Monthly Archives: September 2010



Today, I write to you from a point of sheer determination and will, not from my feelings. If I were operating from my feelings, I’d leave the pen where it resides and forget about yesterday’s prompting in my spirit. Yesterday it would have been easier to write my faith; today a bit more strained. Why? Because today I am weak in body, and a compromised immune system doesn’t always cooperate with faith’s expression.
No matter. I keep to it, because my name is Faith Elaine, and faith doesn’t shrink back in the face of difficulty. Faith forges onward. Faith presses through. Faith lives even when faith is challenged. Faith speaks even when the taunts of the enemy seek to keep her silent. Thus, a word or two from my heart this morning—a thought, really, that has been marinating in my soul over these past couple of months since I first received my diagnosis on August 23rd.
Cancer gives back.
An odd thought really, maybe even an offensive one to some, especially for those of you who are currently carrying a tremendous grief because of the price that cancer has exacted on your hearts. If that is you, then I want you to know that I write this with tenderness and from my own personal perspective—my own way of choosing to live with my diagnosis, come what may.
Cancer is an ugly beast; so is any disease that has “entered” into our flesh in order to eat away at what is good in hopes of replacing it with everything bad. Cancer is a formidable foe, one that must be taken seriously and contended with ferociously. Believe me when I tell you that I have my boots strapped on and my weapons at the ready for the next battle that looms on the horizon. That being said, I’ve also made a choice to embrace the fullness of that battle. To receive its merits, along with its costs.
Every battle has its merits, for with the struggle comes further clarity about who we are, what we’re made of; Whose we are, what He’s made of. When called to battle, we are called to more than weaponry and strategy. We are called to completion—a though and through kind of process that allows us our sacred shaping and molding at every point along the way. Knowing this, and in the spirit of James 1:2-4, I made a deliberate decision on that first day of hearing my diagnosis:
I will look for the blessings of my cancer. Thus far, what cancer has given back to me has far exceeded what it has taken from me. What is has taken from me is a pound or two from my flesh… literally.
So what.
From the moment I made entry into this world, I began my exit therein. My life is a mere vapor, and I’m currently living on borrowed time—God’s time. So are you. This doesn’t mean we get wrapped up in the morbidity of it all; it simply means that we concede our life journeys to the time table of the One who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs, who steps the road with us along the way and as we go, and who will walk us home in due time.
Our steps belong to our Father, and if my cancer is going to be of any benefit to me on this odyssey of faith that I’m traveling, then I must be willing to receive its merits as well as its detractors. I will not stay hung up in the pain. Instead, I make a deliberate choice to be suspended in the promise of what it can do for me instead of what it longs to take from me.
