Just to be transparent with you, I am in a different season right now fraught with change and uncertainty and letting go. That’s why I haven’t written in a while.
In this life our journeys take a turn that sometimes come out of nowhere, it seems, and knocks us out for a while. I am starting to very slowly see through the veil that this is another lesson, another level, a gateway into a deeper level with Jesus. Though I feel the breath has been knocked out of me and I am very tired I know from my spirit that Jesus walks this valley with me.
And, yes, I will write more about my story soon.
Which brings me to Lori’s story. I have known Lori for about 30 years. I have watched her and admired her devotion to family and motherhood and God. I knew her Dad, a mighty man of God, and loved him very much. I have been following Lori’s journey through breast cancer and praying along with countless others.
Then yesterday I read this on Facebook and instantly knew her story is a wake up call for me and all of us. Not that we will get cancer, but through her valley of trial, and what she learned there, brings us a message to look at our lives and evaluate what is most important. For our walk on this earth is very short compared to where we are going.
We get so caught up in our ‘masks’ of who we think we are, or we only show what we want people to see; not the real us. Vanity takes over and we live this kind of pseudo life of insincerity. I so admired Lori’s bravery to reveal it all in this trial so that others could see into her world and maybe find hope.
The church was meant for family, for realness, for loving support and transparencies….so that we can grow and heal and know we are not alone.
Peter 5:8-9 says “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
What is the Holy Spirit assuming about your life? That you are under spiritual attack. This is not a passage about nonbelievers; he’s talking about “your brothers and sisters.” Peter takes it for granted that every believer is under some sort of unseen assault. And what does he insist you do? Resist the devil. Fight back, take a stand.
Lori took a stand and has won her victory. But the lessons were many.
Thank you sweet Lori, for allowing me to share your story.
“Twenty-nine radiation treatments ago I was overwhelmed thinking that I would never be standing with one foot hovering over the finish line. On Monday, I will get my last radiation treatment. On Thursday I am having my port removed. I have spent half a year tearing up my body to rid it of cancer and the next half will be spent rebuilding it.
I still have a long road of recovery ahead, but I face it knowing that I am cancer free.
I know it sounds odd, but I am grateful for everything that I have gone through.
Grateful for the pain?
Grateful for the worry?
Grateful for a disease that ravaged my body and tried to kill me?
Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. I am grateful because it has changed me in more ways than taking away (just trying to be real here) half of one of my most magnificent physical features.
The fact that I feel grateful is in itself due to the lessons that fighting cancer has taught me.
When you are diagnosed with cancer, everything stops while you concentrate on beating it. You don’t have the energy to participate in all of your normal activities and your treatments take precedence over everything else in your life…a job, family activities, church, or any other pursuit that normally occupies your time. You try to keep things as normal as possible, but basically your schedule is at the mercy of your disease.
At first, I thought that the world was going to crumble if I had to step down from all of the things I was in charge of. Amazingly, the world did just fine during my sabbatical. My husband and kids survived. My house didn’t burn down. The church, the PTA, the cub scouts and all those other things soldiered on. I learned that I don’t have to control every…single…thing.
I don’t have to stress myself out to make everything my version of perfect. One day it hit me that the same God who I was trusting to heal me was also capable of taking care of the everyday worries in my life. As I began to hand those worries over to Him, I also realized that if I were to leave this earth, He would be there to take care of all those that I left behind.
Cancer certainly causes you to face your immortality. We all know we are going to die…someday. When you are diagnosed with cancer, that far off someday is suddenly smacking you in the face. Death itself, doesn’t scare me. I know where I will spend eternity. I am not afraid of what is to come. For me, facing death was more about worrying over what I was leaving behind.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a peace that God would watch over my family, but I was still sad because I had so many more things that I wanted to do with my kids. There were life lessons I wanted to have the time to teach, memories I wanted to make with them, and my own life experiences that I still hadn’t shared. I was angry at myself for all the time in life I had wasted on things that just don’t matter in the bigger picture.
Cancer forced me sift through all the unimportant things in life, causing me to recognize the things that truly mattered…. Ironically “things” didn’t even make the list. I was actually able to clean out my closets and get rid of those clothes I have been holding onto for 15 years because one day the stars might align and they will once more fit me and come back in style all in the same week.
