A New Thing

“I can’t go to Hawaii. I have responsibilities…a home, a dog, a 6-month dental cleaning.”

A friend called asking if I would be interested in housesitting on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Only a few days prior, plans for a week-long visit with this friend in Hawaii fell through. Of course I felt disappointment. Now a new, even more inviting offer to fly to a tropical paradise for a lengthy stay, complete with housing and an automobile, lay before me like a Christmas bonus. But my initial response was to give thought to a house, a hound and oral hygiene? That alone reveals a desperate level of my need for a get-away.

I eventually came to my senses. I rented out my house, dropped my dog off at his grandparents’ farm and rescheduled with my dentist. Self-employment allows for “have laptop, will travel”. A recent break-up with a man I imagined my soulmate left me relationally unencumbered and longing for a fresh start. Nothing left for me to do but board a plane. 

My window seat afforded intermittent entertainment “in the Cloud” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!), until we reached the ocean. Infinite miles of foreboding blue-black Pacific waters lulled me into boredom. A seatback screen in front of me listed movies for my viewing pleasure but nothing tickled my fancy. Until I noticed an e-flight map with a dime-size cartoonish airplane inching across the Pacific. My digital display indicated miles remaining, miles traveled, speed, flight time in hours and minutes, and our ETA. In fascination, I watched for hours as the plane crept slowly between past and future. As this new adventure loomed before me, excitement welled up inside.

The Bible talks about new life in Christ…”The old is passed, the new has come”, (II Corinthians 5:17). When we receive Christ by faith and in repentance of sin, He gifts us the opportunity to check our baggage at the Cross. We lay down our past failures, indiscretions and folly in exchange for new life in Jesus.

But often we succumb to the temptation to pick up our trunk of transgressions and lug it around once again. Excess baggage develops into a ball and chain of self-condemnation for our old ways. A faint, familiar voice taunts, “Who was I kidding thinking I could start over? I’m a mess. I’m always going to be a mess.” Still, our hearts ache to travel light. We ask, “Could Jesus really take my sin, my past and all the ugliness, and separate it as far as the East is from the West?” The resounding answer, of course, is ABSOLUTELY!

If you don’t yet know this freedom in Christ, you can. Pray a simple prayer asking God for forgiveness of all things past, acknowledging Christ’s death on the Cross as payment in full for your sin. In that moment of inviting Him into your heart, your journey into life with a capital “L”  begins. If you HAVE received Jesus, according to the Bible you’re a new creature. No more looking back over your shoulder, no more ruminating over your past. The future lies before you as your own Christmas bonus made possible by the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As our Boeing 767 landing gear locked into place and raced toward an asphalt strip bordering Pacific waters, Isaiah 43:19 came to mind:

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

What New Thing does God want to initiate in your life?

Renounce your trunk of transgressions, place your faith in the one who knows the way, the One who declared He IS the Way. Trust Him to show you where your faith journey will take flight.

Comfort & the Kindness of Strangers

I begin this post with a heartfelt apology. To those who followed my blog for years and who were left wondering what happened to me after my cancer diagnosis, I sincerely apologize that I’ve not been more forthcoming on this site. While I shared some of my story on Facebook, I felt compelled to focus primarily on treatment and recovery, and to carry my brokenness–of which there was much–to the Cross. I’m sorry if the last 2+ years of blogging silence caused confusion to others as I embarked on this very personal journey.

Plenty of people openly share when they face trials, challenges, sickness, devastation and loss. I’ve even been one of them, at least prior to the cancer episode when I felt the Spirit whisper to me this time will be different. For better or for worse, I would not experience this round of suffering in the public eye as I had in the past.  If you’re familiar with this blog site, you know of my recovery from PTSD related to my home break-in, my struggles and ultimate healing from a brain injury following my car accident, the toll taken on my heart during the Waldo Canyon Fire, my challenges as a single mom. You shared in my despairing journey with my dear mother through her cancer battle. But my own medical story would be written in private as Cancer became an intense introduction to a deeper intimacy with my Creator than I’ve ever known.

When persons I expected to walk closely with me through the valley instead walked away, the pain was too crushing to write about. In retrospect, I understand how even their actions proved instrumental in turning my eyes and heart to Jesus. This was our journey. He wanted my full attention. And He got it.