One of the richest ways my cancer has given back to me is being the recipient of sacred intercession—the earnest and fervent prayers of the saints. Unless you’ve stood on the receiving end of such a gift, it’s hard to explain. I will tell you this… the daily peace I know and feel in my heart has a direct connection to the prayers that are being offered on my behalf. They have been genuine, heartfelt, spoken, and heard by God. And while I don’t know all of the stories surrounding those prayer moments, I do know the details of one. My father tells it best, so I leave you with his remembrance of a recent visit to small church in Estonia:
Over the past fifteen years, Jane and I have made eight visits to Estonia. Those incredible people have always made me feel ‘at home’ among them. In many ways, our faith-journey has intertwined itself with those wonderful people in spiritually formative ways. It happened again this past Monday.
One of my former students there, Viktor Batov, pastor at Aseri, invited us to worship with his congregation on Monday, at 2 p.m. It was the only time we could ‘work it in’ the schedule. It was cold and rainy, but the small church was about half-filled. When we arrived we could hear them singing. And I knew I was home.
There were twelve worshipers there! Twelve disciples, you might say. When I was introduced, I brought greetings to them, and then asked Jane if she would like to speak. She looked at those elderly Russian ladies and remembered how our daughter, Elaine, had mentioned her ministry with the ‘ancients’ (the older women at her church). Jane saw another congregation of ancients, and simply asked them to pray for our daughter, Elaine, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
She no sooner mentioned that, when the pastor asked, “Chuck, your daughter?” I nodded and he immediately began to weep. He stood up and said, “Let us pray right now.” There was no altar to kneel at, so Viktor and I knelt, prostrating ourselves on the floor, and the praying commenced, with everybody praying aloud in Russian. We could not understand a word, but we understood full-well what was happening! Upper Rooms are like that.
These ‘twelve disciples’ felt our pain, knowing that we were four thousand miles away from the one we love so much! Their hearts were ‘breaking’ on our behalf, as they carried our daughter to God’s healing mercy and grace. As I lay there on the floor, I don’t recall the words of my prayer. I was weeping, trying to pray, but all that I could muster was, “God, you are in charge. Only you can fix this.” And a peace that ‘passes all understanding’ came and confirmed that reality in my heart. God is in charge!
When the service ended, one of the ‘disciples’ came and gave Jane a slip of paper, torn out of her prayer journal, simply stating September 20 (the day of our service)…Thursdays at 2:30 (the time and day of week) she would be praying for Elaine. That nameless Russian believer was added to a host of names interceding for our daughter. It was like hearing, “We are all in this together, separated by thousands of miles, language, and culture; but all getting together at prayer time!” I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God!    {by Chuck Killian, my father}
Thank you, friends, for your continuing prayers. Tomorrow, I will have my port placement, and chemo will begin on Tuesday. Accordingly, I’m not sure how often I will be here to visit with you. My precious friend, Juanita, will be arriving just in time to walk me through the aftermath of my first round of treatment. I count it a joy to have friends both near and far who are willing to step this path with me. Take good care of your hearts in this season; keep praying for one another, and if I can be an intercessor for you, please let me know. As always…
Peace for the journey,

