Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Unexpected Ways

Saturday night we cut off Laura's hair.  Thanks to her brother John we were all able to gather together and watch as the hair fell.  I have to admit that I was quite uneasy with the thought of the event, but as the week progressed a peace came over both of us. 

What we thought would be a major move of emotion became a time to declare God's goodness.  As the hair was being cut Laura was talking about how good God has been to her.  "God has been so good to me through this entire cancer battle, and this is one more step toward the end."

We have started to look at the cancer as steps.  We know that in order for Laura to walk into her cure she will move through some very tough challenges.  Yet with every challenge conquered comes a much stronger Laura.  Dr. Gize remarked to me the other day that I have "one strong lady for a wife."  I already knew that, but it seems she is gaining more strength as the journey unfolds. 

The kids each processed the event in their own way, but in the end we were all laughing and once again felt calm and at peace.  The fun moment came when Bella was introduced to a bald momma.  "Where did all your hair go?" she asked.  What was truly funny was within a matter of seconds Laura stepped out of the bathroom with her wig on.  This really confused poor Bella a bunch.  It was pretty funny.

What I saw emerge was something of beauty.  Laura walked into the time ready.  The timing was right.  We had time to mentally prepare and the kids were with us in a safe place where we could all experience the moment in our own way.  Even more, Laura's brother John had the clippers.  Having his hands on Laura's head made her feel especially safe and secure. 

I wondered what Laura would look like bald.  Actually I was worried a bit.  I was concerned for her emotionally as well as the kids, and myself.

We laughed our way through it and as the hair fell a new image of my wife appeared.  It was truly something beautiful.  She was confident, strong, smiling, laughing and praising God all at the same time.  She was truly beautiful.  I have always felt this way, but there was something different about this moment. 

As we drove home Saturday night I realized that we had just lived through another "first" in our marriage.  This was truly a defining moment for us.  One I never hope to repeat again, but one that has marked us all. 

I am so thankful for God's sustaining grace He poured out in the moment and continues to this very day.

We are watching our kids grow in their dependence on the Lord.
We are watching our kids grow more tender to one another.
We are seeing ways God is demonstrating His kindness to us in ways we have never experienced before.

What I am realizing about our cancer journey is that the Lord is using it to open my eyes to what I have failed to see before.  I am witnessing the beauty of His grace emerge in unexpected ways.

Laura's last appointment with Dr. Gize went extremely well.  It appears the cancer is softening and her blood counts are stronger than before she started chemo.  Such results are unusual.  Hmmm. 

We count that another indication of the Lord's working in unexpected ways. 

Eph. 3:20 - Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Trusting in the Trials

This past week my heart was stirred by the story of Ruth and Boaz.  I have never preached Ruth, so digging deep into the text proved to be full and rich.  I am always so amazed at the brilliance of our God to place in our hands the accounts - not tales or stories - of those who have walked the road of suffering and discovered His steadfast presence all the way.  

In preparation for the message I read two books, which I highly recommend.  John Piper's book, entitled A Sweet and Bitter Providence,  and Ruth Uncensored by Jeff Ell.  They are relatively short books, and I believe the nuggets revealed will prove to be invaluable finds for any reader.   

Piper shares a story of a good friend of his who when faced with the birth of a son diagnosed with Autism and born blind found himself at odds with God.  After looking back over fourteen years he found himself thankful instead of resentful for what the Lord allowed him to encounter through the gift of his son.   

I came so close to using the letter on Sunday, but time simply did not allow for it.  It ministered greatly to me by providing another glimpse of perspective as face our daily challenges.    I trust it might shed a little light on your path as well.  

John Knight is a senior director at Desiring God. He has known what it is like to be treated as Naomi was and to respond the way Naomi did. He also gives us glimpse of how God mercifully and patiently leads his people out of the blindness of bitterness. The following was a birthday letter to his son Paul who is blind and autistic.

The 4th of July is a different sort of “Independence Day” for me. On July 4, 1995, my multiply disabled son entered the world, and my life came crashing down around me-and would soon include a deep and intense bitterness toward God.

I never denied that God existed or is powerful; I concluded he was mean and capricious. But it also began God’s work of creating an affection for him and for the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. I am often astonished, when thinking back, that I am now able to praise God for his goodness in giving my son his autism and blindness.

None of this happened easily or by accident. I can point to five specific things that God brought to bear on my life:

1.      Faithful pastoral leadership. I can still remember Pastor Tom Steller…walking up my front steps with a note from Pastor John. And I remember sitting with and emailing Pastor David Michael. 

These men, with great courage and biblical conviction, entered into dangerous territory. My attorney, a man trained in conflict, said that my intensity and bitterness frightened him. But my pastors never wavered from bringing a message of hope an absolute certainty in the sovereignty and goodness of God, even when I pushed them away.

2.     Faith people of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Shortly after my son was born, we dropped everything at church-our small group, volunteering, Sunday school class, and attendance. One couple refused to let us go and loved us with a gracious, firm, consistent tenderness that made me want to understand how they could love someone like me, my wife, or my son so completely.

3.     A faithful father. My own father was the first person in the world to understand and communicate my son’s value and inherent worth as a creation of a good and loving God to me. Through 13 years, he has stood with me through much pain and sorrow – and joy.

4.     A faithful wife. My wife and I have not walked the same path; hers has been much harder than mine for many reasons. But by the grace of God, we are together, and I thank God every day for this woman whose spine is made of steel and who loves me and our four children.

5.     The sovereignty of God as revealed in his word. I remember a particularly heartbroken, bitter email I sent to Pastor John. He has every right to discipline me, but instead wrapped the words of the Bible around my heart. God used those words from the Bible, among many others, to create longings I didn’t have, to start a dead heart beating, and to reveal, when I was incapable of seeing, the beauty, sufficient, and majesty of Jesus Christ and his cross.

God has done it all, and it was his word that proved decisive.
Living with a boy, now a teenager no less, who will always be dependent on someone for all his needs is hard. I have a daily, often hourly, fight for joy in my salvation. Yet, through my oldest son’s daily care, through my youngest son’s premature birth, and now through my wife’s ongoing battle with metastatic cancer, God is not just sustaining me, but revealing more of his goodness because he is sovereign over all things, for his glory and my good.

So, on this Independence Day, I am grateful to Jesus for my real freedom in him and for giving me my boy to help me see it: So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).  Happy Birthday, Paul.

We had a great weekend as a family.  We are celebrating that Laura's biopsy relating to her D and C came back benign, and the Thyroid appears to be the same.  
This week we enjoy a little peace before the second round of chemo on Monday.