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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Two Texts & Powerful Prayers

This morning I woke up to this precious text from my dear friend, Susan:

"One year ago today our husbands began chemotherapy and Tom and I received new friends that faithfully prayed for us. We are grateful for you both. Prayed for you this morning."

My heart had a thousand feelings as I read that text.  Vivid memories flooding back to my mind of that scary, but blessed day as we embarked on the chemo adventure.  God just "happened" to place Jamie in a corner of the chemo pod next to Tom, with Susan and me by their sides, squeezing 4 of us into a spot really meant for one patient.  My pastor has said, "Coincidence is a secular term for providence".  I do believe, this was no coincidence, this was pure providence.  After Jamie and I lifted our heads from praying that morning one year ago in the chemo pod as the infusions started, the couple next to us smiled and asked, "Are you believers?"  That question led to a friendship with Tom and Susan that would help carry all four of us on this oh-so-difficult journey of chemo and the road to healing from cancer.  I'm amazed at how God works in mysterious ways.

I'm also amazed to think of all that happened in just one year.  At that point, we were just getting by, day to day, trying to make it through each moment by faith.  We were planning our wedding only 9 1/2 weeks away, but we came to an understanding that "In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)  We knew that in the physical realm, the chemo could keep us from ever having biological children, but that in the spiritual realm, with God all things are possible.  We knew that in the physical realm, Jamie would be temporarily weakened to a low state, but that in the spiritual realm, he would be raised victorious above the trial.  

These memories cause my heart to be in awe of the Living God, who faithfully is with us through it all.  The days are long, but the years are short.  This I was reminded of again before I went to bed last night, when I read a text from a new dear friend, Nicolle:

"Heavenly Father, thank you so much for the beautiful life you have entrusted to Jamie and Caitlin.  I pray you will give them wisdom beyond their years as they learn to raise this child in this world.  I specifically pray this child will have a passionate love for your Word and will constantly strive to walk in truth.  Give them patience, both with each other and their child...even in the midst of the weariness that surrounds a new baby.  Let them treasure up moments like today in their hearts, knowing that the days are long and the years are short.  In the blink of an eye, we know this new life will be making his/her own way in the world...but ultimately we pray he/she will obey and seek you.  Amen."

Yesterday, we had our 20 week ultrasound for baby.  She sent that text during the ultrasound, God's perfect timing for the prayer...Again, no coincidence.  The experience of seeing our baby so clearly on the ultrasound images was beyond incredible.  We were able to see little one in so much detail.  We didn't just see the beating heart, we saw all four chambers of the heart!  We didn't just see the legs and arms, we saw the collar bone, the femur, the tibia & spine!  Every bone, every organ in the place God ordained.  That little face with hands curled up next to those baby cheeks.  Precious tiny feet kicking- which I could feel as we saw them on the screen!  Baby was all cuddled up comfy inside of me, not really wanting to pose for pictures, but we did find out some exciting is a boy!!!!

We are just so thrilled knowing God has given us a little man to raise.  It feels even more personal now as we plan and pray for him.  In all the excitement and preparations and expectation...I want to take a moment to reflect on Nicolle's prayer.  There is some profound power in what she prayed, and I want to take it deeply to heart.


This is truly a precious life inside of me- a miracle of God.  Every life is a miracle, and it is just so surreal that I am carrying a little human within me for these nine months.  As I watched the ultrasound yesterday and the doctor described the various organs and development of the baby, I thought, "How can anyone ever think or say that this is not a living human being, a child?  That is pure life I see on the screen!  Those kicking feet and the four chambers beating in that heart- that's not disposable tissue- that is a remarkable living being! 


"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.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."  -James 1:1-6


The only way we can teach our child to desire and seek the Word of God is if we desire and seek the Word of God on a regular basis.  I pray that God would daily renew the passion in both our hearts for His Word.  "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." -Deuteronomy 6:6-7


"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 4:4   I had this verse on my bulletin board for years, and prayed it over my sponsor children, my nieces and nephews, and other children who are special in my life.  Now I get to pray this over our own baby!


All I need to say is patience is not my forte.  However, it is my husband's strength, and sometimes I think it's his middle name!  I hope he continues to model it for me, so that I can learn this fruit of the spirit and live it out in a better way!  For those "Patient Pandas" out there- I applaud you!


Our Lord's mother, Mary, set this example in a most beautiful way as she experienced and lived out the most marvelous miracle of the incarnation- carrying the Living Savior in her womb and birthing him in a stable in Bethlehem.  I hope to take time to be still, ponder, recall, pray, journal, reflect, and treasure up the gifts of this new season in motherhood.  "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."  -Luke 2:19


I truly can't believe it has been a whole year since Jamie began chemo.  We both have experienced tremendous healing.  We have experienced 10 months of the extraordinary gift of marriage.  We are expecting our little one in just 4 months, and it all has flown by in a blink.  But yes, sometimes the days are long.  Like that first day of chemo, when he sat there for 5 straight hours with an IV pumping heavy doses of medicine into his veins.  Each of us has long days.  Sometimes it really does just feel like we just woke up on the wrong side of the bed- especially on Mondays.  But in those long days, we can find blessings if we look for them, and we can offer grace to those we encounter if we are willing.  I'm so glad on that long day one year ago, Tom and Susan asked "Are you believers?"  I can't imagine had we journeyed through those 9 weeks without our dear friends by our side the whole way.  


