Friday, December 16, 2011

my brother's keeper

from twenty feet away i watched as doctors and nurses scrambled to save his life. a nurse jumped on the bed and did chest compressions. doctors administered medications over and over to bring him back. slowly, as if in a dream, a nurse tugged on my arm and told me to move away because i didn't need to see this. but i did. i needed to see it and i would not be budged. a miracle was about to happen....i just knew it. after what seemed like hours (when in all actuality it was only ten minutes or so) a miracle did happen. my brother slipped away from this life and ran headlong into the arms of God. that was three years ago today.

in the chaos of that moment, amidst the crying and the tears, i couldn't tear my eyes away from the people who had been desperately trying to save his life. it wasn't a scene from ER or grey's anatomy, where a handsome young doctor came to us and slowly lowered his mask to tell us that they did all they could. no. there was a full range of human emotion spilling out of the people who had just tried to save him. the doctor looked disgusted and suddenly tired, as if he had just went fifteen rounds in a heavy weight fight and lost at the end. one nurse that walked out looked like she was in shock and was not completely sure of what had just happened. i remember seeing one man who was expressionless, as if he was trying to shove down any form of emotion, because if he could do that, then everything would be okay. the other two nurse that i remember walked out with tears cascading from their eyes shaking their heads in disbelief and telling us over and over that they were so sorry. i was in shock at what i had just witnessed. and the only thing i could think to do was to walk to each one of those people and say, "thank you for doing what you could. thank you so much." i couldn't fathom how they were so emotionally invested in someone that they had known for less than two days. but i knew that i wanted to be like that.

and here i am three years that exact day. some would call that coincidence or fate, but i see it in a much different way. it's like God is looking down at me right now and saying, "remember all that you saw. remember all that you felt. remember through all of that, I sent people there who cared and who loved. in the midst of the hurt, the drama, and the pain, I was there. now, it's your turn". i don't know how i'll be used. i don't know who i'll touch. i don't even know where i'm going to work. what i do know is this: every time i sit down in a room and hold an old woman's hand, i think of jeremy. every time i change someone's bed or dressings, i think of jeremy. every time i look into the grief stricken eyes of a patient's loved ones, i think of jeremy.

today, i graduate. and i'll think of jeremy. in memory at least, i am my brother's keeper.

Monday, July 18, 2011

When God Says No

I feel like I've been writing this blog post in my mind for the past several days. This topic is one I have thought about lots of times throughout my life but more intensely the last couple of weeks. One of my very favorite people in life is Dr. Charles Stanley. I've read his articles and listened to his sermons for over half my life now. Of all the things that he's said, there's one particular message that has stuck with me: his message on Psalm 37, the desires of our heart. Dr. Stanley made a very true statement when he said, "the more intense our desire, the shorter our waiting fuse." Does that ring true in anyone else's life besides mine? I think back to when I was in middle school or high school and I was literally on my knees saying PPPLLLEEEEEASE God do this or PPPLLLEEEEASE God give me that. I thought I would literally stop living if I didn't have that particular thing. Then I got to college and the issues became more serious. Questions about a course of study, a career path and finding a mate start to press in on us. After college, wanting to find that perfect job, being financially stable, marriage, starting a family... all of these things are the desires of our hearts. "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." ~Psalm 37:4. I clung to this verse. I can remember in my quiet time reading it over and over, but at that time I did not understand what was packed in this verse. In my concordance I looked up the Hebrew meaning of the word "delight" as it is used in this verse. I love this, are you ready for this? It says it means, "enjoy." Enjoy the Lord. I have sat and thought about that alone for what is probably hours. Let's break this down. Enjoying something, hmmm. One of my most favorite things is the ocean. When I am near the beach, I am a happy girl. I "enjoy" the beach. What does it take for me to enjoy the beach? Sitting. That's what it takes. Sitting next to it and looking at it, hearing the waves, smelling the ocean air. That's it, just sitting in its presence... listening and breathing. Have you ever noticed that when you spend a lot of time with someone, you start to pick up their little nuances? For instance, it could be a certain mannerism or a phrase they say. I'm going to pick on my husband for a minute. He is a southern boy. When he first moved up here, his accent was thick. It was so thick, I made fun of him at every opportunity. Over the years he has started to sound less like a southern boy and more like a "yankee" (as he would call us). The same thing happens when we go down south. It takes all of about five seconds of being around his friends and family before that southern accent appears with force. When you're around someone you favor, you start to act like them. You start to think like them or behave like them. I think that's what this verse is really talking about. You see, this beautiful thing happens when we spend time with God. When we sit with Him, when we listen to Him, when we watch Him. You cannot help but enjoy Him. And all of a sudden, because of His grace, His ways become your ways. His thoughts become your thoughts. And watch this: His desires become your desires.

