This Will Be a Gift

One of Tyler’s nurses, Maria, has whispered to us a couple of times during chemo, “You know, this will really be a gift to you.” It may sound like something cruel or offensive to say to a cancer patient, but as an oncology nurse, she sees cancer from the inside out.

(I don’t recommend that just anyone tell a cancer patient that their experience is a gift – this is a delicate subject and could actually be offensive in the wrong context. For more on what not to say to a cancer patient, read this: http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2012/06/what-not-to-say)

For us, it was a blessing hearing it from Maria because we shared the same feeling. This whole cancer thing has, in fact, been a gift.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3

The biggest gift is knowing that God truly can carry us through anything. To build our marriage on this foundation is the best wedding present we could ever receive. Looking forward into our life together, we know we will face many more trials. It IS joy, such precious joy, to have this experience to look back on and say “Yes, God is faithful. We can get through this with Him because look how He carried us through that experience. He will provide us with everything we need.”

A second gift is having a better understanding of what it is that “we need.” Status and wealth do not shield us from tragedy. Sure, you might be more comfortable and you might have access to better resources but to deal with fear, desperation, anxiety, anger, sadness – the true symptoms of tragedy – status and wealth offer no solutions.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus offers to take our burdens from us. We just have to go to Him. This is so real for me. One night early in Tyler’s diagnosis, I was feeling really anxious and fearful. I couldn’t fall asleep or get my mind to stop. I said a prayer and in my head started singing “Jesus loves me.” Juvenile? Perhaps. But it worked. My mind relaxed, my heart became calm and I slept through the night. I can’t think of any possession (even the fanciest of fancy sleep machines!)  that could do that for me.

There are many other little silver linings to this whole cancer thing. Thanks to the wonderful support of my employer, I have been able to take time off to be with Tyler for every day of chemo. This means we have had over three weeks worth of days together that we normally would have been apart. Sure, the infusion center at Newton Wellesley Hospital is not the most romantic place, but we feel blessed to have shared those hours together.

We have a greater appreciation for the good times in life, there is no question about that. Going out to dinner has become a wonderful treat. In fact, food in general has become a little gift to Tyler who has to follow a very restricted diet during chemo. (Just now he said to me “Next time we are in Maine, we need to get an Amato’s sandwich :))

I don’t know what our life would have been like without cancer, but I strongly believe that we have been blessed with a gift that has changed us for good.

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For the Father Who So Loved the World

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
John 3:16-17

I am not a parent so I don’t yet understand what it’s like to raise and love my own child. But I have observed the pain of my own parents dealing with tragedy for their children and seen how deep it hurts Tyler’s parents to watch him suffer through his cancer diagnosis.

The Lord our God knows the sacrifice and deep emotions of parenting from the inside out: He sacrificed His Son so that we could have eternal life.

(Or in the words of my 5 year old nephew: The Christ Jesus died on the cross so the people could live longer :))

It brings me to tears every time I think of Jesus on the cross. I can’t begin to imagine the anguish God must have felt watching His son get beaten, mocked and brutalized before being ultimately crucified.

God loves us so much that He was willing to go into the deepest depths of pain for our salvation.

Just like a dad whose heart breaks when his little boy loses his best friend because he knows the pain of loss himself, God gets our suffering. We are His children and He knows everything we feel. He has felt every emotion, every tear.

He understands your desperation.

He has felt your pain.

He knows exactly what it feels like when you experience tragedy.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that is the ultimate comfort. He walks beside me through every single day, understanding my struggle. I just have to grab His already outstretched hand. A little girl, reaching for her Father. The comforting embrace that says, “I know how you feel and I’m here for you.”

On this Father’s Day, we praise and worship our Heavenly Father and invite you to join us:

“Shout for joy to the Lord , all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Psalm 100

Mighty to Save
You’re Beautiful
How He Loves Us
Healer
How Great Thou Art

Happy Father’s Day!

Radical Trust

During our small group meeting last week, our group praised God for the radical trust we can have in Him. Trust that He is in control. Trust that He will work things out for good.

Life rarely works out as we think it will. Yet we clutch tightly our little plans, don’t we? Perfect little plans that we believe will equal happiness and contentment. If we just do x and y, we will get to z. We think we can figure everything out on our own, if we can only just come up with the best plan.

Tyler and I have both held onto plans for most of our lives. Organized steps and planned achievements. 5 year plans, 10 year plans. We put our trust and faith into our abilities, believing that reaching our goals will make us complete.

But in clutching these plans, we have to let go of God in some way. It’s like saying, “Thanks for offering us the best life possible God, but I’m going to keep doing it my way because I can see my plan, step-by-step. I can’t see Your plan so how can I possibly follow it?”

Cancer was not part of our plan. Three rounds of chemo and many missed days of work were not part of our plan. Seeing fertility doctors to make decisions about our future family was definitely not part of our plan. A sudden, unexpected change can thwart all of our careful planning in just one moment.

What do you do when your plans fall through? Without an anchor, a storm sends us swirling into the unknown. We drift, grasping at whatever is in front of us.

God offers to be that anchor for us:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

In a culture that denies God at every opportunity, we are choosing to lay everything down at His feet. He has already won this battle for us, we don’t need to take it on! Instead, we must choose to lay down our plans and our fears:

of not being able to have our own children,

of not being able to withstand pain,

of losing our provisions,

of losing each other.

Radical trust is staring straight into these fears and declaring that they have no power over us. It’s a choice Tyler and I struggle to make every day. It’s so easy to fall back on our abilities and accomplishments or to start focusing on our own plans. When something works out or when things start getting better, we have to remind each other that it wasn’t because of something we did.

Radical trust is not naivete that everything will turn out as we want it to in the end. It also doesn’t mean living irresponsibly or irrationally. It’s confidence that His plan is victorious and it is so much better than anything we could come up with on our own.

When I am afraid I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

Unfailing Love

We live in a broken world where poverty, sickness and suffering infect every neighborhood, every street, every home. I can’t think of anyone in my life who has escaped some version of brokenness. It is just the reality we live in.

When Tyler was diagnosed with cancer six months into our marriage, many people lamented the tragedy of it occurring during what should be our happiest, most carefree time. We, too, were devastated. I’ll never forget the shaking fear between the two of us, sitting in the exam room as the doctor read the results. It was absolutely surreal. Cancer was never part of our vocabulary. How could my young, vibrant husband be so sick?

Fortunately, we know that hope and restoration do exist in the brokenness. Through the mourning of our “honeymoon phase”, we have drawn nearer to the God we have both come to know since we were children. In our anxious trembling, we find comfort and peace. When fear overcomes us, we hold onto each other and declare that God is with us.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10

The Bible mentions God’s unfailing love at least 40 times in the Old Testament. It never fails.  Never. Isn’t that amazing? God has never left us through this time. God has revealed so much to us in this trial that while I never wish our experience on anyone, I pray that when you do experience brokenness, that you come to know the Creator who has never failed those who live by His Word. That unfailing love is available to anyone.

I named this blog “Heights of Love”, borrowed from the Stuart Townsend song “In Christ Alone”:

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

Tyler and I both feel called to share experiences from our marriage that reveal more of God’s character. We hope that our marriage, and this blog, will be a reflection of the heights God carries us to with His unfailing love, in spite of the brokenness that will always be with us on this earth.

Those who know and follow Christ are not exempt from suffering. Rather, in the deep valleys of life, we know that His heights are endless and He will always carry us through.

Thanks for reading :)