Tag Archives: Cancer

Comfort One Another

Andy Stanley, my all-time favorite pastor and a terrific counselor (despite his claims to the contrary), frequently reminds us to “one another one another.” By that he means we should love one another, help one another, teach one another, serve one another, encourage one another, support one another… seek ways to “one another one another” as an expression of our love for each other and the embodiment of Christ’s love for us.

But how do you find the strength to do all that “one another-ing” when you’re struggling yourself?

That’s Melissa’s challenge.

She wrote to me a few days ago asking for prayer. She’s incredibly grateful to have given birth two weeks ago: “We had only one embryo, only one chance. But God! …miraculously we conceived.”  Her joy is tempered by her father’s sudden death 7 months into the pregnancy. Overwhelmed by grief, her mother cannot fully enjoy the new life in the family. And, before the baby was two weeks old,  Melissa’s husband learned he may have cancer. How does she triage the needs of all the people she loves most in the world, and keep her own emotions in balance?

Instinctively, she reached out to someone who has also experienced infertility, the joy of new life, the early death of a father, the grief of a widowed mother, the fearful waiting for news of cancer and all that that may foreshadow. In doing so, she offered me a chance to live into a powerful promise from scripture:

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:4

“He comforts us….” There is no question whether God will comfort us; He will and He does. When? “… in all our troubles.” Not some of the time. Not only when He decides our troubles are someone else’s fault and we are innocent victims. He comforts us all of the time in all of our troubles.

How does He do that? Through scripture. Through the indwelling comfort of the Holy Spirit. Through those who love us. And sometimes, through those who hardly know us — those who are completely unaware of the ways in which their words or actions help us or give us hope.

Why does God do that? Not because He owes us something. Not because we’ve been guaranteed an easy life or a quick rescue from heartache. He does it “…so that we can comfort others.” He comforts us in a whole host of ways that are designed to meet our needs so that we can pay it forward. So that we can embody His love for us and extend it to someone else. So that we can “one another one another.”

The verse goes on, “When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” I’m claiming that promise! Melissa is troubled, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will be able to give her the same comfort God has given me as I have struggled through each of the difficult challenges she’s now facing. By the grace of God and according to His promise, I will be able to give her the comfort that gave me peace in the midst of loss and uncertainty.

I will be able. Not because I’m me, but because God is faithful. And because He equips us to “one another one another.”

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Find more cause for hope in Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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Therefore, We Do Not Lose Hope

Several years ago, I suddenly stopped writing this blog. What I didn’t tell you was that life had taken an unexpected turn… as it often does… and everything I’d ever written was being put to the test.

It started when a doctor told my husband he had Stage 3 colon cancer and offered sobering odds of survival. Surgery was scheduled immediately, and chemo began soon afterward. My husband continued to see his patients while fighting for his life. His pallor and weight loss went unnoticed only because the patients were so consumed with their own struggles.

As he fought for the health of his body, I wrestled with God for his life.

I had released any claim to our children’s lives long before — when our daughter had had open heart surgery at 4 weeks old, and when I’d miscarried our son’s twin and spent 5 months on bedrest in the hope that he’d survive. Those challenges had seemed all-consuming at the time. I had found peace only by entrusting their lives to the God who’d first entrusted them to us.

But my husband had been my rock. Naive as it may sound, it had never occurred to me that his life could suddenly end. When that possibility became a very present reality, we got scared. And I got angry.

I fought with God around-the-clock. I railed at the injustice. I begged for mercy. I pleaded and negotiated and tried everything I could think of to sway the outcome.

And then finally, exhausted and powerless, I surrendered. I opened my hands and admitted that I could not control things; I could only trust the God who claims to love me.

Over many, many tears, I acknowledged the Lord’s right to take away what He had given and to test my willingness to live what I believe. Despite my fear and anticipatory grief, like Abraham, I put my beloved on the sacrificial altar and prepared to fulfill my promise to trust God even when His ways are not my ways.

And I was flooded with peace.