So fast forward, what happens when we're doing this and our desires are His desires, or so we think, and we're asking Him to fulfill these desires and He says, "No." You get those test results that you didn't want to hear. Your boss calls you in his office and you lose your job. You get that phone call that changes everything. You lose someone. What happens now when you begged God, when you trusted Him, for a different result? I'm not going to remotely pretend like I have the answer, only God knows the answer. But I have something that has helped. Ever since I was a little girl, my Mom and Dad taught me something. They read it or heard it somewhere but they would say this to us often growing up. God answers prayer in one of four ways:
1.) Yes, and here's more.
2.) Yes, I thought you'd never ask.
3.) No, not yet.
4.) No, I love you too much.

This revolutionized the way I thought about prayer and the answer to prayer. As I have grown up and have seen each of these four responses played out in my own life before me, it has changed my reaction to the "no's." Does this make it easy? Oh my, no. It doesn't. But it does make it easier. My friends who have just experienced a "no," particularly the one that stings the most (No, I love you too much), I want to encourage you and I'm praying for you as I write this post. I am praying another one of my favorite verses over you. I don't often read the Message version of scripture but in this case, I love the wording. I will close with reading these words that the Lord Himself says:

"Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go. I'm telling you, 'Don't panic. I'm right here to help you.'" ~Isaiah 41:13

Enjoy God,

Sunday, April 3, 2011

525,600 Minutes

When I was in college my friends and I decided to sleep on the street and get front row tickets to see Rent. Ever since the first time I saw the show I have had the lyrics of one of the songs etched in my mind. "Five-hundred twenty-five thousand six-hundred minutes, how do you measure a year?" We just recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis. In some aspects the last year seems somewhat surreal but in other ways it seems more than real as I think about the effects that it has had on my life (physically, emotionally and spiritually), my marriage, my relationships with my family, friends and co-workers. It would be difficult to write all of the things that I learned while going through cancer and quite honestly, I am still unpacking it all and still learning. There are things that hit me at the strangest moments, when I'm getting ready for work in the morning or when I'm fixing dinner in the evening. The other day I took the dogs for a walk and just as I was coming around the corner of our neighborhood I thought, "a year ago I couldn't have done this." I do not mean that in a negative way at all, quite the contrary. It may sound so incredibly strange but a part of me misses last year. There is this indescribable intimacy that can be found during crisis that is found nowhere else in life. It is a perfect blend of God carrying us through something so challenging and us yielding and surrendering because the truth is that we simply cannot do it on our own, we were not made to.

This past Thanksgiving John and I had the privilege of flying down to Fort Myers to spend the holiday with his Mom and Dad. Our flight was very early, around 6am. My husband, not being a morning person, was not looking forward to the flight. But I was. I knew that I was in for one of the coolest things ever - sunrise at 10,000 feet. While I was excited about this, God had something even cooler in mind. Once we got on the plane and got all buckled in, the captain came on the speaker. He said we were being re-routed due to a major thunderstorm and that he was going to do his best to avoid it and fly around it. We got up in the air and the sun began to rise. The colors were amazing. If you know me you know nothing makes me happier than witnessing the awesomeness of God and His creation. I was practically salivating at this point of the flight. Then I saw it off in the distance. I could see the storm. There was a mass of thick, dark clouds that almost appeared to be swirling. It was still a ways off and was below our altitude. We were getting closer and closer. I was almost holding my breath, taking in every second. I knew there was no way I could get any type of photograph of what I was seeing so I was doing my best to memorize every moment. We were almost directly over it now and I saw something I will never forget. A lightning bolt shot straight from the cloud in front of us to the ground. As I was watching this, it dawned on me. There was this incredibly massive storm going on just below us and yet we were flying over it, with not even the slightest bit of turbulence or rough air. I realize this doesn't happen on every flight going through a storm but it happened that day. I couldn't help but equate it to the season of cancer in my life. It was a challenge, a storm, and yet I was able to fly through it feeling no turbulence. There is only one reason for this: Jesus. It had absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him. He carried me. He gave me hope. He gave me strength. He whispered to me that I was beautiful when I didn't recognize the woman staring back at me in the mirror. He provided for my every single need including giving me a loving husband who would take care of me, a family who would show me unending support and love, friends who would call and send cards of support and love that always seemed to come at just the right moment. In Isaiah 46, God speaks and says, "I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." This is not just for me, it is for you - in your circumstance right now, in your hardship, in your storm. This is His promise to you. Sometimes it doesn't feel like He's carrying us. Sometimes all we feel is turbulence and rough air. It is in these moments that we cling to His promise. Is it easy? No. All I can tell you is that 525,600 minutes later I am sitting here, thanking God with everything that I am that He allowed me to have cancer. Only through cancer did I find new depth and new dimension to what it means to be loved by a Holy God.

God continues to speak in Isaiah 46, "With whom will you compare Me or count Me equal?" I love that. There is no one that comes close. There is no one like our God.

"Taste and see that the LORD is good." ~Psalm 34:8