Monthly Archives: August 2012

living life forward . . .

I recognize this girl. Perhaps you do as well.

Every now and again, she shows up on the front curb of my heart, marks off her thirty-six inches of personal space, and refuses to budge from her spot . . . not even for the garbage truck. She’ll risk a little stink in order to stay there . . . stay stuck. There’s something about the sidelines that appeal to her. It’s safer on the curb, less risk and less trouble. Life is hard, cruel at times, knocking her out of the game and keeping her mired in the pain.

Life on hold instead of life lived forward. This is how the hurt never heals.

She doesn’t see it that way; she can’t, because she’s yet to take the first step in a new direction. No one blames her. They’ve stood by and watched the world take out its frustration on her body, mind, and soul. Heartache has numbed her desire, crushed her spirit, and pressed her to the curb. What used to be no longer is, a realization clearly seen and deeply felt there, along the sidelines, while the world journeys on without her. She grieves for yesterday, for what might have been had that soul-eating “something” not arrived to rob her of her progress. And so she stops moving forward, at least for today, and tells herself that tomorrow she’ll get in the game; tomorrow she’ll do the hard work of soul-survivorship.

Life on hold instead of life lived forward. This is how the hurt never heals. This is how the hurt never even has the opportunity to heal. A life resigned to the sidelines is a life resigned to less—to an existence shackled to pain rather than an existence shaped by its prod.

Yes, I recognize this girl—her tears, her frustration, her resignation, and her fears. Maybe you recognize her as well. Maybe she is you. Maybe you’ve been wounded by life . . . by a game-changing punch to the gut that has mocked your strength, rocked your faith, and kicked you to the curb. Life’s been cruel, leaving you with scars that continue to throb their witness. You carry around in your flesh a tumor or two, a soul-eating something that continues to devour your health at a rapid rate. You don’t identify it as a cancer—a disease that occurs when abnormal body cells replicate uncontrollably, thereby replacing the healthy ones. Still and yet, a hidden malignancy exists, and left untreated, it threatens to hold you captive to the one person you thought you’d never be—

A boy, a girl, . . . a man, a woman resigned to the curb—life on hold instead of life lived forward. A life where the hurt never heals.

God wants more for you, for you to live forward with hope and with movement. He hasn’t created you for life on the sidelines, despite the many sorrows and sufferings that have, understandably, pushed you to the curb for a season. Instead, he invites you, even as he has invited me, to take hold of his hand and to find your place on the road of faith—the journey of trust that leads you onward toward wholeness.

This is why I wrote Beyond Cancer’s Scars, an invitation for the wounded—those who suffer from all manner of ills and aches and soul-eating “somethings”—to step courageously away from the curb and to enter the fray to lay claim to a stronger spirit in Jesus Christ.

Life lived forward instead of life on hold. This is how our hurt begins to heal. One beautiful, courageous, and intentional step at a time. If you are someone who is living life on hold, then I invite you to take hold of my hand and, together, we will take hold of the heart and hands of Jesus Christ and start living forward. Time to get in the game, friends. Life is so much better with you in it. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

“Beyond Cancer’s Scars: Laying Claim to a Stronger Spirit” . . . Book Release

And so it arrives . . . this moment I’ve been anticipating for over a year now. The day when I can release to you to the words God gave to me over the course of forty days last summer. It’s my cancer story, wrapped up in words and memories that express both joy and sorrow, hope deferred and hope realized. Funny thing . . . I still feel these words. They’re still fresh, still speaking strength to my soul. I pray they’ll speak strength to your soul as well.

It seems fitting that Beyond Cancer’s Scars: Laying Claim to a Stronger Spirit releases this week. Today, August 23rd, marks the two year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. Two years ago, I couldn’t see today—a future moment when the suffering I was about to absorb would bloom as a witness to the sustaining strength and faithfulness of God. Two years ago, all I could do was feel the pain, suffer the losses, and hold tightly to the faith that had so beautifully followed me all the days of my life.

That faith and God’s grace have carried me forward to this moment—a day when he turns the tables on my previous suffering by using it for his kingdom purposes. This is my prayer . . . that my story might serve as a soothing balm to your suffering season. That you would feel less alone in your struggle and that you, like me, would allow God to use your pain to shape the souls of the generation that sits beneath your influence.

Your story in God’s hands advances his kingdom. Write it, speak it, feel it, and, most importantly, live your story forward. The best is yet to be! With Jesus, the best is always yet to be.

