn't pretend with impossibilities. I trusted her for it, even though I felt a bit sour that she wouldn't let me pretend. 

I found out my son had cancer in an ER room at around midnight. The doctor didn't like the words coming out of his mouth and he seemed like he wanted to escape the room. I just stared at him, feeling like he was hiding something. He talked so slowly. I was frustrated with him until I tried to tell Ben. Suddenly my own mouth went slow and my throat closed and I knew. It wasn't for me he spoke so slowly- the words don't feel right coming out, and they get stuck. I grew softer to that young ER doctor. It shouldn't be this way. 

But there was a nurse there that night. And he spoke truth to me and scolded my "what ifs."  He loved me in the dark and he was English and dark humoured (and reminded me of hopeful English friends who met us in a different dark.) And I knew God knew. I don't remember his name, even though I tried a million times to remember. This kind man called me out of the haze and when I thanked him profusely he joked "thanks hun, but to be honest, I won't even remember you." And I laughed. Because I'm just another human he has to treat, but man what a way to love people you'll never see again. 

Oncologists have the absolute best grasp at dark humor. They laugh at all jokes genuinely. And I'm not that funny. But I think they get it. This whole thing is so absurd and wrong. The desks hold balloons and the staff wear so many masks and protective wear all while bringing medical play and stickers. It helps make it not so awful that they laugh when you ask them to. I respect the fact they keep showing up everyday to every parents nightmare. At first, I resented that they got to clock out of this place...but then I grew to respect they don't shy away from the dark. I, lord willing, will get to leave.  They keep showing up for far more years...they bring so many kinds of light to such dark stories. 

God has been present. But he's hasn't kept us from feeling the grief. I wanted him to bubble me up. But he hasn't. My body has shaken at night. Hunger has left me often. I get cold sweats at random. God has been present and he hasn't been silent. But he hasn't spared us....or maybe he has? Maybe the prognosis was supposed to be much worse? Maybe he's sparing us from so much we can't ever wrap our minds around it? 

That is probably the reality, If I'm being honest. And in his kindness, we won't ever know until heaven. Rowan might be dead, if anything went wrong in surgery, or we didn't catch it in time.... But instead God gives us the most curable cancer, caught early enough he has over a 90% cure rate.  I'll never know. And praise God for it. 

How much have you protected us from, my Lord? 

I haven't been angry with Him. Neither has Ben. How could we? We know suffering and we know God doesn't always get us out of it. But if he chose not to spare himself from it, but use it for glory-why should I expect any different? So, we don't resent. But we still weep and groan and scream desperate in car rides. 

But we don't resent. 

I just wish it didn't have to be my son. But, he's His son too. And he wouldn't give us this cup if it wasn't somehow, someway, miraculously for our good. 

Chemo is tomorrow. And I'm scared. But, if God wanted this cup to pass from us, it would have. 

And he didn't. 

So we drink.

But God. Please. Make it not so bitter. Please have mercy on us. Please do miracles even in the chemo. Please. Abba. Please. 

Whatever the story line you write, we'll sing your praises anyway. You've already secured us a happy ending one way or another. 

Our voices still work in the dark. I can still go and tell what you've done for me. 

In Christ, every story has a happy ending. And I think this one will end well even while we're still breathing. I'm nearly sure of it. Dawn always comes. 

"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."

Before the daffodils bloom, this dark season may be ended. Winter will meet its death. And we will have spring again. 

Lord, let it be so. 

"God doesn't give us more than we can handle" and other trite phrases redeemed.



I've been running into phrases left and right lately, found in metaphorical fists of friends who cling tightly to them. My friends hope the phrases, the mantras, the quotes will unlock a reality they're not yet tasting, seeing, or feeling. They say them to me in passing almost with the presumed understanding I know what they mean.
And I do know what they mean. I just don't believe them.
These precious souls speak these phrases over themselves to summon peace, or strength, or okay-ness. Some of the words are completely void of religion but since I run in communities of faith, many have faith entwined.

"God doesn't give us more than we can handle."

"Count your blessings."

"Others have it worse."

    We parade our silver linings, don't we? We produce herculean efforts to prove we're okay, minimizing our Cerberus to a pocket phrase.

While I know these phrases in and of themselves are just mere sentences taken out of context, I think about where they first formed. I wonder, 'if these words were said in different settings, maybe they wouldn't harm us as much as they do?'

Perhaps they can be redeemed?

