Beauty for ashes… And JOY

I don’t believe in coincedences. I DO believe in divine interventions or “intersections,” from God. Things don’t “just” happen. Events don’t “just” occur. Diseases aren’t “just” diagnosed and paths aren’t “just” crossed. Good or bad… Joyful or not… Every tiny detail of our lives passed through the hands of God before they ever entered ours.

A beautiful intersection because of a not so beautiful diagnosis occurred in my life all thanks be to God when my life crossed paths with the guest blogger for today.

Here is the scoop:
Five years ago, a friend in bible study asked that we all pray for a little girl named Emily who was just diagnosed with cancer. My ears perked up, as I was a pediatric oncology nurse at the time. After prying my friend for more info on this little girl… I realized that the family was new in town and had just started attending my children’s preschool. I also found out the little girl would be receiving treatments at the same hospital that I currently worked at… Coincedences? No! A God thing? Yes!

Shortly after, I met the Goede family, found out that my son was in the same preschool class as their son Ethan and had my socks blessed off when I was able to care for their sweet Emily just about every shift that I worked at the hospital. For the sake of time, I will spare you all of the tiny little details in between of how God weaves this friendship together… But I will say that the Goede’s are near and dear to my entire families heart… And I thank Jesus for His intersections in life.

Several years ago, I wrote a bible study on the Fruit of the Spirit. I asked Kelli to participate in writing the JoY section and explain how her family remained JOYFUL throughout Emily’s cancer treatments. In wanting to add childhood cancer stories to the beauty for ashes section on my blog… I thought it only fitting to add Kelli’s story of JOY. Kelli obliged and even added to the original story…the following is kind of like a “then and now” story! And as you read it, once again you will be reminded that there are no coincedences… Just God’s perfect timing….

Here is the “then” part of Kelli’s story…

“When I think back on the day we found out Emily had cancer, I remember thinking “Thank You God for preparing us for this.” It had taken 6 months for her to actually be diagnosed. We had been waiting and waiting because her blood work was telling the Dr’s something was very wrong, but her bone marrow biopsies hadn’t shown enough cancer to receive a diagnosis and begin treatment. So, I believe that part of remaining joyful in the midst of all circumstances is being thankful for what is a blessing in that moment. So yes, the cancer diagnosis and treatment were some of the most difficult days of our life, but we felt so blessed by those that served us during that time, for those that prayed for us, for those that loved on us when we were feeling overwhelmed. It’s difficult to not feel joyful when you are looking for God’s favor and His blessing during times of need, and if you look…you will find it. During Emily’s treatment we made sure that we
didn’t just tolerate our hospital stays, but rather tried as hard as we could to enjoy them. We took turns staying the night with Emily, but whoever wasn’t staying always brought dinner and hung out at the hospital until it was time to get our son Ethan home for bed. We played video games, we laughed, and we had a good time together. I remember thinking to myself many times during Emily’s treatment, wow…I get to parent Emily, it’s not a right, but such a privilege and for each day I was joyful. I knew that there was a chance she could lose her life to cancer, but I knew that if that was God’s will, he would take care of our family and that gave me the freedom and peace of mind to experience joy even when I was afraid. I am not going to say there weren’t days that I didn’t wake up feeling terrible about the card that was dealt to our family, but then I would think to myself that none of us are promised tomorrow anyway and we might as well live
today the best we can. And, what if something did happen to Emily? Would I want our last days with her to be spent in misery? Would I want our son Ethan to live without joy? Of course not. So, for our family, it was a choice to be joyful or not…because either way we were battling cancer.

The verse that I repeated to myself over and over was Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I knew that no matter what happened, God was looking out for me and our family and had nothing but the best in mind for us, it’s hard not to be joyful when you know that God has worked everything out in advance for His glory! Even if I didn’t know how things were going to turn out, He did, and knowing that allowed me to feel joy even in the worst of circumstances :-)”