Please don’t get me wrong. Journaling, blogging, speaking publicly are reasonable outlets for processing grief and suffering. I hold tremendous respect for those who invite the public into their pain. Their vulnerability speaks to their courage and often serves as a source of encouragement.  I personally benefited from such vulnerability over the past 30 months, especially when most tempted to feel sorry for myself in my cancer battle. Comfort seeped through cracks in my heart each time I read Biblical encouragement poured out from a soul-shattered friend as brain cancer ravaged her young child. More comfort blanketed me as another dear friend boldly proclaimed God’s Goodness even through agony of grieving a son killed in Afghanistan. And in the thick of my battle, letters from my warrior Paratrooper son, serving our country from a Middle Eastern sandbox, pleaded with me to fight bravely in his absence. I’m profoundly grateful for fierce testimonies from individuals defiant in the face of enemy forces seeking to crush them, both figuratively and literally.

Even as God reintroduced me to total emotional and spiritual dependency on him, He often brought random humans for immediate physical support, including a friend I met years ago on the East Coast who flew out to spend a week in prayer over me. And multiple strangers. A single woman I barely knew came bearing casserole, cards and comfort. Neighbors shoveled snow from my driveway – ridiculously steep in our Colorado foothills. An elderly couple at a supermarket followed me through a checkout line, then loaded groceries into my car. (They said I looked pale and weak and God told them to help me.) A UPS driver discovered me in my car passed out from radiaton exhaustion and made sure I got home okay. Three unknown teenagers helped me when I lost balance and fell in a parking lot. Coworkers brought food and hugs.  Former students made my home festive with Christmas decorations and music. So much “kindness of strangers”. And so Good Father. I embraced Comfort in unexpected ways that only our Heavenly Daddy could orchestrate. And orchestrate He did…through grueling months of treatment and into my recovery, He sent angels to minister to me in practical ways while family, friends, even clients and literally hundreds of people I’d never met in person bathed me in phone prayers and cards.

In January, the Lord gave me a word for 2019…COMFORT.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  II Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV

Indeed…as we share abundantly in the suffering of Christ, so also our comfort abounds. Now in Remission and restored to health again, I’m called to COMFORT others. What could be more fitting?

 

Three Years…and Counting

Mom & Pops  Three years have raced by since my precious mother and step dad, both widowed for over a decade, took another risk on committed love.  On August 20, 2011, they stood before God, family and friends to vow their lives and love to one another.  They spoke words some consider “old-fashioned”.  Words like “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.”

The only thing old-fashioned was that these two individuals meant every syllable of the vows they shared.  More than words repeated after a clergy’s utterance, Mom and Pops looked deep into the eyes of their beloved and with conviction blessed by God, they promised to be there for each other come what may.  Their articulated commitment was heartfelt, rich, and real.

Three years may not seem like much to younger folks.  But to anyone who is counting that’s 1093 sunsets shared side by side.  It’s 3279 meals prayed over together.  Three years is 26,232 hours lived in service to one another.  Endless chores carried out in humility, without grumbling.  Unnumbered “I love you”s and hugs.  Smiles and laughter spent holding hands during walks around the farm at dusk.  Holidays shared with hungry mobs from a large blended family and over 100 birthday cards signed together.  Three years means numerous trips to doctors as Mom continues her battle with bone cancer and Pops his bout with relentless back pain.  Three years of almost weekly shared goodbyes at funerals of life-long friends and loved ones.  Three years of countless prayers and tears over heartbreaks and suffering in our family.  Three years included naturally occurring frustrations when one must adjust to another imperfect human living under the same roof. Disagreements and disappointments, followed by grace and forgiveness because they realize three years is a gift that unfolded one day at a time and tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Much courage is required of people who love.  Karen and Dick Rodriguez are two of the most courageous people I know. Choosing late in life to risk loving so unselfishly and sacrificially, they are my heroes.  They honor their vows every day for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer.  In sickness and in health, they love and cherish.  In doing so they honor the family they love so dearly.  More importantly, they honor the God who brought them together to form this beautiful union.

Happy Three Year Anniversary, Mom and Pops, with much love from your kids and grand kids!