I believe with all my heart that our Father in Heaven longs to bless us, His children.  However, we so often stray from His will and His way.  He is a good God and a just God.  He is Holy.  "But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people.  And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you." -Jeremiah 7:23 Are we listening to His voice?  Are we walking according to His will?  I can be stubborn.  We all can- it's called human nature.  It's also called sin and selfishness.  But I am learning that when I truly submit to my Father, that is when it goes well with me.  When Christ is my one Vision and my Ruler of all, that is when it is well with my soul.  


Friday, July 8, 2016

Desert Rocks

His name was Walter, and he was painted with old-fashioned cartoons.  He would be our ride for the next week and a half.  It was a hot day in the desert, and we were off on an adventure.  We met up with the three RVs- one had a flat tire within an hour or two of the start.  Walmart was the first necessary stop after the fixed tire episode, and 15 of us (16 counting baby inside me) made a grand entrance with our matching blue t-shirts and exuberant energy, ready to kick off this trip!

It was called the "Great Western Loop" and my family had been planning it for years, in particular my  middle brother who is always looking for an adventure for us all to share.  We had to postpone it last summer due to my steady, but slow recovery, not realizing that Jamie would be going through chemo and recovering as well!  Yes, I am so very glad we didn't attempt this nail-biting, cliff-walking trip when the two of us were hobbling around and I was still one very dizzy girl!

I remember lying in my recovery bed in Santa Monica, in February of 2015, listening to Bethel worship music at night ever so faintly out of my right ear. With my iPod across the room as a gentle soothing comfort, my head was throbbing, no sound able to penetrate my left ear except the sounds of constant ringing pulsing.  I remember dreaming of going to the desert on this trip one day in the future and being able to climb on rocks and walk and run again.  I remember imagining being able to hold my head up once again and be able to see clearly and even hear once again.  I remember these visions at night that brought me hope in my darkest, loneliest place, when all I felt was physical pain covering me.  Those visions and dreams I had set aside for a year and a half while life took us by surprise after surprise, ups and downs, challenges and blessings.  Cancer. Engagement. Chemo. Wedding. Healing. Baby. Here I am, home after our western trip and I realize the vision came to a reality, and God was faithful.

It makes me think of the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, when God answers him so very directly:

"For the vision vision is yet for the appointed [future] time.
It hurries toward the goal [of fulfillment]; it will not fail.
Even though it delays, wait [patiently] for it,
Because it will certainly come; it will not delay."
(Habakkuk 2:3)

Our Western adventure was a time of exploring creation, bonding with family, experiencing campground dirt and desert sun.  It was one breath-taking national park after another...We walked the Narrows at Zion, saw the intense pink sun setting over the land and peeking through massive rocks while exploring Arches, saw the sunrise on the magical looking "hoodoos" of Bryce Canyon, and so much more.  We truly witnessed wonder after wonder, and our hearts were stirred to worship the Living God.  

A few weeks ago, before our trip, our pastor had a sermon on the first chapter of Romans, and he spoke about the inverted order of our day, which is so similar to that of the time of Rome.  God designed the world and He is first and foremost above all else.  It's pretty simple: Creator first, humanity second, and the rest of glorious creation third.  However, it has been twisted time and again, generation after generation.  Unfortunately, creation seems to take first place in our culture's mind, then humanity is expected to serve and worship creation, then if we acknowledge God, we put him way down in the lowest of third place- some far-off distant Being whom we don't really know personally.  The truth is, mankind was made to give glory to God.  Creation was made to reflect His majesty!  He designed it so that we, human beings, would take care of creation and rule over it.  We are not to worship the creation, but look at what He has made and allow it to inspire us to worship the Maker!  In Colossians, the Apostle Paul clearly speaks of the preeminence of Christ Jesus.

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--
all things were created through Him and for Him.
And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
(Colossians 1:15)

In our culture, we try so hard to preserve the incredible rocks and clay and vast array of marvelous creatures.  This is all very good, because we were appointed to take care over God's creation.  I love nature and ever since I was a little girl, spending time outside is where my heart comes most fully alive.  The issue is when geological formations and endangered species are held in such esteem, they seem to rule over man and God.  (I cannot help but be reminded that human beings are quite endangered these days- the human womb the most dangerous of all places with one third of my generation being massacred before their birth).  Well, Jesus had another point of view.  During His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Pharisees were telling him point-blank to scold his disciples and the crowd for worshipping Him and declaring aloud His praise.  

"Jesus replied, 'I tell you, if these [people] keep silent, the stones will cry out [in praise]!'"
(Luke 19:40)

There we have it- if we as people do not declare the worship and glory of our Lord, the very stones and rocks of the earth will cry out His praise!  Nothing can silence the worship of the King!  I've thought long and hard about what to write in this blog, because I beheld so many incredible sights on our adventure and soaked in so much magnificent beauty.  Whether peering out from Walter's window or hiking somewhat treacherous switchbacks, holding a niece or nephews little hand (and so thankful for my improved vision and balance that allowed me to do just that!), it all pointed to one thing in my mind:  Our God is beyond fathom in His glory and wonder.  His majesty is stunning and this world is filled with grand sights and awe-inspiring places.  He is a God who keeps His Word and is faithful.  He is the Creator.  He is the Healer.  He is the Redeemer.  He is not to be compared.  

"Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; Shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it!
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb:
'I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself...
Who says to the deep, 'be dry; I will dry up your rivers'"
(Isaiah 44:23-27)

"A voice of one calling: 'In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; 
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low...
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all the people will see it together...

'All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers to he field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the Word of our God endures forever.'

You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain...
lift up your voice with a shout...
'Here is your God!' See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power...
"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?

Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor?
Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten Him, and who taught Him the right way?...
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket...
He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust...
With whom, then, will you compare God?  To what image will you liken Him?

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy and spread them out like a tent to live in."
(Isaiah 40)