I knew in my spirit that He would care for me. He would be my beloved, my provider, my comforter, and my source of hope. He would never fail me. His promises would be fulfilled in every way I needed them to be.

Tears of grief gave way to tears of gratitude as I embraced the truth of His faithfulness and His promise, “I am with you always.”

Fast forward….

My husband survived. He’s now cancer-free — back to running, practicing medicine, and helping raise our children.

Why tell you this story? Because words of encouragement don’t matter if I’m not facing trials, too. And, because pollyanna posts can wear thin, but the Truth has a power of its own….

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid… for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  – Deuteronomy 31:6

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Want to hear more about the God who makes all things possible? Order your copy of Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples today.

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Filed under Bystanders, Hope, Perspective, Trust

The Gift of Perspective

Before he died, my father was a cancer specialist.  I grew up hearing stories about patients who had become like extended family to him.  Many of them battled terrible forms of the disease with courage and grace – which inspired him, and burdened his heart.  He did everything he could to heal their bodies.  He also took seriously the call to minister to their spirits.

One Christmas, I cross-stitched these words for him, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” [Psalm 118:24].  To my surprise, he hung the framed verse in his chemotherapy room.  I wondered, wouldn’t that rub salt in patients’ wounds?  Who could possibly come for chemo and feel glad for the day?

As it turned out, that little message was a powerful witness.  It reminded patients that every day is a gift full of purpose.  Those who chose to trust God’s purposefulness could truly rejoice and be glad – even when their circumstances commanded otherwise – because they could see past the moment and lean into its greater purpose.

Patients began telling my father that the chair across from that cross-stitched verse was “the best seat in the house.”  Many told him they would rather wait for that particular chair to be available than go through chemo without the power of those inspirational words.  Patients reported feeling blessed by the time spent staring at the psalmist’s verse, even as their IV drips summoned nausea.

Some made the words a prayer, some a whispered mantra, some a silent meditation.  All took them to heart and found strength and hope in them.

And then, what happened?  Was everyone miraculously healed?

No.

Every journey took its own course – just as every infertility journey does.

Then, what really changed?  Here’s what… That little handmade message invited God into an awful place and transformed it into a sanctuary of hope.  The experience of receiving chemo became an uplifting spiritual one, rather than just a taxing physical one.  In many cases, that difference transformed the journey.

Is there any place in your life that needs transforming?  A physical place that represents your suffering and sadness?  Or a psychological place that harbors fears, worries, anxieties and dread?  If so, I urge you to give yourself the gift of gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Claim God’s promises to be with you always, to make all things work together for good, to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.  And then, put the words of the psalmist before your eyes:

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

See God’s goodness with eyes of faith.  Trust His purposefulness.  And realize that there is so much to be thankful for, even as you make the difficult journey of infertility.

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Need more reasons to be thankful?  More hope for the journey?  If so, visit PregnantWithHope.com or read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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When It Rains, It Pours

It started while we were on vacation.  We’d saved all year to rent an ocean front room at La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.  No one thought to tell us about the “June Gloom” until after we arrived.  That’s the dense fog that envelops the shoreline, the sky and everything gorgeous until midafternoon each day.  It should’ve been my first clue… but I was blissfully unaware of what was coming.

Several days into the trip, I got a call from my dad.  We chatted briefly and (thankfully) ended with “I love you.”  It was the last time I would ever talk to him; a week later, he died.

I flew to Atlanta for his funeral.  My mother asked me not to cry during the service, or afterwards.  “People need to feel they can express their condolences to us, and if we’re crying, they’ll feel awkward.”   I bottled up my grief – and when the service ended, I couldn’t stand.  The pain in my back was so intense it was nauseating.

Six months later, my mom – who had eloped at 20, and loved my Dad every day of her life – was diagnosed with leukemia.  The oncologist concluded that suppressing her grief was affecting her immune system.  “Get her to cry,” she advised, “or the leukemia will kill her.”

Awful as it was, this was just the beginning.

