A local religious educator told me her objective is not to press out cookie cutter nuns and priests from her students, but to gently sow small seeds of Christ’s love into the folds of their lives. Can you picture that? The teacher, the gardener, teaching, tending to her students, His gardens. Quietly erecting a spiritual infrastructure for both opportunities and hardship, alike. A faith formed scaffolding to support them, and to rest upon.
Imagine if we were all sowers of seeds; one small seed at a time. Imagine what our world would be like if we took the hand of Jesus. Our lives and the lives of those gardens about us would never be the same.
As we age, we live long enough to see things that we never saw before. This means we see joy and we see pain. And we see them in many splendid variations.
Additionally, we see how others handle life’s events. A similar situation can happen to two people and their acceptance and handling of it is the opposite.
One might see dread, the other might see grace.
There are no one-size-fits-all answers to every life challenge.
There are choices we all have to make. And sometimes we might find ourselves in this scenario:
It’s a test we’d all like to pass, but none of us would ever want to take it.
The following story reminds me of this…
Good friend David Balentine sent an update from his friend, Laura, who’s been battling cancer for three long years. Just when you think you can’t go on, life piles one more seemingly unbearable thing in your path. And yet, Laura perseveres. Here she is, in her own words:
I am sad to report that yesterday my sweet mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. At this point, we don’t have any further information. They will spend the next few weeks meeting with doctors, receiving more tests, and learning her treatment plan. In the meanwhile, I would ask that you please pray for wisdom for the doctors and strength for Bill and Judy (Bill, my father-in-law). Please also pray for my precious sister-in-law, Elise, who just had a baby a month ago and now is facing this. And finally, for my wonderful husband, Bill. I can’t imagine living with the reality of having a wife with metastatic breast cancer and a mother that has just been diagnosed. Please pray that the doctors will be given wisdom; that Judy’s cancer will be small and treatable; and for the peace of God to surround the entire family.
Today when I took Gracy to ballet, I ran into my friend Betsy that I hadn’t seen for a while. Betsy and I were talking and she said, “How’s Bill?” I told her about his mother’s cancer. I told her we would have to tell the children tonight. I told her about my new treatments in Nashville and the toll that takes on him. I told her about his job. I told her about how well he had done in his MBA program — all of his hard work and dedication. And I told her that the only thing he feels like he has to show from it right now is an added financial burden because the loan pay back started this month. And after I told her all of this, I felt nothing but overwhelmed.
I got in my car, drove to a spot in the ‘A’ parking lot of Briarwood that looks out over the mountains, and just began talking to God. I told God that I didn’t like it. I told God that I didn’t understand it. I told God that it was overwhelming, and hard, and sad and difficult. And then I told God, “But you give, and you take away and blessed be your name.” And then I praised God because although I don’t know how, and I don’t see why, I know that he has us in this place and that it is a good place. I know that He loves us so much. I know that the purpose of the fire is refinement. And I know He will give us the grace and mercy to face each day.
For me, that has probably been the best part of my cancer journey. It has brought my faith to a place that has transformed the ‘hard knocks’ of life into ‘soft bumps’. It’s not easy, it’s not fun, it’s not what I would choose, but I know that wherever I am, it is in that very place that He will meet me. And I praise him for that.
When I finished praying, I turned on the radio and Steve Brown was speaking. He read a letter from a girl that is going through some tough times. The letter read, “God doesn’t love me like I want to be loved, but He loves me well. And I hate it.” Steve Brown laughed, and I laughed too, because I understand that sentiment completely. However, I would have to say, God doesn’t love me like I want to be loved, but He loves me well, and I love it. I love the hope. I love the peace. I love the growth. I love the closeness. I love the place where I am. I love the journey God has me on. I am ready to be healed, but I wouldn’t trade these past 3 ½ years for anything. I would do them all over again to reap the rewards of fellowship with the Father. But it has taken me 3 ½ years to get to that place. It has taken a lot of tears, a lot of prayer, a lot of sadness, and a lot of hurt to see the deeply buried treasures.
But now, as they are starting to appear, wow!, what utter richness and beauty.
Judy has been walking with the Lord longer than I have. Her faith is incredible. Her belief is solid. And I know she will find this road filled with treasure. However, the diagnosis is new. The cut is deep. The pain is real. The questions are unanswered. So please pray that God will pour out his blessings on her, Bill, Elise, and Bill. Pray specifically that God’s glory will be greater than all of our pain. And pray that God will wrap his loving arms around this amazing family that loves me as if I were born into it.
Lisa Beamer on Good Morning America – If you remember, she’s the wife of Todd Beamer who said ‘Let’s Roll!’ and helped take down the plane over Pennsylvania that was heading for Washington, DC back on 9/11.