As I begin to purge the stuff in my house, I also took stock of the stuff in my character. I realized that I had held on to grudges, bitterness, anger, hurts, and worries, much the way I had held onto my Members Only jacket from Jr. High.
It was time to let it all go.
When you have one foot in the grave, what this one said about you or that one did to you really doesn’t matter so much.
With the sweeping away of emotional cobwebs comes clarity. Suddenly it occurred to me how much energy I had wasted being worried about what other people think.
How many times had I not embraced life because I was afraid that someone would say I was too old or too fat or too anything to be participating in something I really wanted to do?
Losing my hair was a wakeup call for me. I thought everyone would stare, but the truth is, most people don’t take the time to look beyond themselves and really see those around them. It only took a few times of walking through the grocery store bald, to figure out that no one was looking at me.
Never again will I forgo an opportunity to swim with my kids or enjoy a gorgeous day at the beach because I am afraid of what people will think of my body. Never again will I allow myself to be shy because I am worried someone won’t like me based on my outward appearance. I also vow to stop avoiding cameras.
I have a ten-year gap in the photo album, where there are no pictures of me. I always made the excuse that I am the one who takes the pictures, so I am never in them.
The truth is that I didn’t want to be in them. We haven’t posed for a family portrait since 2008, because I don’t like the way I look. When I faced my darkest days of cancer, it hit me that if I were to die, my kids wouldn’t have any pictures of me. As they grew older, their memories might grow foggy. They might even be unable to remember their own mother’s face.
I have a picture of my mom and me that she hated because she thought she looked old. When I look at it, I don’t see wrinkles, I just see love. I could continue to be the phony girl with a profile picture on Facebook that was taken in 2004, or I could just say, “Screw it, this is me, love it or hate it I don’t care, I choose to be real.”
As I look back on this journey, I see that the healing I received wasn’t limited to the physical. I like to think that in my battle with breast cancer, a tumor was removed from more than my body.
I feel like a cancerous growth has also been removed from my spirit and for that I am grateful for everything that I have gone through. So thank you, cancer. You invaded my body with sights set on my destruction, but you lost!
Not only were you defeated, but what you meant for bad, in the end made me a happier person. I am not the woman I was a year ago and that suits me just fine.”
Yesterday was Thanksgiving. My big beautiful family all met together at my son’s house. Looking around the table I had to laugh to myself as I studied each one. If you have ever seen the sitcom, Parenthood, that is what my family reminds me of. All talking at the same time with drama abounding.
Everyone of us there has had our own personal struggles. I looked at those who have been divorced and saw pain like they never imagined. I looked at the children who suffered through that pain through no fault of their own. I saw those of us who have made poor choices and learned great lessons from those choices, and some who were still learning and stumbling along. There were new people added to our clan that day by invitation that were instantly put at ease when they saw what a loud, raucous family we were. And somewhat horrified at some of the subjects that came up and openly discussed and laughed at. There seems to be no subject that is taboo when we get together.
As the mom and nana, I found myself asking if I had done something different in my own messed up life could I have spared them all the pain. Was I, in my youth, at fault for their lives and choices and hardships.
Can you relate?
Yet, I knew that I did the best with what I had as a younger version of myself. Isn’t that all the Lord asks of us?
As we passed the traditional candle around and talked about what we were thankful for this year you could see Jesus in their midst. You could hear the growth in some and still see fear in some. I could see those guests who were instantly nervous and could think of nothing they were thankful for, and listened to my grand kids who used to say they were thankful for Disneyland, but now they talked about how thankful they were for family and that we were all together.
I don’t mean to pop your bubble, but we are all a beautiful mess. There is no perfect family.
The Bible tells us of many dysfunctional families. Today I want us to look at Joseph’s family.
You remember the story?
Joseph grew up in a dysfunctional family. His father Jacob had four wives. He had 11 brothers scattered among those four wives. He had one full brother, the youngest child of all, Benjamin.
With all of that, there is bound to be trouble–and there was.
