You fight – we wait

waiting_for_dog_by_cathleentarawhiti-d64g7uz Every single day, you fight. You fight to hold onto what was, clawing your way to what could be, regretting what should have been. You ache for days that fill themselves with family, with loved ones, with hope. You wait, oh how you wait – for relief, for a cure, for some hope.

But it doesn’t come.

Grasping at every opportunity looking to find peace, you search with all your heart. For the next medical treatment, the newest doctor, some glimmer of hope. Oh how you fight, climbing up out of the pit of pain and suffering, you search becomes desperate. Hope flew away with the wind as you heard the word, hospice.

You want positive motion, energy, life. But hospice? No, no, not hospice. That would mean giving up. That would mean no longer fighting. That would mean defeat. Right? Well, no.  The battle has been fought and fought so hard.  With each breath you have struggled to take –  you find yourself moving closer to the unknown. Staring it down, it reaches into your core forcing you to face something so unfamiliar. You fight with all your might to keep yourself together, to not let go and to maintain control.

Yes, control.

The days run along, one after another – like the ones before. Filled with appointments, expectations and responsibilities that weigh you down. You move about your life and embrace times of hope filled healing. hard work and satisfaction that comes from the toil of your hands, your mind, your strength.Yes, your strength.

Relying upon yourself you face your fear and when doing so, you often fail. It’s not the power of your words or your actions that speak. It’s not the power of your mind or body that revel you. Oh no, it’s the power of your spirit. Of the strength of who you are as a person that radiates throughout your hospital room. This strength rises high above any expectation. Your goals and your hopes are high, your desire, strong. Your will, unshakeable.

You will beat this.

Yet the words ring in your ears. Hospice, hospice, hospice. Death looms on the horizon and you hesitate to make any decision – for in doing so it may stop your light from leaving this world – peering down at your impending death. You ache to remain here in this world,  while we begin to prepare our minds and hearts for the world without you. Meditating on life with the gaping hole you will leave behind.

Oh how we want you here. Oh yes! But even moreso, we want you in peace. We need you in peace. You hold on and we ache to hold onto you. Experiencing these moments of true joy and authenticity drizzle sweet mercy upon our wounded hearts. We embrace times of grace, love and forgiveness. For maybe the first time, we live, you live.

Live!

In these moments I know it’s true, you will  live on. Hospice or no hospice. Cancer of no cancer. Life or death. You will live. You will remain. You will stretch beyond this world that you know and challenge us, challenge me. We will grow, because of you. We will love, because of you. We can find hope, because of you. We can fight, because of how you taught us to. You will always be with us and in our hearts. Loving us from afar, nudging us to take another step and reminding us that love comes in many forms. Perhaps not with the words we want to hear, but the life we want to live. Each moment with deep passion, and with you – God. Yes, God.

The time for control is over. You are preparing to leave us behind. We are embracing the total measure of your life. It’s not found in money, nor career or material things. Hardly! The peace we find, is resting in the arms of Jesus Christ and letting Him care for you. Embrace you. Love you. Yes, you.

From this life into the next.

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.

Holy Mess

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I confess – I am a mess.

This unbridled, totally chaotic – mess. If you walked into my home right now, you’d see it. If you sat down and talked with me, you’d hear it. If you heard the constant stories of my life, you’d know it. Just a total mess. Often I think about Jesus and the words He would say to me as I strive to find balance in my life. When the storms rise up and I can’t see clearly, I wonder – what would my Lord say?

Consider this story:

The boat was in the water, some distance from land, buffeted and pushed around by waves and wind. Deep in the night, when He had concluded His prayers, Jesus walked out on the water to His disciples in their boat. The disciples saw a figure moving toward them and were terrified.

Disciple: It’s a ghost!

Another Disciple: A ghost? What will we do?

Jesus:  Be still. It is I. You have nothing to fear.

Peter:  Lord, if it is really You, then command me to meet You on the water.

Jesus: Indeed, come.

Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water and began walking toward Jesus.  But when he remembered how strong the wind was, his courage caught in his throat and he began to sink.

Peter: Master, save me!

 Immediately Jesus reached for Peter and caught him.

Jesus: O you of little faith. Why did you doubt and dance back and forth between following Me and heeding fear?

Then Jesus and Peter climbed in the boat together, and the wind became still.” Matthew 14:24-32

Sometimes in my mess, the clutter and chaos call to me. They become my own storm in life. The waves crash, the wind whips in my face and the sights and sounds overwhelm me. I hear Jesus’s voice calling me to come out to Him as He stands smack in the middle of my own storm. Often I cry out loudly to Him, “Is that you Lord Jesus?” My vision gets clouded as I ask and question in this mess of mine. Perhaps it’s not really to understand if it’s Jesus out there, but if it’s me still safely in the boat.

Hear him?

Jesus:  Be still. It is I. You have nothing to fear.”

Nothing. To. Fear. Ha! If I believed that, would my life be such a mess? He’s calling me to come out to Him in the middle of all the storms in my life and I balk at Him. I don’t jump out of the boat. At first I don’t even say, “Is it you Lord?” I just stay focused on the mess. Maybe if I straighten this here, or fix this over here and perhaps change right here. Oh. All these ways I try to manipulate my circumstances to bring me peace. That’s what I tell myself.