My husband and I met with an RE to discuss our lack of success conceiving.  He recommended we start with progesterone, Clomid and IUI.  That plan suddenly got more complicated when I had to leave my spouse, my home, and our only source of income to care for my mom as she underwent a bone marrow transplant — halfway across the country.

I flew to Seattle thinking:  one parent’s just died, the other’s fighting for her life, I’m so stressed my body is going haywire, and I’m leaving everything I need to get pregnant.  I’m going to have to guess when I’ll ovulate so I can book a flight to Chicago in time for a rushed IUI and a night with my lonely, tired, med school student husband before I race back to the cancer center for 24/7 bedside.  What is happening?!

Why was I so crazy about conceiving right then?  I don’t think it’s because we’d been trying on our own for a long time.  I guess it’s because it felt like the world was falling apart.  I’d lost control of everything – this wasn’t my script for my life – and somehow it seemed like the best possible time to experience some joy.  To reassure myself that “happily ever after” was more than a mirage.  To reclaim at least part of my dream for the future.

My Job-like journey continued for several more years.  It included multiple miscarriages, numerous surgeries, a cancer (mis)diagnosis, unneeded chemo, five months of bedrest, a premature birth, heart arrhythmias and defibrillation, my mother’s death, so many trips to the emergency room the intake nurse knew me on sight….

It went on, and on, and on.

By the grace of God, I made it.  I survived all of it.  And when I finally experienced my first “normal” day – no crises, no deaths, no trauma – I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  That’s the blessing of “when it rains, it pours” — gratitude so intense it leaves you in tears.

Our infertility journey was intertwined with so many other hard, horrible experiences.  I came face to face with several of my worst fears, and I realized that I was never in control.  I was always at the mercy of God’s grace.  And it never failed. I’m so, so thankful.

Life is hard, and God is good; that’s my “when it rains…” story in a nutshell.  Are you in the middle of a rainy season right now?  Hang in there.  I know life is hard, but God is good.

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A Gift of Perspective

Before he died, my father was a cancer specialist.  I grew up hearing stories about patients who had become like extended family to him.  Many of them battled terrible forms of the disease with courage and grace – which inspired him, and burdened his heart.  He did everything he could to heal their bodies.  He also took seriously the call to minister to their spirits.

One Christmas, I cross-stitched these words for him, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” [Psalm 118:24].  To my surprise, he hung the framed verse in his chemotherapy room.  I wondered, wouldn’t that rub salt in patients’ wounds?  Who could possibly come for chemo and feel glad for the day?

As it turned out, that little message was a powerful witness.  It reminded patients that every day is a gift full of purpose.  Those who chose to trust God’s purposefulness could truly rejoice and be glad – even when their circumstances commanded otherwise – because they could see past the moment and lean into its greater purpose.

Patients began telling my father that the chair across from that cross-stitched verse was “the best seat in the house.”  Many told him they would rather wait for that particular chair to be available than go through chemo without the power of those inspirational words.  Patients reported feeling blessed by the time spent staring at the psalmist’s verse, even as their IV drips summoned nausea.

Some made the words a prayer, some a whispered mantra, some a silent meditation.  All took them to heart and found strength and hope in them.

And then, what happened?  Was everyone miraculously healed?

No.

Every journey took its own course – just as every infertility journey does.

Then, what really changed?  Here’s what… That little handmade message invited God into an awful place and transformed it into a sanctuary of hope.  The experience of receiving chemo became an uplifting spiritual one, rather than just a taxing physical one.  In many cases, that difference transformed the journey.

Is there any place in your life that needs transforming?  A physical place that represents your suffering and sadness?  Or a psychological place that harbors fears, worries, anxieties and dread?  If so, I urge you to give yourself the gift of gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Claim God’s promises to be with you always, to make all things work together for good, to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.  And then, put the words of the psalmist before your eyes:

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

See God’s goodness with eyes of faith.  Trust His purposefulness.  And realize that there is so much to be thankful for, even as you make the difficult journey of infertility.

=====================================================

Need more reasons to be thankful?  More hope for the journey?  If so, visit PregnantWithHope.com or read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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Filed under Peace, Perspective