Genesis 37:3 says that Joseph was his father’s favorite son—the son of his old age. It means he was the first son by Rachel, the woman Jacob always loved.
Joseph was always his favorite. All the brothers knew it.
Jacob’s family was a disaster waiting to happen and indeed it did happen.
His family looked like this:
1 father, 4 mothers, 12 brothers plus one daughter (Dinah). And one favorite son.
Trouble is brewing right under the surface in Jacob’s complicated family.
Out of it will come Joseph who many years down the road will rescue the brothers who betrayed him. As the story opens, there is no reason—none at all—to see any of this in advance. At the beginning, we mostly see dark clouds on the horizon.
Here is his story in one paragraph.
He was the favored son of his father Jacob. When he enters the stage of biblical history, he is 17 years old. Because his brothers hated him, he was sold as a slave and taken to Egypt. After being falsely accused of rape, he was imprisoned with no hope of getting out. Because he correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he became the prime minister of Egypt. Eventually he welcomed his family to Egypt, which preserved the line of promise that had started with his great-grandfather Abraham.
And that brief summary only hints at the drama that surrounded his life.
And so now we look at you.
Your background is no impediment to serving God. There is no excuse imaginable for you to blame your childhood for your behavior today. Nor can you truthfully say that God will never use you because you are too broken.
Joseph came from a family that was in many ways “out of bounds.” It certainly was not a neat, clean, one man-one woman nuclear family. He was born into a family where jealousy, comparison, and distrust were the rules of the game. It was not a happy family.
Yet God chose Joseph and used him mightily.
Though Joseph was God’s man, he did not have an easy life.
Here are some of the things his story teaches us:
Trusting God when in the pit of despair.
How to deal with sexual temptation.
How to redeem a painful past.
What to do while you wait.
How to see God’s hand in all things.
How to make wise plans.
How God awakens a guilty conscience.
The marks of true repentance.
How to live for God in a pagan culture.
Overcoming lingering bitterness.
How to die well.
Not many of us come from perfect families. Actually, none of us do because there is no such thing.
“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14).
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12).
“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)
The real problems we face are not “out there.” They are always “in here”, on the inside. That’s where we fight our greatest battles.
This world is a messed-up place, and the most messed-up part lies inside the human heart.
That’s one reason we know the Bible is true. It speaks the truth about the human condition. It doesn’t lie to us about our “unlimited potential” or tell us that we are basically okay the way we are at the moment. It tells us we are okay and accepted into the beloved lap of God because Jesus paved the way for us.
What prevents us from simply accepting this and being awesomely grateful that nothing that has ever happened to us can prevent us from walking right into His perfect plan for our lives?
This is where the truth that Jesus spoke becomes so incredibly relevant. He didn’t make us feel good and then say, “Just try harder and you will be okay.”
“For there is no difference.” (Romans 3:22b)
No difference between rich and poor. No difference between religious and pagan. No difference between Jew and Gentile. No difference between young and old. No difference between housewife and harlot. No difference between criminal and choirboy. No difference between American and Kenyan.
We’re all in the same boat, and unless God does something, we’re all going to sink together. And He did!!
Because of Jesus!
We are all broken people. Some of us know it, some of us don’t.
If you can relate, this story is for you. If you come from a broken home, this story is for you. If you don’t get along with your brothers and sisters, this story is for you. If you were abused, this story is for you. If your friends lied to you, this story is for you. If you’ve done jail time, this story is for you. If your family doesn’t understand you, this story is for you.
Life isn’t easy for any of us, and for most of us it can be quite difficult. To say it another way, anyone looking for an easy life has picked the wrong planet to be born on.
Since God Himself stands behind the universe He created, we should not be surprised to find His fingerprints everywhere, even in the tiniest details of life.
Christ is the power to make life worthwhile. Note that I did not say that Christ “has” the power, which is true, but that Christ “is” the power, which is slightly different.
Because Jesus Himself lives in us, He Himself is the power that gives meaning and purpose to life.
The hero, Joseph, arises out of the turmoil of a dysfunctional family. His brothers don’t like him. There is trouble on the horizon.
Joseph proves you can come from a crazy, mixed-up family and do amazing things for the Lord!