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on being a "Luke"…

on being a "Luke"…

{for Nancy, my “Luke” today}

“Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this word, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. … Only Luke is with me.” (2 Timothy 4:9-11).
The words from his pen haunt me now, even though nearly two thousand years have passed since they were first inked onto parchment.
Only Luke.
Two words that paint a vivid portrait of comfort and pain all in the same brushstroke. To have a Luke is a special gift. To have only one, especially in times of intense suffering, is a difficult abiding. Why? Because sometimes our pain needs more than one Luke. Sometimes our prisons and our shackles, our tumors and our tumult better benefit from corporate comfort rather than the solitary efforts of the one. Sometimes we need the beauty of a bouquet rather than the bloom of a single rose. Sometimes… our woundings cry out with more need, more desire, more desperation than can be aptly handled by a single saint.
Sometimes, my good friends, we need the church.
You have been the church for me over the past six weeks. To chronicle the fullness of what that has meant would take too long and would, more than likely, leave out a few important mentions. I don’t want to risk it. You mean too much to me. Safe to say, I’ve felt the corporate touch of heaven’s hands in manifold measure. As God has prompted you, you’ve been obedient to yield to those promptings. Calls, cards, gifts, food, face-to-face visits, prayers… the list is endless. Your love has come in waves, ebbs and flows and currents that allow me to pause in between the pulse to reflect, contemplate, and be thankful.
I wish I could open up my heart so that you could peer inward for a closer look at the work of the cross. If I could, I have no doubt that any reservations you might have had regarding the faithfulness of God would be put to rest once and for all. You’d see him there, spilling over every crevice and gully of my being and filling me up to over flow. You might even get wet in the process.
But I can’t… physically cut open my heart and let you see. Instead, I give you my word… my many words in hopes that you’ll believe me when I say…
I am better for having you in my life than if our paths should have never crossed.
You’ve expanded my understanding about grace and God and about what it means to be a fervent pilgrim on the road home to Jesus. You’ve watered my feet and my soul with your servant’s posture, and you’ve walked a mile or two or ten in my shoes just because you could. Not because you had to, but because Jesus lives in you, and it is your pleasure to do so. I don’t fully understand you willingness, but I receive it as yet another undeserving grace from a God who keeps on giving, despite my readiness to sometimes hoard the blessings therein.
So thank you… for being the church. And thank you for being a Luke when God called upon to be one. For walking alongside my cancer and for sitting ringside to my pain. For offering your gifts and for bringing your “little” to the table so that at the end of the day, any king would be proud to pull up and chair and partake of the gracious plenty. I don’t know why you love me so much, but I am your willing recipient for this season. I only pray that when your turn comes—when prison bars and pain find their way to your heart—I’ll be as gracious in my giving to you.
To being your Luke. Or your Nancy (above picture)—a faraway friend who willingly receives your spur of the moment visit in order to gift you a haircut. And some gel to make that free haircut cuter. And some barbeque from the freezer to feed your family for the week. And some hugs and tears and prayers just because we’re friends.
Me your Luke. You my Paul.
Me your Paul. You my Luke.
I imagine that each one of us can claim one position or the other—the posture of a prisoner or the posture of a servant. I don’t know where you’re at today, but I do know that our pain belongs to one another. It is a gift we give to each other—the sharing of our pain—for God never intended for us to go it alone in this world. He means for us to live as one beneath the watchful gaze of heaven. When we get that… when we really take hold of what it means to bend and to bow, to wash and to serve all because of the One who first gave us the blueprint on loving, then hell’s determined purpose is vanquished and victory belongs to the King.
Tomorrow is another day to live your kingdom conferment. Someone will cross your path that needs the love and commitment of a Luke. Be that Luke, friends. Continue being and doing what you’ve been and done for me over these past weeks. And should you be the one in need, never fear to ask for more. To pen your words of request to our Father and then to make sure that letter gets into the hands of the saints. If there’s one thing I’ve been privileged to witness in the course of my cancer it is the unmerited, lavish love of God through his people.
I never knew it to be so strong. I never knew it to be so long and wide, high and deep. It stretches across my soul this night, even throughout the world. Even to a remote church in Estonia, but that’s another post for next time. Until we arrive there, may the love and peace of Christ rule in your hearts, and may the outward expression of that seeding intersect with a heart in need of receiving its nourishment. As always…
Peace for the journey,

