Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Continuing the Story

When my family was faced with the harsh and very sudden reality that my mom was living with stage IV breast cancer seven months ago, we had no idea what that meant.  I think I can speak for all of us when I say that it was like we were blind folded, bound together, and thrown over a deep dark cliff, only to find out jumping didn't mean the end was near.  Instead we landed in a shadowy, uncertain, unknown, steep valley with a sharp, jagged, and impatient learning curve.  Although we were all hoping to be air lifted back to the safety net we knew before Mom got sick, we quickly realized that the only thing we could do was fall to our knees and start rock climbing together to higher ground.  And that's what we did, inch by inch, sometimes just to be run over by an avalanche that made us feel like we were hitting bottom again and again, more wounded than before with each backwards fall.  Little did we know, each fall was making us stronger and stronger even though it didn't appear we were gaining much ground.


Maybe some of you can relate.  Maybe it's some devastating life altering news.  Maybe it's a few bad decisions, and now there are serious consequences to face.  Maybe it's a soul eating secret.  Maybe it's debilitating worry, anxiety, or fear.  Maybe it's a marriage gone bad or a serious illness.  Maybe the odds aren't good. Maybe it's a deep wound or a strong need to be in control.  Whatever the struggle, maybe some of you have been there with us, forcefully pushed over a similar cliff, or maybe you jumped over the cliff yourself.

That's how we felt, and yet today I can stand tall and share The Good News.  Each one of us tells our story a little differently, but we all agree that our story is one of our biggest blessings.  Yes, I said blessings.  Going over that cliff and facing Mom's cancer as a family has been one of our biggest and unexpected blessings.

Please don't get me wrong.  It has been one of the hardest things our family has ever been through.  I would not wish cancer on anyone.  Cancer hurts, and it takes down good people with a lot of heart and life in them.  We hear the word "cancer," and we pray that's not what the biopsy shows.  But, when cancer smacks you in the face, there's a bigger story to tell.  For those of you who have followed our story, you know that ours has been dramatic and full of surprises.  The day we discovered mom had been living with breast cancer for years and did not tell anyone, well, that was the first in a series of many tough, painful days.  (For the full story, please feel free to visit Mom's CaringBridge site under Patty Bridges.)

The bigger picture to our story has been about letting go of the misconception that being strong and successful in life means becoming independent, self-sufficient beings who can control our own outcomes, if only we work hard "enough" at it and do "enough" good deeds in the world.  Our story has also been about digging deep to acknowledge and forgive our mistakes, recognizing that we all make them.  Our story has been about finding joy and love in the things that really matter and freeing ourselves from the things that don't.  Easier said than done for sure.  Without going into the details, watching someone you love suffer so much is the hardest part of cancer.  I have already seen and done things I never wanted to see and do.  Yet, I am thankful for all the blessings that have come from holding mom's hand as she learns to live with this terrible disease.

I didn't know life could hurt this much and still be so healing at the same time.  That sounds like an oxymoron at first, but it's not. It's God's word coming to life, y'all!  Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will set your paths straight."  Mom's cancer completely stopped me in my tracks.  I don't know about you, but my natural inclination when problems arise is to pray a few prayers and work as hard as I can to keep going.  I try to organize the issues, call on the right resources, and act on the right series of steps to fix things.  In turn, I can usually get the situation under control.   Mom's cancer blew my usual action plan to smithereens.  It was way too big, completely beyond my understanding, and very unknown.  The only thing I had control over was my relationship with God, so I clung to it everyday, all day.  I've never prayed so much in all my life.  It hasn't been a neat or pretty process, and it sure hasn't been a quick fix either.  But the second I accepted the fact that being strong meant being totally dependent on God, I was able to experience miracles in me and in those around me.  Admitting ALL of my weakness and making room for God to just come in and take over EVERYTHING, gives God bigger space to do HUGE things, showcasing all His power and glory.

The key to my story was not the outcome of the situation but acknowleging that I had no idea what was best for me.  I knew what I thought I wanted, a perfectly healthy mom, but God wanted so much more for me and my family than I could imagine for myself.  Today, my mom is still living with stage IV breast cancer, and there were times my sister and I wondered if she would make it to Christmas.  Sometimes I wondered if we would make it too.  But you know what?  Mom not only celebrated Christmas with us this year, she is working, cooking, enjoying her Duke sports, laughing with friends again, and taking her grandchildren for ice cream.  She's doing the things doctors told us she might not ever do again.  The power of prayer is amazing.   Family, friends, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, co-workers, doctors, nurses, and personal cheerleaders are all evidence of God's grace.  These are miracles for this century, y'all, and I have a front row seat.