I find sometimes my mess is so familiar, so comfortable and personal that it’s easier and less challenging to be different. To chart a new course. To expect a different response. To challenge a long held belief.  Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.” We can live our lives passively and just go with the flow. Whatever thoughts or feelings come our way, let them overtake us. The storms that surge upon the shores in our hearts, just let them wash over us. My friends, that leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.

I think I am misshapen and twisted enough.

Which road would Jesus choose? The one of least resistance? Just look out from that boat you are in, past the swells of water and the battering rain and see Him walking on that water. O what little faith I have. He beckons me, He beckons you. Come! Can you hear the voice of Jesus calling you? It might be a loud voice piercing your ears or a quiet whisper that won’t let you go.

Do you listen? Do you heed His call? Will you obey Him? Even if it’s water you are called to walk upon, will you trust Him? When it makes no sense that you will stay upright. When your logic tells you it won’t turn out well. Will you walk out to Him anyway?

It’s not my own will, or anything I will ever do that would allow me to walk upon water, or rise above the mess of my life. Oh no. It is the power of God, and only the power of the Almighty God which allows such a miracle to happen.

Our God loves us so much that He emptied Himself into His Son Jesus Christ and we partake in this wonderful, bountiful mystery of grace and love – when we take the first step. It’s a daily moment by moment transformation and participation in the divine nature of our Holy God.

“Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamophosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.” 2Cor 3:18

So go ahead.

Move.  Walk. Run. Crawl – do whatever you have to. Just go. Don’t look back at the boat. Don’t look at those waves. Ignore the rain that blinds your vision. Focus on Jesus and take a step – just one.

These holy messes that are our lives. They are the very places that the Creator of the Universe and the lover of our souls can inhabit, renew, rebuild, recreate and resurrect life. We must let Him. Our lives are about transformation, going from the mess and muck of sin and strife to the ever increasing glory of being His child and finding hope that resides in Jesus the Christ.

That is why my life is a HOLY mess.

For it is set apart by the One who walks on water and calms the storm. As soon as I call to Him, He is immediately there. As soon as He steps into my boat, into my life, the storms raging quiets. It’s not that the messiness is over. No. He often beckons me to come to Him in the darkest part of the storm. It’s the truth we are no longer alone in it.

It is Him and I have nothing to fear.

Scripture taken from The Voice™. Copyright © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Living in truth?

Denial

While all this was going on, Peter was down in the courtyard. One of the Chief Priest’s servant girls came in and, seeing Peter warming himself there, looked hard at him and said, “You were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

He denied it: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He went out on the porch. A rooster crowed.

 The girl spotted him and began telling the people standing around, “He’s one of them.” He denied it again.

After a little while, the bystanders brought it up again. “You’ve got to be one of them. You’ve got ‘Galilean’ written all over you.”

Now Peter got really nervous and swore, “I never laid eyes on this man you’re talking about.” Just then the rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered how Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows twice, you’ll deny me three times.” He collapsed in tears.” Mark 14:66-72

Denial.

Flat out, straight from our heart – nope, I didn’t know it, didn’t do it, didn’t say it and even didn’t think it! Denial, refusal, rejection – ways in which we deflect ourselves from dealing with the reality of the situation before us.

In this story from Scripture, Peter was faced with the ongoing questions about his relationship and his commitment to Jesus the Nazarene., “I never laid eyes on this man you’re talking about.” Here Peter denied knowing Jesus, the Christ, three times before the rooster crowed. His denial was not a one time occurrence, oh no! He refused, again and again, to acknowledge his relationship, his experience and his love for Jesus.

Wow.

Just drink it in. The man Peter who did so much for His Lord Jesus, had this moment where he couldn’t accept the truth that knowing Jesus would hurt. Admitting He knew Jesus at the moment left him open for accusation, shame, distrust and mockery. Peter didn’t want to feel it, experience it or go through this public disapproval. I believe he feared it. Jesus was before the Sanhedrin that very moment, standing silent against their false testimony about Him. (Mark 14:61) And Peter, in his denial of His Lord, spoke volumes.

Denial, it does that.

It starts with one refusal of the truth  and next thing you know it is planting and growing seeds of mistrust and disunity wherever it lands. We all could confess to some denial in our lives, don’t you think?  We often refuse to admit the truth of who we are in our very inner being. We share part of ourselves with the world, to the communities and even to our families. Perhaps our marriages are a mess, or maybe we harbor an addiction we try to keep under wraps. It could be we just don’t want to face the pain of our past so we just keep looking forward thinking that will “fix” it. We focus everywhere we can, pointing fingers of blame elsewhere, rather to face the truth we find in the mirror.

We are afraid.

Fear is the bedrock of denial. We fear what others think. We fear what might happen to us. We fear our reputations to be amiss, our family life to be torn asunder and our belief in who we are, rejected. Rather than speak truth and shine authenticity into the world around us, we deny the power of truth.

It is when we choose to speak the truth that invites transforming power and hope of God to a life filled with denial. Fingers may continue to point your way, self rejection and shame may consume you and make you want to flee. You do have a choice.

Choose truth.

Let the warped sense of reality that denial brings fall away.  Invite Jesus into this place and let the power of God’s Spirit  speak into a dark, dry place. This place in our hearts which yearns for hope, craves acceptance and desires freedom. I encourage you today, from someone who is a Peter. I’ve lived in denial and shown only part of who I am to those around me. There is freedom in being you. Don’t deny being the person God intended you to be.

Face your fear, and live!

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message. Bible Gateway. Web. 15 Jan. 2014.