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therMOMmeter… {for Jadon}

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
My son got into a fight on the playground today.
Yep. That’s what I wrote. A fight. My almost ten-year-old, blonde haired, brown-eyed boy (who’s always been the tenderest in spirit of my four children) threw the first punch on the playground this afternoon, leaving his taunter, his teachers, and his parents in utter shock. Please understand… Jadon isn’t aggressive in nature; he is kind, gentle, and loves the life he’s been given, along with the people therein. He spent the entire last year at his former school being bullied by his classmates, refusing to tell anyone, let alone get physical with any of them (even after us giving him permission to do so).
So today’s news was a new twist in the story named Jadon. And while we are concerned with his aggressive behavior and in no way condone the physical harm of another individual, we cut him some slack. Why? Because of the reasoning behind his decision—
Apparently I was under attack during a game of “You’re momma is ____________.” You know the game—a series of taunts exchanged by young boys who are determined to get the upper hand where their genetics are concerned. I imagine we could all fill in the blank with some comedic responses, but to ten-year-old boys fighting for dominance on the playground, humor isn’t a priority. Control is. So, what did they say about me?
You’re momma is evil.
When Jadon heard that it was “game on.” I asked him to express to me his feelings in the moment that it happened. This was his response:
Momma, my therMOMmeter snapped. It was like all those memories of last year came back to me, and the cups were filling up, and when (culprit) found me on the playground and continued to talk about you, something in me snapped. I had to take him on. So I lunged at him.
His words; not mine. He didn’t mean to say therMOMmeter; again, it was a Jadon-ism at its best—him trying to find the right word but missing the mark by a slight margin. We all knew what he meant. Even more so, we all knew what was going on underneath the surface of his tussle.
Jadon is angry about my cancer. A month beyond my diagnosis, he hasn’t shown much emotion other than extreme love for and care over me. He guards me and takes great pains to care for my every need… sometimes even before I make my needs known. That boy would walk over hot coals for me if it meant I could skip this cancer and just feel better. So when a taunter takes on my character with a word like “evil,” Jadon’s all in… come what may.
And I am glad for the defense; not that I need it. Trust me when I tell you that there have been lesser things said about me. I can handle it. But a little boy confused and concerned about his mother’s condition? I think him less able to walk away from the assassination of my character. Jadon just wants to make it better for me, and today (in his mind) he did. He took up for his mom… the dearest love of his life… his “Faith Elaine.”
And I ponder the sacred parallel. About Paul’s charge to Timothy to fight the good fight of faith. To defend the Gospel and truth of Jesus Christ… come what may. To take up shield and sword for the King and his Kingdom and to rightly and justly divide truth from lies. To protect, guard, and preserve the name and character of Jesus Christ because of familial, sacred bloodlines—our connection as children to the Father because of the cross of Calvary.
God doesn’t need our defense when the world calls him out and equates his deity with evil. He can handle the taunts of the playground. Heck, he made the playground! But in our defending him—his name and his character—we take up for our Father, the dearest love of our lives. We stand for faith and fight its cause regardless of the consequences that will, undoubtedly, arrive for us on the other end. When God’s integrity is called into question, our “therMOMmeter” should rise. And while we should always lace our responses with grace and mercy, we should most assuredly respond. To do nothing is to live less… is to say it’s OK to make fun of our Father.
Christian… where have you compromised your life of faith? When have you said nothing in defense of your King? When have the playground taunts been too frightening for you, thereby relegating your response to walking away rather than to entering the fray? Does God mean enough to you to take them on? To go all in and to fight to the finish?
Our God is worthy of the tussle with the playground bullies; not that we should seek them out, but rather that when they come calling with their taunts in tow, we are solidly prepared to enter the fray because our God is too important to us to let the lies slip by as truth.
Today I’ve cried over my son’s pain. I wish it didn’t have to be. That being said, I cannot remove it from him. I can only allow it its shaping in him. In this season, his maturing may be different from the other boys his age. He’s been asked to handle something huge in addition to multiplication, Bakugan, and the latest episode of Swamp People. His mother’s cancer has been added to his equation, and he (along with the rest of us) will be forever marked because of it.
Today, Jadon turned a corner. Where it will lead, I’m not sure. But of this I am certain. When he is old and grey and his mother is long gone on to glory, he’ll remember the day when his therMOMmeter rose in her defense, and he will be proud of his response.
I am proud as well, my son… young man of God. Always live your life in defense of your family, your faith, and most importantly, your King. He is worth fighting for. He has traveled long and deep and far and wide in defense of you. His cross tarries as your reminder. Never fear the outcome of your valiancy. The battle has been won on your behalf, and we will all share in the spoils of victory together around his throne. I count it a joy to have you at my side in this battle. Fight hard. Fight on. Fight through. Finish strong.
I love you.
Your mom,
Faith Elaine
PS: Comments are closed on this post; not because I don’t value your thoughts, but mostly because I feel so guilty by not being able to respond to them as I would like. It’s been extremely hard for me to manage my life and my blog visiting in this season. That being said, I’ll be around to see you as I can. If you’d like to be in touch with me, send me an e-mail via the “contact” link in my blog header! Blessed Sabbath rest to you and yours this weekend. Shalom.


