Monthly Archives: December 2010

Chemo #7 {a forward moving faith}

Chemo #7 {a forward moving faith}

Guess who stopped by the chemo lounge today? A necessary piece of the puzzle named “chemotherapy”… I thought it important they come. They certainly were a hit with the other patients in my area.
My video is longer today; my words many, therefore, I’ll not write much here. Thank you for your prayers and for walking this long road with me. We’re not home yet, but we’re getting closer with every passing moment. These are good days to be God’s kingdom warriors. Keep to it.

Peace for the journey,
Merry Christmas {from afar}

Merry Christmas {from afar}

Merry Christmas, friends! Below you will find our annual Christmas letter; a few of you may have received one in the mail, but I wanted the rest of you to have it as well. I hadn’t planned on writing one this year; life got busy and crazy all in one breath, and I was using this reality as my excuse for not having to write one. But then while out walking a couple of weeks ago, God impressed one phrase upon my heart, “from afar.” I had no idea where it would take me when I returned home to put pen to paper, but the following message was the melody of my heart that afternoon. I release it to you today, believing that someone out there might need the witness of these words. Now, off to spend time with extended family and to enjoy the blessings of day. Shalom! (PS: Thanks to Shirley for painting this beautiful landscape for my Christmas cards this year.)
                                                                                                               Christmas 2010
From afar.
How tenderly that moment must have unwrapped for the Father as he sat with his Son in contemplation of what was to come. The waters were covered in darkness, teeming with possibility and promise and waiting in anticipation of the spoken word from the Word that would bring forth everything from seemingly nothing. There they hovered together, imagined and created together and thought about all of the ways that events could unfold, would unfold. And in those moments, a single moment came into focus for them. Not the Bethlehem one; the Calvary one.
From afar.
Calvary seemed a long time in coming in those pre-dawn hours before creation; perhaps thousands even millions of years removed from the artistic pulse that stirred within them. Still and yet, as it arrived on the palette of creation’s landscape, it paused their thoughts. Perhaps even pained their hearts, because they understood just exactly how much that moment would cost them both. How much it would break a mother’s heart. A disciple’s heart. A people’s heart. Their hearts. Even still, they pressed forward.
From afar.
And years later when Bethlehem dawned, the angels rejoiced. A mother cradled her gift and cherished the responsibility entrusted to her to love him beyond limits and to raise him in the fear and admonition of Almighty God. Surely there has never been a more sacred birth in history. Love was full and sweet and beautifully captured in that moment… suspended in time for all the world to witness and to remember. And as the earth applauded and all of heaven chorused its approval, a Father watched.
From afar.
But perfect joy was filled with perfect truth. And perfect truth was filled with perfect knowledge. And perfect knowledge dug deeply into the perfect contemplations of the Father, and he held something in his perfect heart that separated him from the perfect joy of the moment—the perfect pain of what was soon to come. Suddenly, that creation moment from so long ago no longer seemed so long ago. And Calvary? Well, just around the corner for the Father and his Son, and I wonder, did they cry…
from afar?
Fathers and mothers get to cry over their children; tears of joy and tears of sadness are allotted to those  of us who carry our sons and daughters as extensions of our flesh. We celebrate the good news of a child’s impending arrival, chronicle it with all the joy and laughter of heaven, only to realize all too soon, that with life comes pain. Not just for us, but for our children as well. And we wonder how it will all turn out in the days yet unseen, the moments yet unlived.
From afar.
Forty-five years ago, a mother carried the promise of new life in her womb. And she, along with her husband, celebrated the gift and cherished the responsibility entrusted to them to love this baby beyond limits and to raise this baby in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Nine months later, Easter arrived, as did their daughter. And love was full and sweet and beautifully captured in that moment, suspended in time… at least for them. And a Father watched.
From afar.
But perfect joy was filled with perfect truth. And perfect truth was filled with perfect knowledge. And perfect knowledge cut through to the heart of the Father because he knew something that these parents didn’t know in those perfect first moments of her beginning. He knew what was to come… about her now, and still he let the moment press forward.
From afar.
How thankful I am that he did… that he let my life breathe into existence and allowed me my tenure upon this earth. How glad I am that he didn’t keep me from it… that he didn’t think it would be too painful for us all, too difficult a road for us to walk. That he graciously allowed me years’ worth of accumulated moments that have birthed into my now. That he didn’t stop the plan, even though he knew the plan would unfold painfully at times. That he deliberately entrusted my care to the life of my parents and then to my husband. That despite all the ways I’ve neglected his perfect truth over the years, he still made a way for me to hold onto truth.
From afar.
From a beginning moment in time when he and his Son didn’t stop the plan, even though the plan would unfold painfully for them in a season to come. For with the Father’s release of his Son to that plan… to a cross… he better enabled me to carry mine. Not nearly as heavy as his Son’s, but heavy enough to cause me to look for perfect comfort from his Son. And I have found it… full and sweet and beautifully enough to see me through this season, regardless of the terrain… regardless of how long or how short the road home to him stretches.
From afar, God watches over me, and from very close by, he walks in perfect stride with me. And Bethlehem is my portion. My advent. My moment by the manger, when I behold afresh Emmanuel… God with me. May it be so for each one of you this Christmas. As always…
Peace for the journey,