What if the phrase "God doesn't give us more than we can handle" needed to have the WE underlined but we lost those instructions along the way? Those eight words weren't meant to bounce off a reflection in a mirror, but rather thought with a sigh of relief as we watch others shoulder our grief alongside us.

Maybe counting our blessings was meant to be done in the context of a table of chairs filled with bodies; surrounded by those who have seen us in grief, who know what our face looks like when it turns red with tears, and who have spoken His promises over us when truth felt foreign in our mouths and minds.

Maybe when we "count our blessings," they weren't meant to be the car or the house or that almighty health, but familiar eyes staring back at us knowingly.

Can you imagine believing: "We can face this and we won't be alone doing so. Tomorrow will come but so will my neighbor. We'll face the dark and we'll welcome the dawn. We still have good things to see in this land and though we ache and grieve now, we'll laugh together soon. "

How do you quantify knowing such a thing deep down in your bones? What if this were true?

And When we think others have it worse and it's true. (Most of the time they do.) Maybe that thought wasn't meant to be used to toughen our resolve, nor to silence our pain but to give pause and attention to those drowning in a heavy we haven't yet tasted. Maybe we could be so wise to lose our trite words and measuring sticks and meet a grieving friend with equal tears and lingering presence?

If our pain must always be valued against another's, when can it be held by them? I'm weary of being quantified, of feeling the urge to make it more or less than it is. Perhaps measureless grieving is the only way to healing?

If we have lived even a few adult years on this dusty earth, and if we're awake, we know. God will give us more than we can handle. Sometimes, we have it the worst. Sometimes the grief makes speaking-let alone counting-impossible. Sometimes we don't have a measuring stick that goes that far.

The neighbors grief is overwhelming. Suffocating. Gutting. That's why we're here. Someday grief will find us too. And it's effects will be the same. That's why they're here. If we're there to speak truth, then grief doesn't get the final words.

Knowing suffering is coming isn't meant to make us afraid, but to make us bold. "Take heart!" our Judeo-Christian scriptures say! Soon enough, Lord let it be so, we'll overcome all this just like our Messiah. We'll look at one another-past the heavy seasons with the sounds of grief fading-and we'll be able to count again.

But this time, counting will be measureless.

Blessing upon blessing upon blessing upon blessing.

And we'll know something we don't know yet. Blessings measureless in both directions. Grief and joy can exist in the same room here, in the same body, in the same face. But our grief has an end. Grief might still know our name, but we will not have to always know hers.

Dark and dawn and dark and dawn will come. Until forever day. And the reminding of that forever day is our work to do.

It's scary though isn't it? The problem with this idea-this shouldering another's grief so willingly- is that we can't help but quantify.

"I have enough problems of my own, I don't need another's. it sounds SO good on paper. But goodness, we feel the weight on our own souls the minute we stop reading. If we take the weight of another, whos to say we won't be drowned?"

And honestly, sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in a neighbors grief. But this loving before it is deserved IS Christian hospitality. My Jesus drowned, to breath new life into me. And this kind of loving is less of a duty and more of invitation. It's an act of faith-and a chance to see if Jesus is who he says he is. By showing up this way I get to find out: If I get hurt, will he heal me? If she rejects me, will he still welcome me? If they lie about me, will I have to be defined by their words? If I lose my way, will he bring someone to show me it?

Thus far, the answer for me has been yes. and yes. and yes. and yes.

And so.

I wake up, with the grief, with the seasonal depression, with my own forum of voices reminding me of lies (I'll combat today and tomorrow until lies will be silenced forevermore) and I do what I've learned is the most meaningful use of my time.

I look past myself and into the face of my neighbor.

And if I'm faithful and true and kind, I might be so honored as to hear of their grief too. A sacred invitation and share in their joys when dawn comes.

We show up in a broken world that has left its mark on everything and we're given one job. We walk each other home. We remind each other of what home looks like as we often forget. We speak in whispers and songs and stories so all those who always wanted to sing along with us will join us and it sometimes feels too much. Until we remember we're not shouldering the heaviest. The heaviest has already been shouldered. The wounds have found their healer. Our story has it's glorious new beginning.

And so when a friend says "God doesn't give us more than we can handle!!!" I no longer correct her. I no longer launch into my monologue on the hurtfulness of the phrase.... I just try to see if she's willing to let me be part of the 'we.'

Because she's right. God doesn't give us more than we can handle because he never has given us anything to handle alone.