This morning, I found myself wishing that I was anywhere else but there… in that sterile environment, awaiting my turn at the scan machine. The milky cocktail I was given to drink (at least a quart by my estimation) messed with my stomach, more so with my mind. The “IV”? Just another reminder to me that pricks and pokes and prods will be the order of the day for the season to come.
And it was cold. And I was shivering… even through the two layers of warm blankets kindly extended to me by the radiologist.
Tears found their way down my cheeks on several occasions, and when I went into the round doughnut to play “dead” for at least forty minutes, my arms were strapped to my side. I had to remind my radiologist of my recent double-mastectomy that currently limits my range of motion. Holding my arms in the normal posture (over my head) was out of the question, thus the large velcro binding that fastened them to my side. And while I know in my head that this is nothing compared to what is coming in just a few days, it all felt too much, too scary, too “out-of-the-way” for the path that I’m on.
And I wished that it was over. All of it. That, perhaps, I could skip this “layer” and let my heart “catch up with the last layer” before moving on. That what is would quickly morph into what was and that my life didn’t have to walk this particular bend in the road.
But then ten o’clock arrived. Needles were removed; warmth re-established; hunger abated by a cookie at the cancer lounge before my departure. And I was thankful for the finish, for completing this layer and for its finishing work in me. I’m not keen on repeating it, but something tells me it’s now woven into my story and should it require an encore somewhere down the road, it will hold less mystery and more normalcy for my pilgrim heart.
Thanks for your prayers. Thanks for allowing your heart to walk this layer with me. I want to leave you with a beautiful “gift” my Uncle Bill gave to me this week… another poem! Laura, I know you’re laughing out loud, because you know my penchant for poetry in general. But this one is special—written from a tenderness and depth of understanding that pulls at my pain while alleviating it… all in the same breath.
What layers are you living this day, my good, kind, and compassionate friends?
Live them with the end in mind. As always…
Peace for the journey,
Layers –
whether it’s a cake
or a life,
Time takes time
to do its thing,
Chapters, changes,
Sometimes they stack up
too fast, too high,
and when we try to peel them back
the new ones get in the way,
Lord, please hold the next one –
I would like to catch up
with the last one.
I’m lost in the
From a far,
the strata of my life is textured
with beautiful pain
that cries me to sleep
into a perfect dream,
a dream of
of colors that will not quit,
of sound and scent
that usher me toward the Holy
and helps me lean into the morning,
into the
of a new day
where awareness whispers
My gratitude is greater than my pain,
my attitude is whole, and I shall remain…
Elaine – now and forevermore –
layered with a joyous childhood,
enriched through study,
toughened by circumstance,
blessed with romance,
fulfilled by family,
and completed by faith –
yes, I am Faith Elaine Killian Woods Olsen,
and don’t you forget it!
In those five names,
there are enough
to carry me for a thousand years.
{written by Bill Killian, Sr.
a poem for Elaine Olsen, my niece
Sunday, September 19, 2010}

Deep Waters…

Courtesy of Susan Hood

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5). 

A couple of years ago, I attended a women’s conference where I had the privilege of meeting a few of my blogging friends. At that time, I was fairly new to blogging, so the depth of relationship with other bloggers remained somewhat superficial. (It takes time to build depth of relationship, does it not?) I’ll never forget a comment I received from Lelia after spending some time with her one evening.

“Elaine, I thought you would be this deep, philosophical, thinking kind of person, but you’re really normal and fun to be around.”

I immediately understood what she was saying, and after a hearty, belly laugh we went shopping… for underwear. Yes, it didn’t take long for me to dispel any myths regarding my ponderous estate, and I was glad for the disclosure. Why? Because I sometimes think it is easy for us to paint a picture with our words in our blog posts that misses the mark regarding who we are in our day-to-day, real life. I never want to be accused of “writing someone” that I’m not. Accordingly, I’ve tried to keep it real here at the blog, even as I try to keep it real in on the pavement of my everyday life.

Am I normal and fun to be around? Ask anyone who knows me. They’re the accurate judge on the matter. On the contrast, am I a deep, philosophical, thinking kind of gal? I’ll let the archives of my some 350 blog posts tell the story. I am a woman who loves to laugh and who loves to ponder. Laughter and thinking are compatible sojourners on this pilgrimage of grace. They balance one another… knowing when to defer center-stage status to the other and when to step in as a replacement. I don’t have to be one or the other. I can be both.

And just this morning, I came across the above verse from Proverbs which seems to grant me permission to keep pondering… keep thinking… keeping digging deeply into the recesses of my heart for the hidden mysteries that reside beneath. God mysteries. The ones that belonged to him first; the ones that belong to me now because of my status as his child.

