Which stage are you?


Helping-hands

About 6 months ago, we learned of a very close family member diagnosed with cancer. Not just any cancer, but a rare form of incurable cancer, stage 4. After a recent hospital stay and surgical procedures – the rays of hope dwindled as we learned that there is no surgery nor even one clinical trial that is available to try to help with this disease as it advances. In essence, we wait, we watch, we strive to comfort – and we grieve.

Oh, we grieve.

The life we have lived, the moments we missed, the time we cannot reclaim. We deeply grieve and we learn. What a process this is! You cannot force someone to deal with their own mortality. Whether they accept their fate or not, it effects all in the family unit. The ripples of denial of the current reality leak out – crushing  hopes and dreams of reconciliation and forgiveness.

How do we  face a prognosis you aren’t allowed to discuss? In what ways do you deal with loss in an environment that says over and over again, “this is not happening.” I’m sorry, so sorry, but it is happening. It’s happening all around us as we all grapple to cope with the days ahead. The cancer keeps moving along whether we accept it or not, changing lives and generations to come with how we choose to handle our final days.

We die, as we have lived.

Not facing the reality that stares us in the face. Refusing to admit the days to come, avoiding any discussion of what lies ahead. Denial has deep, deep roots entrenched in familial relationships that will forever be touched by it’s tentacles. In denial, we move through life, often feeling alone, desiring deep relationships but not knowing how to have one. Afraid to ask questions, for when we do, it rocks the boat and puts the truth out there for all to see. It’s a hard way to live, and evenmoreso, a terrifying way to die.

I remember heading back and forth to the hospital, over and over again. Problems needing hospitalization and care. Getting you settled in and pray with you, over you – trusting God in His provision for you.  You’d heal from that setback, but the disease continued to raise havoc in your body. Accepting the truth or not, here we are.

I don’t want to see you go. I don’t look forward to that day. No. NO. Not at all. I do however, yearn to be able to talk about what’s happening, to be able to walk together and forward in this journey. We don’t need to walk alone, we really don’t.

So, why are we?

Refusing to accept our terminal illness touches all those effected by this disease. When denial continues to be the way we handle difficulties then it’s highly likely we will walk alone. Be alone, grieve alone and perhaps die, alone. Alone. Oh my heart just aches, who wants to be alone? Ever.

How will we choose to live our days? If we think we have many years ahead of us or even a few weeks remaining – how will we choose to live it? We all have 24 hours in a day and every single day we choose how we will spend the precious time we will never get back. The harder we fight against the truth, the less we get to live in it.

Live.

Yes, live! Even in our dying, we are still living. Even in our moments of fear and great loss, we live. In moments of deep pain and hard realities, ripping at the core of who we are, we continue to live. Regardless of the stage of life we are living, or the stage that cancer has advanced to. We have choices. We can live out our days towards eternity, growing, healing, hoping and deeply present in love. We can!

We must choose.

Today I offer you no solution, no quick answer to this eternal question. I humbly point to Jesus Christ and offer His live as the way to live. Emulating His love, His grace, His mercy and His patience with one another, as we grieve, as we mourn and as we live. Jesus did not live in denial. He did not hide behind misunderstanding about what was going in the world or in the lives of those He loved. Jesus was present – He was authentic. He was real. He loved. I remember when Jesus’s close friend Larazus  died.

“Mary approached Jesus, saw Him, and fell at His feet.

Lord, if only You had been here, my brother would still be alive.

When Jesus saw Mary’s profound grief and the moaning and weeping of her companions, He was deeply moved by their pain in His spirit and was intensely troubled.

Where have you laid his body?

Come and see, Lord.

As they walked, Jesus wept; and everyone noticed how much Jesus must have loved Lazarus. ” John 11:32-36

Even Jesus, the One who raised Himself from the dead, mourned and cried at the death of someone He loved. Just like we too, mourn the loss of those we love as well. Jesus loved, loves and continues to love by His Presence in our present moments, even those filled with grief and denial.

We all will die – but how will we live?

I encourage you today, if you are living in denial, face it. If you are filled with remorse over time lost together, make time. If you are grieving the loss of relationships and yearn for something more, reach for it. It’s not the time to lose hope, but rather to gain hope.

No matter what stage of life you are in, or stage of cancer you face. Whatever  serious disease you battle. No matter the prognosis. Regardless of the difficulties. Free yourself from denial and learn to live.

For we die, as we have lived.

Uncovered

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Walking along the beach I often am overcome by the beauty of it all. The sound of the surf as it gently moves in and out, the ocean that stretches out as far as the eye can see and the soft sand under my feet. There is just so much to be captivated by at the beach, I get caught up in the mystery and wonder of it all.

Do you do that too?

Walk along gazing out upon the grand schemes of your life and find yourself, overcome? Perhaps it’s not an overcome with the beauty of it all feeling, oh no, maybe you just feel overcome by moments of regret – dreams unfulfilled, longings unmet and hopes dashed.

You mean it’s not just me?

Often the sand of my life that I walk upon, it’s not so soft upon my feet. It’s full of broken shells, rocks and bits of sand that just irritate me as I go. I need to stop and shake the dust off, perhaps grab a pebble or two and remove the things which stop me from taking another step.

Regrets.

That’s what stops me from taking another step. We do need to keep on walking, taking another step, so that we can marvel at the beauty around us. Sometimes the ocean that stretches out for miles might look like a river to us rather than the grand expanse that it truly is. Or the sound of the surf and the oceans roar might deafen our ears to the gentle lap of the waves on our feet. We have to force ourselves – to see.

Take a moment and think right now. What is scattered across the beach in your heart? Broken relationships. Health problems. Jobs denied. Uncertainty, instability, insecurity. It’s not a very pretty sight, is it? We want to run from it, deny it – we fear it.

“There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment.” 1John 4:18 Good News Translation

Fear. Regrets. They go hand in hand. Interlocking their fingers and holding us captive to the worries and doubts of life. If we fear, we don’t fully grasp love. God says there is no fear in love. None! When we live in love, experience love, focus on love – we see. Love can uncover the fears nestled in the sandbars of our heart and release them. Deep within our hearts are the things which we regret – the relationships we mourn, the innocence lost, the hopes left unfulfilled – hidden.

We must be brave. Let God uncover you.

Face your fears, search your heart- these are not acts of defeat or a life of regret. No – far from it! These are ways in which we love ourselves and  love our God.  Don’t remain buried any longer. Live your life.

Uncovered.

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