And here is her “now” story…

Isn’t it strange when things you have written or said a while back come back to convict your current state of being? Well, that’s what this did. I believe Heather originally asked me to write this a while back but I completely forgot until she asked again just recently. She knew I was busy, having just had our 4th child, so she came up with the idea of just using what I wrote (above) about Joy a while ago when she led a bible study on the Fruit of the Spirit. I don’t think it’s coincidental that I forgot about it earlier this year, now that I am where I am, I get it…completely.
Most of the time God has to bonk me on the head with a very large rock because the pebbles he throws at my window to get my attention just hit my exterior and bounce right off. I don’t even stop long enough to just open the window and look for what God is trying to tell me. I am so busy being disobedient by “hurriedly striving” that I don’t even have a
moment for God…at least that’s what Satan would have me believe, isn’t it? I keep telling God, “hold on, I am busy”; I need to clean this, do this for the kids, start a mom’s ministry at the church…and the list could go on forever. These are all great things, but not when they come before God, not when we are so distracted by our daily comings and goings and chores that we can’t seem to nourish ourselves with His word. So what does this all have to do with Joy?

Well, over the last few months, I haven’t felt super joyful honestly. In fact, today I wanted to kick “Joy” and her close cousins “delight” and “happiness” in the rear end. In fact, I felt like spelling out a bunch of curse words out loud. I say “spelling” because my dear Momma taught me never to curse and spelling them just makes me feel like I am being obedient in some strange way.
Today while I was cleaning my bathrooms…and having a pity party for me (because cleaning toilets isn’t bad enough, right?) I remembered that I was supposed to look at the excerpt on “Joy” that I wrote previously. Heather was going to email it to me. It was then that I had to giggle, I couldn’t help myself…I knew what I wrote; I didn’t have to read it. These last few months have been trying, not nearly as difficult as watching your child battle cancer…but an adjustment for sure. Whenever we have a child, my world gets rocked. I am not
good with change even if the change is a beautiful baby girl. I know this and yet every time it shocks me. It’s like I am wading is calm ocean waters and then I turn around to be smacked in the face with a huge wave. It knocks me off my feet and I have a hard time standing up because another wave just rolls in…and they keep coming, and trying to catch my breath on my own just earns me another mouthful of salt water and sand.

As I sit here thinking about my earlier pity party and knowing it has to end somehow…negativity, critical thinking, anxiety, hurried striving, stress, and feeling overwhelmed are all guests that I will not allow to stay for long. They rob me of the Joy that I was able to find in Jesus even when we were in some of our darkest days. And believe me…these days are not dark when I stop the broken record thoughts in my mind for a moment to see what’s before me. Over the last 2 weeks we have battled strep throat, a few colds and the dreaded stomach bug and are now on a new round of colds…and I guess all my eyes could see was the never ending mountain of laundry, the endless co-pays, and school work to make up. So now what? Now comes the hard part, honesty…the ugly truth is I haven’t spent much time at all with my Lord and Savior. I have been doing wonderful things for my family, my church, my friends…but not much for my relationship with
Jesus. My sister-in-law always reminds me that “the grass is greener where you water it”…and folks, I will tell you that my yard is looking pretty brown…you know, the kind of grass that is so dry it actually crunches under your bare feet. Satan has fed me the lie that once I finish this or that I will get to spend time with Jesus, in His word…and I swallowed it up like a big piece of chocolate cake and left not a crumb.

So, now what…how do I feel Joyful again. Well, I think it’s much easier than all of this striving and doing that I have been up to lately. Sometimes I allow spending time with the Lord to become a chore, a check-list item, when it should be thought of as a necessity. He loves me and He wants to spend time with me, but I know he won’t drag me kicking and screaming…but he may have thrown me a few illnesses and a timely writing assignment as a reminder of who I am and that my days belong to him…not to all the things I need to get done. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that I went to a church event yesterday and the message spoken so eloquently by the same sister-in-law I referenced before was about being a “Daughter of the King”. She spoke of nourishing ourselves with His love so that our actions come from an attitude of love instead of “hurried striving”. Hmmm, that’s a tough one to swallow ya’ll. I am not joyful right
now because I am not experiencing his love through scripture on a daily basis…cue huge boulder hitting me right on top of my head…

Well, I guess now I know what I gotta do…there is a bible that has my name on it…literally, and it needs to be cracked open a lot more than just once or twice a week!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

I would love for you to hop over to Kelli’s blog and read more about her amazing family! She blogs at http://www.myeverydaylove.com

The Goede family are big fans of Camp Sunshine. To learn more about how this organization helps those faced with childhood cancer… Visit their website at: http://www.campsunshine.org

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