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.