My experiences have inspired a lot of thinking.  They definitely changed me.  Instead of destroying me and my family, they make me want to love harder, laugh more, pray without holding back and be a person that does not wait for dire circumstances to seek God in everything I do.   Maybe some of you can relate to what I'm saying.  It wasn't that I didn't have faith before.  It wasn't that I didn't have a relationship with God and accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  It wasn't even that I didn't go to church and try some Bible studies and mission opportunities once in a while.  It was that in everyday life, I didn't do a good job integrating my faith into everyday stuff.  And it wasn't because I didn't want to.  My intentions were good.

In our culture, it's way too easy to become lost, distracted and so busy that we either don't take time for God, we don't think we have the time, or we don't think we need Him until we find ourselves in a desperate situation.  For me, as a mom of 3 young boys, even when I make the time, the logistics of physically going somewhere on a weekly basis to spend time in fellowship with God is very difficult.  Babysitters cost money, there's homework to do, someone turns up sick with the latest cold or virus, my husband is out of town, timing conflicts with nap time, we oversleep, and the list goes on.  You might have other things on your own list.  Without realizing it, faith often gets compartmentalized to words without application, our "church friends", Sundays, special occasions, or our crisis moments.  Look again with me though, "Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in ALL your ways submit to him and he will set your paths straight."  What would happen if we did trust God with ALL our ways, giving HIM more room and time to do extraordinary things in every aspect of our daily lives?  If God can work through me in such a life changing situation as Mom's journey with cancer, how much more can he do if I make room for him in the ordinary, nooks and crannies of everyday moments?

I could work on growing with God privately in the safety net of my own quiet time.  That sure sounds better than what I'm about to do, but I feel like God is calling me to keep sharing my story.  I am not going to lie, this is a scary leap of faith for an extremely private person who loves her alone time.  I am a far cry from a Bible expert, and I make tons of mistakes on any given day.  I'm just a normal imperfect person, a daughter, a wife, a mom, a friend, a neighbor, a woman on a mission to figure out ways to make more room for God in my life.

So I want to invite you to come along on your own time and in your own space.  I am talking about sharing a God-centered faith grounded in grace and the life and death of Jesus Christ.  I am talking about living for a God that is strong, purpose-perfect, not picture-perfect, loving, honest, candid, transforming, necessary.  I am talking about a God that meets you wherever you are in your faith journey, accepting, patient, forgiving, unconditional, timeless, all knowing and all powerful. 

Let's start growing in our faith together by going straight to the source.  Grab a Bible (I'll help with that in another post), and let's see what God's word is telling us each day.  Sign-up to follow the blog and invite others to join us.  Let's put our faith to work and see what God has in store for us when we are willing to grow closer to Him.  Stay tuned for more details in blogs to follow very soon.  

God always has a bigger story to tell...

 My prayer for all you-

Heavenly Father,
I thank you for each person that reads this blog.  I thank you for each of our lives and the stories you are telling through us of your transforming love and grace.  As I share my story, I pray it will help others find new and exciting ways to get closer  to you.  We know that with Christ, we are able to do "immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine" for Your glory, Lord.
I pray this prayer in the name of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ.
Amen

May the Lord bless you and your families, friends,









To read more posts on Mom's story, use the links below:

10 comments:

  1. What an amazing and inspirational post Lindsay! I look foward to following your blog!

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  2. I agree! So inspirational! I too know that God is working in my life but I need to improve in my relationship with him. Thank you for inviting people on this journey.

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    1. Thanks, Mandy! Hugs to all your boys. :)

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    1. Awww. Thanks, for reading big brother! Hope you are doing well.

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  4. This blog is an amazing gift for so many people-myself included. I am excited to read your posts.

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    1. Thanks so much, Robin!! Hugs to you and your family.

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  5. God IS amazing and works in amazing ways, according to His timing, not ours. I am grateful to Him for you and your blog. I needed to read this on this very night and feel blessed for it. You are the light in the clouds. Thank you for your prayer.

    Kym

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    1. Thank you so much for reading! Sending more prayers your way, Kym.

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