Sometimes a heart gets so filled to overflow, it’s hard to know what to do with it all. I’ve had that problem all afternoon; not a bad problem to have. Better to be filled than be depleted.
Let me explain.
I began my morning at the cancer center, not for treatment but for a massage. In addition, I talked to my doctor about the persistent tingling in my fingers, especially my right thumb which has now developed blood blisters. As I’ve mentioned before, chemotherapy is not without side-effects. After my consultation, I was on my way out of the center when I noticed her—a sister cancer patient I’ve sat next to on a few occasions. I hadn’t seen her in a while. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments have taken their toll on this precious woman. The physical effects on her fragile frame took me by surprise. I had to stifle my shock.
Alongside her sat her husband. The effects of his wife’s chemo was also evident in his stoutly frame. Tears welled up in his eyes as I knelt next to his wife with words of comfort. He tried not to display his pain, but something released in him in those few moments, and I was undone with the suffering. It was palpable. Tenderly, I expressed to him my acknowledgment for the hard work he was doing alongside his wife and thanked him for his perseverance. I looked them both squarely in the eyes and said, “You can do this; by God’s grace you can do this.” I hugged them both, wished them a “Merry Christmas” and made my way out to my van.
I choked on my tears while driving home. Cancer has multiple victims; not just the ones who are carrying it in their flesh. Caregivers suffer as well, sometimes at a deeper, less communicable level. Their outlets for pain are limited, but it is, nonetheless, very real and tender and true. Sometimes they deserve a closer look from those who sit on the outside of the inner, cancer circle. Sometimes they need our knees, our hugs, our prayers, our compassion… every bit as much as the patient does. They need to know that they are not alone as they walk this road of companionship with their loved one.
I know this one, because I’ve witnessed the need in my own companion… my husband for the journey. Some of you know him as Preacher Billy. Some of you call him friend. Some of you simply realize that there has to be a better half to my household, and in this season, I’m willing to concede the honor to him! I don’t know what I did to deserve such a man like mine, but I believe it has everything to do with grace and God and his Son’s death to self so that I might fully participate in the divine nature. Tonight, I stand amazed at the beauty of such a gift; not just for me but for all of us who know the unmerited, unconditional love of another.
Maybe not through a spouse, but through a child. A friend. A parent. A relative. A neighbor. A co-worker. Regardless of their connection to you, you have known their love in lavish measure as they have cared for you, some days in spite of you. You’ve never had to ask for their love. It simply arrived on time, in time, and filled with enough time to service your needs.
On paper, such love doesn’t compute. Selfless loving makes little sense to a world’s mentality that says “What’s in it for me?” Never once does unconditional love focus on self; instead, this kind of love puts others ahead of self, content to bring up the rear with little fanfare or notice. Caregivers often fall into this role, believing that their come-alongside participation was a role they were destined to play, without condition.
I imagine all of us could think of someone who fits this role in our own lives. If not for us, then for someone we love. This is a good time of year to remember them; to stop in our tracks long enough to kneel down before them and ask a few questions. Wipe a few tears. Offer some encouragement. Acknowledge some of the pain. It’s such a seemingly little thing to do—pausing to notice suffering. But for the one on the receiving end of your concern, it means a great deal. In many ways, your acknowledgment validates their courageous decision to participate in a loved one’s pain.
I don’t know what my kneeling accomplished today; it does, indeed, seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of my friend’s pain. But I know what it means to me to have my suffering acknowledged. And I’ve watched my husband benefit from the same consideration. It means everything to us, and I don’t want to go through the rest of my days skirting around the issue of human pain. I want to be invested accordingly, as the Lord determines in the days to come.
I want to be a kneeler. I want holes in my jeans and dirt on my knees because of my willingness to bend and to bow and to say, “You can do this; by God’s grace you can do this.” Sometimes it’s the best gift we can give to one another.
Our knees, followed by God’s word of grace.
Would you bow on behalf of another today? Would you be willing to notice the pain of those who are suffering in the flesh and those caregivers who most closely suffer with them? Perhaps God is prompting your heart in this very moment to move into action. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Do it now, and tell them, even as you remind yourself…
“You can do this; by God’s grace you can do this.”
You can do this, my friends, and because of God’s grace to you, the suffering souls of this world have now become your charge and keep. They need your love. Kneel now; kneel often. Kneel low, and kneel always in the strong and mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ. You give to the King when you kneel to his grace. As always…
Peace for the journey,