“However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

I’ve got some “deep waters”, friends. So do you. You may think that you don’t… that somehow you’re just an average thinker with an average heart that doesn’t dip too far below the surface to mine the treasures of God—to contemplate his heart, his thoughts, and his perspective. Some of you feel ill-equipped for the task, perhaps even wrong for wanting to try. God is big… really big, and you feel comparably small. Digging below the surface to get to the heart of God may seem dangerous to you… even treacherous, almost as if to “go there” would be to cross some spiritual boundary or to break some religious law that wrongly states, “You can go this far with God and no more.”

God doesn’t put limits on what can be known about him. Certainly, in this season of our lives we see in part, live in part, know in part, walk in partial understanding. Fullness of understanding will come when we get home to Jesus, but until then, we have the freedom to dig.

Deeply dig.

To dip our buckets into the well of perfect understanding and to wait for God to fill them accordingly. We get to live deeply because we anchor our personal ships in some deep waters. When our lives were formed and fashioned in the secret place (Psalm 139), they were created in depth, with depth, to live depth. There was nothing shallow about that moment; in contrast, your conception represents, perhaps, the deepest, most hidden moment of your existence. When God weaved you together in your mother’s womb, he variegated your flesh with colors and contrasts and intricacies that can only be discovered with your willingness to go deeper with your Creator.

In doing so—in mining the treasures beneath your surface—you discover some of the mysteries that better enable you to live your life with sacred perspective. You discover the wise counsel of God which sheds light into your plan and your purpose for being on this earth. Without the dig comes the risk of remaining shallow—of living the rest of your days with surface understanding.

For some of you, that’s enough. You don’t have to think too far beyond current wisdom to be secure in your faith. You’re happy with the knowledge that you hold, and it will be more than enough to carry you through to glory. I celebrate that in you. I wouldn’t want you to be someone that you’re not. But I will tell you this one thing because, just maybe, you haven’t realized this about yourself.

You’ve got some deep waters bubbling beneath the surface of your heart this day. A big, huge cauldron of wet waiting for you to dive into in order to discover some hidden truth that you’ve yet to hold as your own. To get there, you need to be willing to get wet—to ponder and to think with your heart wide-open before God. You’ll need to ask questions in prayerful pause. You’ll need to wait for our Father’s response. It won’t be immediate, but as you are faithful to press into the heart of God, he will be faithful to fill yours with a ladle or two of his personal mystery.

And for that, friends, I’ll keep digging. I want to know Christ. I want to live the resurrected life while my flesh yet tarries in this land. Today is the day of salvation, and we have a God who can be known… deeply known. And for as much as I can know God on this side of eternity, I’ll keep dipping my bucket into his well of grace.

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.”

Even so, Lord, make me a woman of depth this day. Keep me drawing from your well and keep me believing that with every personal, intentional pursuit of knowledge that I make will come further understanding into the deep things of you. Forgive me when I choose less. Bless me when I choose more… choose big… choose deeply… choose you. I thank you for your mystery. Even greater, I thank you for allowing me to hold some of it as my own. Amen.

Peace for the journey,


PS: Many of you have asked regarding my schedule for the week and how you might pray for me. In the future, I may initiate a “caring bridge” page to keep you updated on the medical trail I’m traveling, but for now, here’s the latest:

Tuesday: Genetic counseling and BRCA testing in Chapel Hill.

Wednesday: PET/CT scans locally

Friday: MUGA (heart) testing, along with chemotherapy counseling locally. 

In the next week, a follow-up meeting with my oncologist, the placement of a port-a-cath, the beginning of an eight-cycle regimen of chemotherapy over the next four months. 

Please pray for continued healing from my surgery… still very sore and the thought of implanting a port-a-cath sends my stomach reeling! For strength enough, peace enough to courageously walk into this new chapter of healing. We love you each one and covet your prayers as we go forward. Now, how might I pray for you? Shalom.

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