An Unlikely Victory

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The gentle flutter within her was the reminder she needed that life would go on, even after this day. Her hand instinctively went to her abdomen, as if the small life within her held the strength she needed to keep moving, to keep walking.

nature-3244120_1920A smile wearied itself on her face, but not one of happiness, realizing then that she was a walking oxymoron–an equal blend of life and death. Her eyes flickered to what had been a shrub next to the cracked front step, the leaves dried and shriveled, but still clinging to the once strong branches. The vivid teal and red welcome mat was another blinding oxymoron.

She took one last deep breath, a vain attempt to steady herself, and walked across the threshold.

Her eyes instinctively searched for her brother. She knew he would be the voice of reason–the calm one– he was always the calm one. She had no desire to look into her mom’s eyes, or worse, her dad’s, but they were both rushing toward her now, desperate to hear what she had to tell them.

She continued looking at the floor as if the answers to their questions had fallen at her feet.

Breathe, Claire. Just breathe.

“Okay, guys. I really need you to back off a little and have a seat. I will tell you everything if you just give me some space,” she struggled to keep her voice from quivering.

When she did finally look up from the floor, her mom’s deep green eyes were imploring her so profoundly, Claire was sure she was staring through her, instead of at her.

That’s when her brother walked into the room.

“Claire! Did you find anything out?” he asked as he sat down next to their parents, taking his mom’s hand.

“Yes,” her gaze immediately hit the floor again. “It’s…not good news.”hallway-867226_1920

Her mom was already sobbing and her dad began to visibly tremble.

Now she was speaking like a computer program, like the information she received from the doctor had been programmed into her, so she could spout it off with the press of a button. It is stage 4. Inoperable. Begin first round of chemo early next week. Three rounds to start with. Probably more. Side effects would be very damaging. Hoping to stop the spread, to extend life, but unlikely it will ever go away.

Except for her mother’s hysterical sobs, a suffocating silence enveloped the room.

Claire felt the room begin to move, the ground heaved beneath her, and then her brother’s arms were around her, leading her decaying body to the couch.  

As Claire’s parents collected themselves in the kitchen, Grant sat with Claire, holding her hand, saying nothing.

“Claire, you need to tell mom and dad about the baby. What did the doctor say to do about the baby?”

She tried to speak, but nothing would come. You are dying. You are dying. You are dying. This fact was the only one she could comprehend, the only one that currently mattered.

“Claire. I will support any decision you make. You know that.”

She did know that. You are dying. You are dying. You are dying.

After an hour of this oppressive silence, Claire’s parents finally came into the room. Her dad knelt in front of her, while her mom stood motionless behind him.

“Claire, we are going to fight this. We are going to trust God’s plan. This is not going to defeat you, do you understand me?” Claire found it ironic that her dad’s words were so confident, when his voice sounded like that of a little boy’s.flower-316437_1280

Claire raised her eyes to his. The words she said next came from a different atmosphere; they were heavy and felt strange inside her throat, “Dad. I am not going to do treatment. I am pregnant, and I am going to let this baby live. After I am gone, he will still be here. My baby.”

You are dying. You are dying. You are dying. After these words were out of Claire’s mouth, she finally had the power to answer this torturous voice within her. But the life inside me is not.

Claire hardly noticed her mother fall to the floor, or her dad begin to curse into the air as he crawled from the room.

Grant just sat there; his facial expression impossible to read.

The strength that flooded into Claire after she pronounced her decision left her feeling a strange sense calm, a peace she had never experienced.

Grant knelt down to help their mother into a chair, where she sat motionless for many minutes, no doubt wrestling with losing her daughter and becoming a grandmother in the same day.

“Grant,” Claire still didn’t recognize her own voice, “I need you to be behind me on this. I need you to tell me this is the right thing.”

That’s when the expression on his face changed, becoming one of unmistakable admiration, similar to the look he had when his little sister hit her first home run, but that was when life was simpler. 

“I have never been more proud of you in my life. We were raised to believe that life always defeats death, and I don’t think there is a better way to tell death to screw itself than to continue to allow that baby inside of you to grow,” tears were streaming down his face now, “and besides, I am gonna be the world’s coolest uncle!”