planning for more… content with less

Last Friday, I loaded up on my pain meds and had my mother taxi me to the local Michael’s craft store. Sunday morning loomed on the horizon, and I needed a few Christmas activities to keep young hearts and hands engaged. I took my time, making sure to pick out things I would like to do, knowing that my enthusiasm as the children’s Sunday school teacher would translate over to them. Over the next twenty-four hours, I read my lesson, made notes, and photocopied the corresponding papers to go along with the day’s activities. I even purchased McDonald’s gift cards for each one of them and stuffed them inside cute little stockings from the Dollar Tree. Sunday’s lesson was well-prepared, thought out, and greatly anticipated by my teacher’s heart. I just knew it would be a hit with everyone.

Sunday arrived, and I suppose it was a hit with the two kids that showed up. My two kids, per usual. Occasionally, another child will trickle into our midst to bolster our numbers, but not yesterday morning. It was just me, my kids, and Preacher Billy (a.k.a. their dad) working on cute crafts, eating delicious snacks, and hearing, once again, the story about the good news given to some unsuspecting shepherds on a night some 2000 years ago. And while my heart hungered for more kids to come and be a part of my plans, I wasn’t surprised by the turnout. I’ve come to expect it since our ministry move here this past June.

We (I say “we” because ministry life is so much more than my husband’s paid position) pastor a small congregation on one of the busiest streets in Fayetteville, NC. Our facility is dated, but it is large and could easily hold 400 people on a Sunday morning. Mostly, we average around 75. We came here in sort of a missional capacity—to revamp and revitalize this church with a fresh witness of God’s Spirit. Over the next few years we’ve been charged with the church’s growing and its re-establishing itself as a self-supporting, vibrant house of worship.

I suppose we thought that growth would be automatic. After all, it was clear to both of us that this was the place of God’s choosing for our next. On the front side of our arrival here, the challenge intrigued us, and we were ramped up for watching our God work a miracle in and through this little church. We’re still waiting for that big miracle—one that says on paper and with numbers that God, through us, has accomplished huge growth for the kingdom. In small ways, we’ve seen some growth. Not so much in numbers, but in the interior work of our collective hearts. We’re getting to know our new people, and they are getting to know us. It takes time to grow a church, and it takes the right motivation—love for God and love for his people.

And we certainly do love… love God and his people. But despite our loving, growth has been minimal. Thus, we wait for the movement of God, realizing that in our own strength, we can do nothing. We hope. We pray. We move forward, planning for a crowd, but being content with less. Sometimes with a less that includes only two kids who look a whole lot like my own. Who’ve heard the story of the shepherds a hundred times over. Two who are used to seeing me as their mom throughout the week and would, more than likely, desire to see someone else take the lead on Sunday mornings. Two who are still willing to humor me when it comes to my teaching style and to “craft” alongside me, even though they would prefer the company of their peers. Two who are stuck with me and their father, regardless of the ministry twists and turns that lie ahead for all of us.

