for now

As I consider this past year in remission, I returned to these old journaling thoughts from March 2016 and thought I’d share them. And I’m praying for my heart to be as it was then – confident in the love of Christ.

 

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Sometimes I feel overwhelmed thinking about the future and what it could entail. I could relapse and be fighting this disease for so much longer. And it already feels so long. But the day after I was diagnosed, God let me say, “This is what’s happening now.” He helped me live in the present, and in the present there is neither bitterness for the past, nor worry for the future. Things just are. It just is. I just am. And God is with me. In the present no dreams are in jeopardy – it’s only whatever’s being lived out in the moment. No future hopes are shaking or crumbling, although false sources of current hope might be, those earthly foundations that don’t last. In the present is where we find God’s peace. You don’t plan for it, and you don’t survive on past gifts of peace. But right now there is peace for you.

The present is the only time you can experience God’s presence – or anything, for that matter. To think about what could be my life in a few months or in a year is to invite fear into my present, is to say that what I must do with this very moment is to fear some future moments. And that is not a good use for this moment. This moment should be spent with God, experiencing something true, something that already is, some real joy or real sorrow, the presence of the Lord, an idea, a place, a person. That’s what this moment is for. It’s for perfect love, and perfect love doesn’t let fear remain. Only faith and hope and above all, love.

The present is for love. What’s happening now is love. What’s happening now is God is with me. What’s happening now is I am weak and tired and I have chemo in my body and a line in my arm and I have no hair. Also, I’m not supposed to be left alone, and my immune system can’t protect me. Also, God is with me. So love is with me. So what’s happening now is love. And maybe God is revealing Himself to me. Maybe He’s shaping my heart like the good Potter He is. Maybe He’s healing me. But for sure, He’s loving me. This moment, God wrote and is writing. And in it He’s being Himself, that perfect, steadfast love. What’s happening is the sun is shining in my eyes and I’m eating a donut and the world is spinning and hurting and all the while God is just loving. He loves me and He did love me, to the very very end. And He’ll keep on, and then some.

The future could be naught but joy and things I call beautiful. I’m not in the future, though, and I never will be. I will always be in this present moment, and the more I am present to it, the better for my wandering heart.

how to be … community in a wardrobe

 

This is for those who are unsure about reaching out, reaching in. Who feel on the outside of church but aren’t sure about the inside either. And it’s a reminder to those who have stepped out, and it’s a reminder to those who have walked through. And it’s for me, to acknowledge to myself why church matters.

There are many reasons for engagement in community and the lives of others, but the one I’m thinking about today is that it is life to me. Rich, sweet life.

It looks tedious, having to commit and follow through, being inconvenienced, pushing through awkward stranger-ness, leaving the house (aka getting dressed). It looks tiring, giving time to others, serving, intentionally pursuing depth, praying for people. It can appear so much less, so ordinary, so basic. But step inside, and you find something bigger than what you saw. Something bigger on the inside. The gladness of rejoicing with those who rejoice. The gravity of weeping with those who weep. The miracles of healing, the growth of struggle. The character that blossoms as we set ourselves aside. The beauty of being loved, period. The opportunity to wash feet, and to intercede. The becoming our truest self, closer to and more like Jesus. The relief of being known. The strength from encouragement and from a common foundation and truth. The blessing of the pleasure of blessing. The joy of loving. The deep satisfaction of familiarity. The wonder of all this.

This is the great world that is the Church, my friends. It is heartbreak and glory, dust and beauty. It is the ideal banner of good news and the disappointment of the fall. It must be, if the earth is to know the Gospel. The Church, she is the gift of God. He gives rightly, and shall we not receive? We are God’s own, and Christ considered us worth everything. He has given us His Church, and I daresay she is worth it.

on ubiquitous, inexorable grace

What do I deserve?

I have experienced healing, thanks be to God. Through medicine and God’s grace, I am no longer plagued, haunted by leukemia. Its possibility still lingers and will for some time, but for now I can rest in this, in being made well. What an amazing gift.

I have lived in fear these past eight months. When I have been in pain, especially, I have withdrawn most often from communion with God. I retreated into myself. Into nothing, really. And there was no joy. And I asked myself more than once whether I thought I deserved to be healed. I knew I didn’t. I knew that whatever came my way, God would be good and sovereign and holy and loving. But all I wanted was to be healed. I didn’t want to have to go through the gauntlet of treatment and infection, that cycle that wore me down. I didn’t want to go through the fire. I just wanted relief, always just relief, please, God. Just take this away.

Well. He has relieved me. But He has not left me alone; He is still working on me. We’re not done.

Thankfully, God never gives what is deserved… ¹

If He did, I couldn’t bear it. But He does give gifts, every day, some so ordinary we miss them altogether. He gave me sleep in the hospital. He gave me someone to catch me when I passed out there once. He gives me the pleasure of cold drinks and fruit. The presence of plants in my home to lift my spirits. But also, weakness in my body to remind me I rely on Him for everything. This is a hard verse: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”²

What I have seen as evil – hospital stays, blood draws, so many pills, swelling, headaches, cancer – God always is far above and His story is so great I can’t fathom it. From this “evil” I have experienced the greatness, the sweetness of the Church. I have met new friends and strengthened old friendships. I have seen my husband grow and rise to the occasion, and he is my hero. I have seen my family more than I would have. And these are only the results that I can observe; God knows so much more.

So I believe, though I don’t always like it, that all is grace, all is gift.

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And now I must learn, just as before, to give thanks in all things. And to let go of what I think, even subconsciously, I deserve. Because I’m wrong. But God gives joy. I haven’t experienced consistent joy in so very long. If God gives it, how can this be?

My hard heart. My inward looking. My mind trying to escape reality. The reality is, we can find joy amidst pain. The joy is found, friend, not in relief but in Christ. Oh, this lesson has been nagging me for months, trying to get through my prideful walls. I can speak this truth, but even now to believe it requires me to let go… of control, fear, the clenching, grasping for what’s beyond the pain. It requires me to be. To rest in God’s presence, no matter what assails me.

A dear friend gave me a bracelet with a verse etched on: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” [Exodus 14:14] Yes. And when I know that all is grace, that God is always good, that I can trust Him to fight for me, I can rest at last. And give thanks for so many gifts. And in thankfulness, in letting go, the heart lightens and softens a little, and joy can come, even through tears. I have cried painful tears of surrender at times, fighting my will to deserve.

But He is able to withstand my hardness, my will, my fighting. He knows pain and He more than anyone deserved relief. But He forfeited it, and may I never forget. Christ, who deserves all surrender and praise, relinquished authority to evil people, separated from God in a way I have never been. He is not threatened by my will and my thanklessness.

Rather, He desires to give gifts and joy, to win over my heart, to fight for me. He would that I let go and be.

For in His presence there is fullness of joy.³

 

 

 

¹Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p. 178

²Job 2:10, ESV

³Psalm 16:11 ESV