Thursday, September 18, 2014

God of All Comfort

My recent weeks have been filled with tears more often than not.  I am not the crying type generally.  But things change when sorrow and suffering come to live with you. Like the aches after a new workout regimen, I now hurt in places I didn't know I had and ache in a variety of depths. The tears come from any possible source and not for the usual reasons. 
But let me back up… The tears are mostly about my mom, but my mother is not dying, not really. She is suffering, enduring, and persevering and its quite the process to walk along.  My mother’s days are numbered, but then so are all of ours. It just appears that my mother’s days are much fewer than we would hope, and fewer than I want them to be. I was raised knowing that our days in this life are not guaranteed, events can strike at any point. Even in my faith I learned not to hold tightly to my life. Through life I have clung to verses such as “To live is Christ, to die is gain” and “Take up your cross and follow me” and learned to not put all my hope in my days on earth because there is a glorious eternity with the Lord after this life, something I anxiously look towards constantly. So I have not ever been too anxious about my days on earth being shortened. 
Somehow I never applied this mantra to my loved ones. Now I want my mother to live and holding tight to her instead of losing like I do my own life. And I am in a hard place of letting God do with my mother what He wills. If I let Him have her I take the free fall with Him into the arms of His sovereignty. You know like the amusement ride that slams you up and down so fast you think you might vomit and die, except you don’t because you are secured in this massive safety harness. That’s the ride that myself and my family are strapping into right now. Actually I am pretty sure we are on it, because my stomach and my heart have been jerked all over my body already.
This free fall ride is filled with uncertainty, sweet moments of joy, kindness of the Lord and plenty of sorrow and suffering. Sovereignty is not something to be figured out, and not just endured, it is strangely a gift that can’t be understood until years later.  The two things I have learned about God’s sovereignty: first it is why I am not God and second, I must trust Him and believe He really has His best for me.  In the minute to minute God’s sovereignty seems cruel, in the day to day it seems confusing and hurtful, month to month it seems domineering and blinding, but three and five years later it is glorious, kind and wonderful. And just like that crazy ride we eventually tell people how great it is.  
The past 6 months have been so awful and wonderful at the same time. I have had the gift of getting to be with my family so much more than normal, I have made some new amazing memories. My parents who live 4 hours away now come and stay with us for 2 days nearly every other week now. The circumstances hurt but the visits are sweet. I have prayed daily for a miraculous healing for my mother with no answer.  My mother’s tumors continue to grow in her body a little at a time, her signs of liver disease increase, her energy level is non existent and food is a terrible mean trick. It’s a mystery when nausea or vomiting will strike or which foods will be appetizing and which ones will be the opposite. Despite that her immune system stays strong. I can’t explain it but her white blood cells, red blood cells,platelet counts etc all remain stable and unchanged despite all her chemo and medications. I have no explanation other than an answered prayer.  I want a miracle, well here is a small one. The one thing that would keep her from continuing Chemo would be her immune system taking a hit, and counts going very low. By being able to stay on chemo the tumors remain somewhat stunted which gives her more time. Her blood counts remain inexplicably strong. Glory! Glory? Yes Glory.  I must be thankful, thankful for more months. Months, Lord? Can I have years? And the ride continues.

But back to the tears that seem to be pouring out of me.  I keep asking am I crying too much, am I too grieved, my feelings are real right?  It’s so hard to see my mom’s suffering, her body so weary and persistently sick, her spirit weakened. I am filled with such sorrow when I look towards the coming years and start to imagine life without her. It’s awful. It hurts. It’s gut-wrenching. My memories sting, my joys and hopes burn hot tears on my face.  And through my blinding wet eyes I have to remind myself that sorrow and suffering aren’t bad, they just don’t feel good. My flesh wants to avoid it and run the other away.  Praise God that there is someone who can turn my sorrow into joy and my suffering to peace, and who knows suffering, chose suffering to give me peace, it is the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the earth, and had to suffer and die on a cross.  He died to reconcile the whole world to His Father.  He is the God of comfort and the Lord of encouragement, and He gives our temporary sorrow and suffering has eternal purpose. There is a reason we get on the ride and take the freefall into His sovereignty, its a purpose greater than myself, and requires trust beyond what I could imagine. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s suffering so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Cor. 1:3-5)”  So God of peace and comfort come. Come to my mother in her affliction  and give her comfort, come to me in my sorrow and give me a revelation of your sorrow and your suffering. 

I thought my heart might break....

I thought my heart might break
Today was one of those perfect days in the Ozarks, warm sun, cool breeze, long shadows from looming trees, with the smell of fall and hint of woodsmoke in the air. Yesterday was much like it, perfect. These are normally my favorite types of says to spend at  home with my folks. And this was a wonderful weekend. The whole family had come in, we were celebrating my brothers birthday and my mother's birthday.
Nothing monumental happened this weekend and yet I will remember this one till my dying day. It was a day of pleasant side conversations, yummy food, my niece talking and parroting the 6 adults around her, meal prep, and a very real mutual understanding that all is not well. The proverbial elephant in the room was there, no actually cancer was sitting in the room there with us. This ugly disease that steals and destroys sat in the room with us as we watched a church service on podcast. I had to look in the face as I saw favorite foods passed over, foods that would have normally been called comfort foods, carrying precious calories that were desperately needed in a weak and disease ridden body. I watched pills be ingested to poison this demon of a disease, knowing the pills weaken and wound and distort the person in the room I love.
I thought my heart my heart might break today. This pain of having to watch suffering in such a real live way was almost more than I could bear.  I didn't bear it, I wept. I would drop conversations to weep, turn away, and try to straighten up so that I might pick up the conversation and enjoy the moments I have with this beloved person. It's hard to imagine my pain being anywhere near the physical pain and aches she feels and even harder to understand the emotional strength that she is bearing up under to submit to the emotional pain she endures each day. I saw that pain today. I witnessed it with my own eyes. I saw her heart ache as waves of nausea washed over her and I saw her try to force food, because energy and calories means life. I saw her strong heart wince and weep a little as she lost another tiny battle that she is so determined to win.
In the moment her battles look insurmountable, her mountain looks unconquerable, but her battle is not about waving a pink flag or ribbon in order to say, " I win", her battle is about a sacrifice. A selfless sacrifice of love. Her love for her children and her husband is what drives her, her love of her grandchildren, her family, dearest friends and families through the years, are apart of her legacy. Grandchildren have an eternal inheritance to gain from her and she knows it.  This woman is not afraid of death and she will bless the Lord and rejoice in the God of her strength always.  I suggest that her battle is far from the modern day commercialized pink ribbon fight. I suggest a battle far more noble and much more costly I suggest she is looking to Jesus, the author of her faith, and enduring and taking up her cross.
I will remember this weekend forever because I saw a a woman bear her cross, put on Christ and lay down her life for her family that she might live (more fully in Him), so we might live more fully with Him. I watched her fight and I thought it might break my heart. Then I look again and I recall a lesson on a Roman road.... "For one will scarcely die for a righteous person- though perhaps for a good person one would even dare to die- but God showed His love for us that in while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."