Ministry life is hard at times, especially when it seems all you’ve got is the two. I know many of you attend large churches with tons of programming, a rockin’ band, and a collection plate filled to overflow. Some of your churches have two or three services, a large amount of volunteers to equip your programming, and a plethora of Sunday schools/Bible studies from which to choose. It’s not about if you have anywhere to plug into at your church, but rather, which outlet to choose. I understand. I’ve lived that life previously. But now I’m here, with my husband and with the two and with the few others who come together on Sunday mornings for worship at Christ UMC, and there are times when I wonder about it all. And I hope that it’s enough, that we’re enough. That the simple acts of obedience we follow through with on a daily basis will some day make their marks on our congregation… on our city.

But that’s an “unfolding” for another season. I’ll have to wait for those answers and that revelation, and mostly I’m OK with the waiting because I understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that God’s kingdom isn’t built solely through big churches and big programming. Rather, I believe that the kingdom of God is most solidly built one brick at a time. One hug at a time. One prayer at a time. One kind gesture at a time. One dollar at a time. One well-planned Sunday school lesson at a time, if only boasting the audience of the two.

The two serve as the why behind my mid-week planning for Sunday services. They are the reason behind my Friday trips to a craft store. They are the rich soil for the ministry of my heart in this season, and while I might not always feel like I’m enough for them, they are always enough for me. Accordingly, I’ll keep to it, even as I commission you to always do the same. I’ll keep planning for the crowd, expecting the crowd, but never feeling unsatisfied by the two. For with the two, a world can change.

In fact, I think my Sunday morning lesson with my two wasn’t so far off from that Bethlehem lesson for the shepherds all those years ago. We don’t know how many of them showed up at the manger (whether two or four or an entire passel of sheep-tenders), but we do know that they left that moment “spreading the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”

Indeed, a small beginning—a tiny gathering of recipients—for the greatest revelation known to mankind. I don’t imagine that God ever wondered if it was enough. Instead, he was content for truth to fall into the hearts of a few, knowing that in seasons to come, truth would expand its witness throughout the ages to include the hearts this generation. Our hearts. Yours and mine. Christ kept to his plan; he keeps to it this day… one brick at a time until the kingdom is fully built. I’m so glad that he didn’t get hung up on numbers back then but that, instead, he got hung up on a tree… for me, for you. His ministry may have been collective in scope but it remains personal in priority and nature to each one of us.

May we always be found willing to follow his lead by reconciling our ministries and our hearts to the one or two who show up for the receiving. In the end, we will probably be surprised by the far-reaching effects of our simple acts of obedience therein. Keep to it, sweet friends, keep planning for God’s more in the midst of your seemingly less. He is faithful to complete that which he began in you. And while you might not always be aware of what your single, simple faith is yielding in others, he is. And for that you will be richly rewarded. Have a blessed walk to Bethlehem this week, and as always…

Peace for the journey,

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chemo #6 {creating "interest" for the kingdom}

Thank you for stopping by today and for all of your prayers. It’s been a rough two weeks; the new drug, Taxol, has worked differently on my body from the first two drugs, Cytoxan and Adriamycin. In short, it has greatly affected my energy level (in conjunction with the cumulative effect of several chemos) and from the waist down, my body has experienced incredible, deep pain. Walking has been very difficult for me at times. Thank God for pain meds and for a husband who is willing to carry the heavy load of household chores and child management.

I am forever grateful for the energy I need to help my kids with their homework every night and to get the Christmas shopping, decorating, and card writing organized. Even though its been a struggle of my will at times, I’ve never experienced a more meaningful, peaceful Christmas. As it should be.

Below you will find my thoughts from today, in addition to a challenge to each one of you. I pray you take the time to watch it. I’m certain I’ll give you most of the week, as I won’t be posting for a few days. I have some wonderful thoughts that continue to brew in my underneath; one in particular about “chasing fires.” So bear with me, it’s coming. Blessed week to you all. As you walk it through, be mindful of the wonderful gift you’ve been given in Jesus Christ. He and his Truth are a sacred trust that we must endeavor to seed into the soil of our everyday lives.

Keep to it; I love you each one.

Peace for the journey,
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