Would you please help me spread the word about my book? Here are some ways you can help:

  • Share this post and the book trailer with your friends via e-mail, facebook, twitter, blog, and other social media pages.
  • Purchase a copy of the book for your pastor to serve as a resource for those in his/her congregation who are dealing with cancer.
  • Purchase a copy of the book for a family member, co-worker, neighbor, or friend who is struggling with cancer or another soul-eating “something”.
  • Consider starting a support group for cancer patients/family members/others who are suffering (a free, downloadable facilitator’s guide is available by clicking on the following link: Download Facilitator’s Guide for Beyond Cancer’s Scars).
  • Ask your local bookstores to carry my book.
  • Share my speaking information page with your church staff and others who are looking for a special event speaker.
  • Write a review of Beyond Cancer’s Scars for online retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.)

To listen to a radio interview about the book, click here.


Ordering information:


This first version of Beyond Cancer’s Scars is no longer available for purchase online. The updated version, Beyond the Scars, can be found by following this link.

Lessons from the Lunchroom {on doing the right thing}


“Hey, Lunch Lady, can I have another slice of pizza?”


So said my son last Friday around noon. It’s only in hindsight that I can laugh about it. In the moment, my emotions were otherwise occupied with thoughts of escape, retreat, and getting out of Dodge while there was still some gas left in my tank. Being his lunch lady is just one of the many new labels I’m wearing around my house. Teacher, principal, janitor, and bathroom monitor are a few others. Yes, we’re homeschooling this year . . . a 6th grader and a 5th grader.


It’s hard, but it’s right.


How do I know? I just know. I knew it the moment we began. It took us a long time to arrive at this decision, but after a few years of educational frustration, it was time to make a change. Sometimes you just know when a change is needed. Sometimes you take a large leap away from what’s reasonable . . . what’s comfortable because of that knowing.


It’s good to have that kind of information stored away as an anchor—the assurance that the hard decision is the right decision. I’ve not always had that certainty when it comes to making decisions. Sometimes it’s a 51/49 process. Fifty-one percent says “yes”; forty-nine a “no.” Sometimes I just have to go with that extra two percent, believing that God goes with me and will make up the difference. I’m glad that’s not the case here.


God has this year in his hands. His reach is generous. It’s going to be hard, but it’s already very, very right.


Right isn’t always easily defined. But as we stick close to Jesus . . . lean in to him, rely on him, expect from him . . . he is faithful to provide us with an ample supply of strength, courage, and direction for the path we’re traveling. With such grace, we’ll find that what is right is also good, even when it feels so very hard.


Being a lunch lady will bring many changes to my life, of this I am certain. I don’t know the ebb and flow of it all just yet. I do know it’s requiring far more of me than I anticipated on the front side of my decision. I’m having to let go of a few good things in order take hold of this better one.


But I’m ready to try, and really, in the end, isn’t this most of the struggle—garnering enough personal willingness to try and do the hard thing? To just step on, step forward, and walk the line of what’s right? Those steps might be fraught with difficulty, hardship at a whole new level, and surrender at the deepest of levels, but when they’re the right steps, the struggle will be worth the gain.


This I believe to be true. This is how I will live my year as lunch lady, with struggle and with faith. And most wonderfully, with two young hearts who first called to me from their cribs and who, now, call to me from the lunchroom. This is going to be a wild ride, friends! Thanks for coming along with us. As always . . .


Peace for the journey,

choosing when to walk . . .


I’m growing weary of it. Not of its existence; rain is needful. It cleanses the earth, grows the seed, and cools the summer scorch. No, I’m not knocking the benefits and beauty of the rain. I am, however, a bit disgruntled by its timing.

Let me explain.

I’m an evening walker. I used to walk in the mornings, started my day off fresh with a hearty three or four mile jog in the brilliance of the sun’s light. Somewhere along the way, things changed. Life changed. My jogs turned into walks, my schedule obliterated by the urgent and necessary. My schedule, these days, not so necessary, less urgent than my previous one, yet new habits have taken over where old ones once reigned. And so, I now walk in the evenings. There’s nothing profound or deep buried in this reality. It’s just how it is.

For the last several weeks, the rain has accompanied me on my walks. I may start out dry with blue skies and a smattering of gray-bottomed, cloudy pillows as my companions, but I usually return to the house with a few drops of heavenly dispensation on my clothing. In all my years of living on the East Coast, I’ve never experienced such predictability. And so tonight (with my son’s promised forecast for sunny skies and lower temps), I began my customary stroll around the neighborhood. This time I took my umbrella . . . just in case. Good thing. My “just in case” rolled in about the time my feet rounded the corner on Fordham Drive.