She said it’s the little things that she misses most about Todd, such as hearing the garage door open as he came home, and her children running to meet him. She’s now the Mom of a beautiful little girl, Mary.
Lisa recalled this story:
“I had a very special teacher in high school many years ago whose husband died suddenly of a heart attack. About a week after his death, she shared some of her insight with a classroom of students. As the late afternoon sunlight came streaming in through the classroom windows and the class was nearly over, she moved a few things aside on the edge of her desk and sat down there.
With a gentle look of reflection on her face, she paused and said, ‘ Class is over, I would like to share with all of you, a thought that is unrelated to class, but which I feel is very important. Each of us is put here on earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves. None of us knows when this fantastic experience will end. It can be taken away at any moment.
Perhaps this is the powers way of telling us that we must make the most out of every single day. Her eyes, beginning to water, she went on, ‘So I would like you all to make me a promise. From now on, on your way to school, or on your way home, find something beautiful to notice.
It doesn’t have to be something you see, it could be a scent, perhaps of freshly baked bread wafting out of someone’s house, or it could be the sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees, or the way the morning light catches one autumn leaf as it falls gently to the ground. Please look for these things, and cherish them. For, although it may sound trite to some, these things are the “stuff” of life. The little things we are put here on earth to enjoy. The things we often take for granted.
The class was completely quiet. We all picked up our books and filed out of the room silently. That afternoon, I noticed more things on my way home from school than I had that whole semester. Every once in a while, I think of that teacher and remember what an impression she made on all of us, and I try to appreciate all of those things that sometimes we all overlook.
Take notice of something special you see on your lunch hour today. Go barefoot. Or walk on the beach at sunset. Stop off on the way home tonight to get a double dip ice cream cone. For as we get older, it is not the things we did that we often regret, but the things we didn’t do.
As I write about Faith, Hope, and Love, other people have begun reading my blogs and leaving comments. This leads to conversations online and offline. And this leads to stories like this one…
Dear David & Jeannie Balentine,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I wanted to share with you the good news that my cousin Laura recently received. For those of you that may not know about Laura, she was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was pregnant with her 3rd child. It has been quite a journey and at this time she is receiving experimental treatment in Nashville Tn. I couldn’t help but think about how at times when all seems lost, we can receive a ray of hope or in Laura’s case a rainbow.
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13
We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4
Today is my birthday! For different people birthdays represent different things. For some, they are a time of remembering and reflection. For others, they are a time of looking forward. For me, they are a time to testify to the goodness of the Lord. When you are 32 years old and diagnosed with cancer, and 33 years old and diagnosed with metastatic cancer, a 36th birthday seems a near impossibility. But I am here! By God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and healing, I am here. I am here to tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power, and the wonders He has done!
In August, my largest tumor was 7 centimeters. You have to remember that a tumor is a spherical mass, not a flat one. 7 centimeters is about the size of an orange. The results of my last scan show that the largest tumor is now just over 1 centimeter. That’s about the size of the tip of your index finger. I’m here to tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power and the wonders He has done!
Yesterday morning, I wasn’t feeling well (no worries – totally not cancer related!) so I stayed home while Bill took the children to church. I was behind in my Read-through-the-Bible in a year, so I had some sweet time just catching up and being quiet with the Lord. Right now I’m reading in Exodus. Of course, Exodus is one of the places where you see a cluster of miracles. No matter how many times you read Exodus, it’s still amazing to see those miracles!
As I was reading through, I came across one of my favorite verses, Exodus 15:26 which ends with, ‘for I am the LORD, who heals you.’ The quiet, the Word, that verse, it all just made for some sweet, quality, close time communing with the Lord. As I began to pray, I was thinking about the fact that me even having another birthday is a tribute to His show of grace and mercy. So I told the Lord that for my birthday, I just wanted to feel especially close to Him. I asked that in some way, He would do something to make me feel like He was holding me close.
This morning I woke up and my sweet husband had prepared a birthday breakfast. The dining room table was set with a vase of red roses. My breakfast was on the red ‘You Are Special Today’ plate. My coffee was in the red, ‘You Are Special Today’ mug. There was a card and my favorite Dove dark chocolates at my place setting. We all sat down to breakfast and were just about finished when Caroline said, “Mommy! There’s a rainbow on you!” All of my family got excited as they looked at the rainbow that was across my forehead — my birthday present from God. I can’t imagine anything else that would make me feel more like I was especially close to Him. Bill took a picture, but he said, “It looks a lot better in real life.” I’m here to tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power and the wonders He has done!