When Claire left her parents’ house that evening, neither of them had spoken to her. She didn’t know if they were angry, confused, or grief-stricken. Grant had begged her to stay, trying to convince her she shouldn’t be alone.

beach-1822598_1920What Grant hadn’t realized, however, is that Claire was not alone. Her child grew within her, and her Lord walked beside her. She did not know what the future held, and when she allowed her mind to think on it, it was nearly unbearable–fear viciously stopping her breath inside her chest. The only thing that Claire knew for sure is that she’d made the right decision–she had chosen life, when death threatened to consume every corner of her existence.

Now she knew that what she’d learned in church all these years was true: death never wins.

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Thanks so much for stopping by Pursue Peace!

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A World of Hurt

When those around you experience pain and heartache, it can challenge your faith in Christ just as much as if you were experiencing this pain firsthand.

Recently, I have been surrounded by pain–excruciating, life-altering pain.

Those closest to me have been forced to face events in their lives that could usurp even the strongest individual.

In recent months my loved ones have faced sick children, infant loss, disastrous legal accusations, death, and serious medical issues. It has become so frequent that I receive a text asking for prayer for an extremely painful situation that I have come to almost expect it. I wait for the next shoe to drop, for the next person to be added to my prayer list–a prayer list that I can barely keep up with as it is.

love-699480_1280My life, on the other hand, has been going quite smoothly. My family is healthy, our jobs are secure, my marriage is thriving, and my children are happy, despite their near constant attempts to achieve an injury that would warrant a hospital visit.

Since so many that are so dear to me have been hurting so badly, I have gone through a series of emotions. Besides simply mourning alongside them, I have been tempted to feel guilty, because there is little that I can do for them. In addition to resisting guilt, I have found myself feeling afraid–very afraid. In the moments where I have allowed myself to drift from the Lord, I have begun to doubt that my own happiness is really secure. As I watch lives around me fall apart, I wonder when it will be my turn to lose one of my own blessings.

In the light of day, I realize this thought is pretty absurd, and also downright depressing, but when I crawl into bed at night having just finished a conversation with one of my many hurting friends, I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before I too am broken and hurting.

I realize quickly when I have thoughts like this that it is time to get down on my knees and invite God back into my incredibly hectic life and my even more distracted mind. These thoughts are from Satan, whose greatest desire seems to be for me to live in a constant state of fear.

For many, Satan achieves this in us. When we hear our friends have lost their child, we immediately whisk to our own children’s’ bedrooms to check their breathing. When we hear our friends have been diagnosed with cancer, we immediately call the doctor to schedule a much neglected check-up. When Satan cannot achieve fear, he works hard to achieve guilt. When we hear our friends have a sick child, we feel guilt for the three healthy children we have, as if our guilt can somehow diminish their pain.alone-3433137_1280

This is not the way God calls us to live. He certainly does not want His blessings to be shadowed by others’ or our own pain. He calls us to live in complete and total communion with Him. He calls us to revel in the good seasons of life and cling to Him in the painful seasons. God will see us through each season, and whether we are being showered with blessings or showered with troubles, He is to be our shelter.

Trusting God in the midst of so much pain is easier said than done. We want to question His presence and sovereignty in the vicious destruction of a Christian family or the sudden death of one of our children. However, when we are in line with His will, we realize that He is so much more powerful than our questions and our doubts. He is weaving these extraordinarily painful circumstances into something simply extraordinary.

In our pain, he creates a firm community of believers who demonstrate to the world what it looks like to fight firmly in the faith. Even while being tempted to turn our backs on Him for allowing such pain, a true believer knows, without doubt, that God reigns over it all and is deserving of our praise.

This pain that we will all inevitably experience in one way or another is a worldly pain, while God gives us a supernatural means to survive even the worst seasons of life.

Beauty in a Fallen Leaf

I have seen death’s merciless determination three times in my life. The first was when it 20171013_133140chased after my best friend’s mom, then it went after my Grandma, and finally it took my first child, whose face I never saw.

Death appeared to have won all three times, but I know, as a follower of Christ, that this is not the case.

God says He has conquered all death, and surely this must be true for death was left utterly immobilized when faced with the Savior of the world (2 Timothy 1:10).