Buckets of rain, absorbing through my cheap umbrella, making sure I knew it meant business. I wasn’t going to escape the wetness. Instead, I was forced to endure it . . . again, all the while praying that anyone in my household might look out the blinds to notice my predicament and run to my rescue. They didn’t. Instead, they stayed dry in the comfort of our home while I willfully pushed through puddles and streams and soggy socks, all the while hating the rain and wondering why it seems to prefer my walking hour rather than the other twenty-three that fill up a day.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m thinking about it too. Why not change the time of your walk, Elaine? Why risk the rain at night, when the morning promises more dryness? Why not the certainty of the day rather than this new predictability of the evening?

Why, indeed?

I don’t have a good answer for you. I won’t even tell you that “into every life a little rain must fall.” You get it. You know about the rainy season—those times when we cannot choose the climate surrounding our hearts and we must press through the rain because there’s no other option. That’s not what I’m talking about here. What I am wondering about are those times when you and I have a choice . . . to walk in the rain or to walk in the sunshine. What about those times in our lives when we stubbornly choose the rain over the sunshine? When we refuse a change of habit and heart and cling tightly to our way over a better way? Why walk with the clouds when the sun is available?

I’ve had a lot of rainy days as of late; I cannot predict all of the clouds that will move in and out of my life, nor the precipitation they’ll bring with them. I can, however, predict a few of them—those evening showers. Accordingly, I can make a choice to avoid them . . . to move my walking to daytime hours. In doing so, I’ll avoid some wetness, some heartache as well.

I don’t always have to get wet. You don’t either. Sometimes we get to choose when we walk. Sometimes we have an option . . .

The sunshine or the rain.

Seems to me a better choice to enjoy the sun while it is shining brightly overhead rather than to be caught in the rain with regret. And therein lies a thought or two worth considering. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

My friend, Melanie Dorsey, has also written about “choosing” today. Join her in worship by clicking here.

vintage faith

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’” –Jeremiah 6:16


In searching through the old, I find something new. And so I went there yesterday . . . to the Cotton Exchange and Livery in downtown Fayetteville in search of my new.


I love old things, vintage items that date me by a few years. Linens, glassware, trunks, and clothing. Standing amongst them, I travel through time, taking a step backward, a step inward to feel what it must have been like to first wear that shawl, hold that hankie, or cook with that iron skillet. Immersed in all things vintage, I pay respect to the generation that first embraced the newness of these treasures. Used and preserved over the years, they’ve outlived the people they first served. They now serve as a witness to the lives lived before me. What stories they tell me . . . mostly imagined, yet relevant for me in the search for my new!

The story that comes before me is the anchor that writes the story now in me and the story that will follow after me. I need to visit the old, to rediscover my roots so that I might move ahead with understanding. So that I might find rest for my soul.

As it goes with my search for all things vintage, so it goes with my faith. To move forward requires a pause at the crossroads, a deeper immersion in the culture and times of my spiritual ancestors. Being with them in their history via the lens of Scripture is like finding a compass for the road ahead. Living with their old brings new perspective into my right now. Antiquity isn’t wasted when it comes to faith. Antiquity enhances faith. That which once was still is. Faith lives on, above extinction.


And so I go in search for the old, because that which is new is not always that which is best for my soul. Old things, ancient treasures, and a faith that lives in antiquity, this is where newness of heart and life can be found. With Abel and Enoch. Noah and Abraham. Isaac and Jacob. Moses and David. Gideon. Rahab. Samuel and Daniel. Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the prophets of old. John the Revelator and John the Baptizer. Peter. Paul. Mary and Martha. Stephen. Timothy. Elizabeth and Zechariah. Sarah. Ruth. Esther. And Jesus . . . always Jesus.

Yes, this is where I will stand, in the middle of their stories and then some. In doing so, I find my anchor and my rest. And that which is very old becomes new breath to my aging flesh. I breathe in the smell of an ancient faith, and I am revived.


The story that comes before me is the anchor that writes the story now in me and the story that will follow after me. Faith lives on, and by God’s grace, it lives on in me. Perhaps there will be day in the years to come when a future generation will take hold of something I have said or something I have done, that will thread them back to the heart of Jesus. I cannot imagine what that would be, but today I’m challenged to believe that there really could be . . .


A faith in me that survives extinction. A faith that serves the kingdom long after I’ve made the journey home to Canaan. Who will wear this shawl of faith that now cradles my shoulders? Who will see it as treasure, pay the asking price, and preserve it forward?


Old to new. New to old. The cycle of faith that never dies. Only lives.

Find yourself there, and find rest for your souls. I’ll meet you at the crossroads. As always . . .


Peace for the journey,


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