Sunday, October 10, 2010

Being Okay with God: Part III

If you haven't, please read "Being Okay with God: Part I" and "Being Okay with God: Part II" before you read this, as they build on each other. Thank you!


Miracles DO happen.

They really do. And as I said, God had one more miracle to share with me...

I can't believe this (actually I can...), but just as I was reflecting on my crisis of faith during my mother’s battle with ovarian cancer and writing about it to all you lovely readers at The Universal Soul, God did something really BIG in my life this very week. I mean this timing can’t be a mere coincidence. It can’t be “ironic” or a fluke. It’s got to be God. And I think you’ll agree…

To find out how this story ends, you’ll have to read this letter I wrote to my mother explaining what happened because I don’t know how else to explain it to you...


“The Girl and the Pink Pen”
A letter to my mother on 10/8/2010


I know this is random, but I have to share this with you. Today a student in my class was presenting a project about her personal culture, and part of that was her family. She stood up and showed everyone a pink pen and then started to cry. And then she couldn’t go on…

Everyone waited for a few moments in utter silence. We didn’t know why she was crying, but people started to tear up anyway. Then she continued. She said the pink pen represented breast cancer. She said that someone she loves is fighting a battle against breast cancer right now. And then she broke down in tears. She couldn’t bring herself to tell the rest. I asked her if she wanted to present her project with me later, and she thanked me and said she would.

She sat back down at her desk, and I brought her the tissues. After that, something beautiful happened. The class began to raise their hands. One by one, they looked this young girl in her eyes and told her they’d been there. They said she was brave. They told her they lost the one they loved, and they know how she feels. Then some students shared stories about survivors, and they promised her that her loved one could be a survivor too. That exchange gave me hope. Watching these young people step up and use their voices made me feel like I was privy to the most beautiful experience we human beings can have.

After the students were done supporting and sharing with one another, I shared your story. I told the young girl with the pink pen that you had ovarian cancer. I told her that as soon as I heard the news I thought about death and that I couldn't lose my mother. She cried and nodded her head. But then I got to tell her that you survived. I got to tell her to hold onto those survival stories as hope that her loved one would survive too. She smiled and thanked me. And then the entire class told her to hang on. There wasn’t a dry eye.

This moment will be—forever—one of my most treasured teaching memories. And I had to tell you for two reasons: 1) because you’re the best teacher I know, and I strive to emulate your heart and 2) because your survival story happened so you could go on and bless others.

I now fully understand why God allowed this to happen to you. Your struggle and pain and scars had to happen so others could be blessed and be guided by your story.

It’s amazing how things come full circle. God does have a master plan. It won’t always be easy. It can hurt a lot, but if we are steadfast, God will reveal the end result. I am a better person and a far more compassionate person because of this struggle our family has gone through.

I think this story illuminates the idea that we are all connected to one another. We aren't strangers, but rather God's children. Who could have ever known that what happened to our family two years ago would reach out and touch this young lady?

Anyway, I love you so much. I will be seeing you soon.



So do you believe me? It’s a bit of a miracle, isn’t it? I started writing about this chapter in my life just days before this happened. How was I to know? There wasn't suppose to be a Part III to this series, but now there is.

I feel blessed to be able to share this with you. And I can tell you wholeheartedly that this is why I am okay with God. I hope you are too. And please share your stories...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Being Okay with God: Part II

If you haven't yet, please read "Being Okay with God: Part I" first. Part II builds on the story in Part I.

Part II
When something bad happens to us, I suppose that it’s human nature—or perhaps human frailty—that causes the kneejerk question “If God loves us so much, then how come he let’s us suffer?” Or perhaps we ask the father of all God Questions, “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”

When it came to the news of my mother’s cancer, I was asking both questions. In my mind, I thought that if saints were taking up residence on Rocky Mountain Road (the street my parents lived on), my mother could be a founding member. She was a woman after God’s own heart, humble and disarmingly sincere. Wasn’t this enough for God? Couldn’t he let someone else have cancer? Perhaps a murderer or cheat instead? Why her? Why now? WHY ever?

My dad always told me to keep God close because you don’t want to have to go running and searching for him when something catastrophic happens. My mom always told me that God is like a patient father who sits in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace at the center of the home waiting for us, the rowdy and busy teen, to sit at his feet and stay awhile.

You’d think with powerful anecdotes like that, I would have listened to their spiritual guidance… but I didn’t. And I only know that now as I look back over my shoulder into my past of just two years ago. I guess I thought God and I were a lot tighter than we were. And it wasn’t his fault we were that way; it was mine.

I was that rowdy teen. I acknowledged there was a God, and I even read my Bible, but I was too busy coming and going to actually sit down at his feet and stay awhile. And as you know, when we don’t work at our relationships, they become tenuous and weak.

God was waiting in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace, and I was too busy. So naturally, when something really bad happened, like my mother getting cancer, I turned from a rowdy teen into an angry one. I wasn’t truly making time for God before, and now I was really pissed off at him.

To put it simply, God and I weren’t talking. Or was it, I wasn’t talking to God?

As the weeks went by, I watched in awe as other people in our church and family leaned heavily on God when they heard the news about my mother. They were talking about him and praying to him and counting on him. And me? I was just nodding my head and crying.

It’s not that I didn’t believe in God (because I did); I just didn’t think he cared about us the way we humans thought he did. My new premise was that if God could do THIS to my mother, then he’s not the God I want to know. (And now, it’s hard to even type those words. I was wrong. I was very, very wrong.)