We clearly see in the Bible that Jesus did not fear death, and was even able to reverse it in the case of Lazarus. However encouraging this reality is, death still has a powerful sting for those of us left behind. It is a great comfort to know that our loved ones are spending eternity in a painless and perfect Heaven, but we are left to face unbearable pain after they are gone.

20171013_132941Unfortunately, this earthly life is full of innumerable painful experiences, even when death is not involved.

However, if we were to see past our grief I think we would find something quite pristine in our pain. For as I sit here on this breezy October afternoon and gaze out my window to find the trees wrapped in the most vivid and electrifying colors, I am reminded that God creates beauty out of the most brutal of circumstances because, you see, these stunning leaves are, in fact, in the throes of death.

This is when I hear God whisper, “You see, my child, some of My most striking work is found in the midst of pain.”

Whether it is death or an ache less permanent, I rely upon God’s promise that He works for my good (Romans 8:28). Because He leaves me completely in awe of the death of a leaf, I know He sends even more beauty to surround me amid any turmoil.

So take James’ advice, rejoice in your trials and watch God transform your hurt into something spectacular (James 1:2).

My Questions for a Non-Believer

When happiness overflows,things

And laughter smothers sadder things,

Who is your Savior?

 

When you lie awake at night, scared to death of morning

–the lightening of the horizon mocks as it promises daylight,

Who offers you comfort?

 

When you lose a little one, no bigger than a pea,

a senseless, loathsome death

Whose strength do you rely upon?

 

When a close call at a stop light

Ignites a passionate sigh within you,

Who was it that protected you?

 

When the door finally closes behind you,

A long, brutal day finally over,

And you can’t control the tears,

Who hears your cry?

 

When your spouse gets sick and the doctors are puzzled,things

The future morphing to fear

Who do you depend on?

 

When your strength to stand disappears,

Your life in ruins on the floor,

Whose arms reach out to hold you?

 

When relief sweeps through you,

Hearing of a loved one’s health regained,

Who do you praise?

 

When you have a decision to make,

your logic offering no solution

Whose will do you seek?

 

When bad news abounds,

Countless concerns for others run through your head,

Who receives your prayers?

 

When the future seems bleak, the money dwindling–

And no answers to be found,

Who has promised to provide for you?

 

When you question your decision,

Thoughts of more consume you,

Who do you trust in?

 

When things are unraveling,

Leaving you with nothing to cleave to,

Who do you grasp?

 

When a storm rages outside your window,

The rain and wind merciless,

Who gave you shelter?

 

When your son won’t sleep and your nerves are thin,

The moon’s light streams in, offering little comfort

Who stays awake with you, in the coldness of the night?

 

When you awake in the morning, peeling yourself out of bed,

doubting your ability to carry on for another day,

Who carries you?

 

When you break a heart, destroy a friendship,

The guilt beating you up from the inside,

Who forgives you first?

 

When you survive a torturous day,

Collapsing with a sigh onto your couch,

Who do you thank?

 

When you’re on your knees, waiting for your world to change,things

waiting for something, anything, to come together,

Whose book do you open?

Whose words do you read?

 

 

When you seek answers,

Wait for peace,

Who are you waiting for?

 

When your days seem mundane,

your useless work being all you have,

Who do you commit yourself to?

 

When the world lets you down,

leaving you lonely and without another body,

Who steps in to be your friend?

 

When the sun sets the horizon on fire,things

Basking your world in an inexplicable, orange glow,

Whose creation has taken away your breath?

 

When cancer ravages a loved one,

so senseless, so hateful, so unforgiving

Who offers you peace?

 

When the days seem long,

Your purpose seems small,

Who establishes your value, your worth?

 

When laughter fills your home,

Leaving you in awe of the blessings around you,

Who is this gift from?

 

When you study the intricacies of your new baby,things

Fascinated by his uniqueness,

Who is his creator?

 

When the news is full of hate,

full of violence,

full of death,

Who gives you hope?

 

When an unexpected death burns away your happiness,

leaving you with ashes,

Who do you fight with, push against, accuse?

 

 

When life is too hard,things

the pain too much,

the hope worn thin,

Who is your Savior?