Despite my God-boycott, something amazing happened. In spite of my lack of utter faithfulness, God still had faith in me and my family. He was steadfast even when I turned my back. He still made a miracle I wasn’t worthy of.

BUT you know who was worthy? My mother! Her unwavering faith carried us all. She never asked, “Why me, God?” She never questioned the “why” at all. She just begged that we’d believe that God was in control. That was her prayer.

In the time I now call “limbo,” which was the two months between her surgeries and the news, I was told about a book called The Shack. Everyone was talking about it. Some people thought it perverted the Christian word of God, while others loved it because it clarified God’s love for them in a new and unique way. Since I wasn’t really speaking to God, I thought why not check out this book that’s got all these tongues wagging?

Well, reading The Shack changed me. It came to me at the right time in my life and walked me through my “limbo.” I couldn’t put it down, and I read parts over and over again, as the main character of the book came face-to-face with God after his daughter was raped and murdered. I thought about all the strife we see here on Earth, and that story got me thinking…
I learned that the strife is NOT God’s doing. Strife is the fallout of a free world, and God is the solution to the fallout. The book helped me to see God in a gentler light, when all I could see was a distant, austere giant. It softened my heart. And I finally prayed for a miracle right there on my carpet, as the afternoon sun beamed through the blinds. And this time I meant it. It was my first step in many of being okay with God.

And as I closed the last pages of The Shack, and as I started to pray to God again, a change in the tide was coming…

After two evasive surgeries and a whole community’s weight in prayers, my mother was declared cancer-free. She wouldn’t need chemo. She’s wouldn’t need radiation. She would only need to live her life. Hearing the news made an ordinary day the best day of my life.

The nurses were calling it a miracle by the doctor’s hands and that her news was the best news they were able to share that day. The doctor even said God was guiding his hands. Everyone we knew felt the same way.

I doubted God, but he pulled us through. It's a simple and as complicated as that!

Now I don’t see my mother as cursed and betrayed by God. I see her as a very special story, an angel on Earth. God loved my mother so much that he brought her through this trial so that she could be good news for others.

And God loved me so much that he was about to show me YET another miracle that would close the chapter of this poignant story…

Please stop by tomorrow for PART III...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rumi's Love Poem

"In the Arc of Your Mallet"

Don’t go anywhere without me.
Let nothing happen in the sky apart from me,
or on the ground, in this world or that world,
without my being in its happening.
Vision, see nothing I don’t see.
Language, say nothing.
The way the night knows itself with the moon,
be that with me. Be the rose
nearest to the thorn that I am.

I want to feel myself in you when you taste food,
in the arc of your mallet when you work,
when you visit friends, when you go
up on the roof by yourself at night.

There’s nothing worse than to walk out along the street
without you. I don’t know where I’m going.
You’re the road and the knower of roads,
more than maps, more than love.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Being Okay with God: Part I

I think a lot of us—if we’re willing to look over our shoulder—can admit that we’ve had a crisis in faith at some point in time. For me, I can pinpoint the moment when my faith was almost leveled.

In June of 2008, my family, through a trial of draining events, learned that my mother had ovarian cancer. Yes, it was the C word, the word every one of us has come to dread because every last one of us loves someone that this horrid disease has claimed.

I’ll never forget the way the news played out. The doctor thought my mother’s post surgery follow-up would be a grand event. In fact, he was so sure the news would carry a clean bill of health that we kids were convinced to stay home while just my father and mother went in for the results. My dad was so certain that he even waited in the car, reading a biography on the Founding Fathers, while my mother went into the doctor’s office for her appointment.

It was suppose to be no big deal.

So after waiting for several minutes, my dad had become engrossed in his book when he heard a rapt on the window. And there stood my mother, gray and trying to find the words.

“The doctor wants to see us both,” she choked out.

And before they knew it, they were sitting before an awestruck man, who nearly cried as he bore out the horrifying news. “I—I can’t believe this, but—I’m so sorry… but you have ovarian cancer.”

They say they remember staring and asking how it was possible and crying… and little of anything else. My mother and father explained the ride up the mountain home as a dreadful climb.

Meanwhile, my sister, husband, and I were out for lunch, an “early celebration” for my mother’s clean bill of health, I guess you could say. And we all know what happens when we count our chickens before they hatch…

My parents beat us home.

When we finally arrived on the door step, laughing and smiling and soaking in the perfect summer day, I remember looking at my mother. And I’ll never forget the exchange we had.

“Mom!” I called out. And she appeared. “Oh, look at you! You look beautiful and healthy, like I knew you would be. How’d it go?”

“That’s what we need to talk to you about.” And those were the words that sent my faith in God in a deadly plunge for the ground.

We all gathered in the kitchen. The heart of our home. And once there, all the horrible details came out. She had ovarian cancer. She’d need another surgery and perhaps chemotherapy or radiation.

I cried out instantly and begged for the cancer to be a mirage, a figment of my imagination... But it was real, and I was in freefall. My husband stood against me, propping me up in his grip… And my baby sister, my sweet baby sister, shrank away in silence. Large pools of tears flooded her blueberry eyes.

And just like that, loud rumbles of thunder rolled through the mountain air, and the sky darkened. One minute later, it was pouring.

It was like God was crying. He was crying for my mother. He was crying for all the suffering that plagues the Earth. And I knew one of those tears were for me.

He knew what I was doing. I was losing my faith as quickly as a tub drains lukewarm water from a bath. And the water was flooding out… all over the ground.

The moments that followed are as nebulous as the clouds in a midnight sky. I only remember sitting on the dark stairway listening to the voices and the violent rain, wishing like a devil that God wasn’t this cruel.


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