There are trials. And then there are the trials that change your fabric.
The lessons of pain and beauty become so intertwined that they’re forever joined. I wouldn’t say it defines me, but this story is woven in so tightly now that I can’t separate it from who I’ve become.
This is my family, somewhere around 1986. You can tell by my sister’s hair. She was so good at feathering.
I grew up in a small town in Oregon. My parents were new Christians and we had a sweet childhood. My mom was an especially bright spot, light of the world really.
Right before my 14th birthday my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 40. She was a nurse, the cancer was aggressive, she was aggressive, but it still metastasized. Her lungs, her spine and eventually her brain.
The next 12 years saw 9+ surgeries, 4 seasons of chemotherapy, radiation, a two month hospital stay at The University of Washington Medical Center, a month-long treatment at Loma Linda Medical Center, etc, etc. All the while, trying to work and raise 3 kids with my wonderful (but very heartbroken) dad. God’s hand was working, but pain became very real to us. The rhythms of those years were;
- Test results
- Fear and faith taking turns
- Nausea =baked potatoes for dinner again
- mom back on the tennis court with dad
- Off the court and in the hospital again
- Curious of how mom’s hair would grow back this time
- Friends bringing meals and sitting with mom while she made them feel better
- Christmas morning photos with mom in her little turban, thankful for another year together
I was sad a lot and asked God everyday to heal her. I agonized over every opportunity that took me away from her. I cried on her hospital bed when I was 16, scheduled for a missions trip to New Zealand that left the next morning. She had just had a lobe of her lung removed and she begged me to go as planned.
Eventually it was going away to college, summer opportunities, jobs, using my gifts, etc, etc. She pushed me to go.
I saw her suffer. Things I can hardly say out loud without my heart breaking. And I watched my dad suffer. And my sister and my brother. And my 2 best friends that only had her for a mom. And many more who trusted her and were inspired by her.
My mom taught me early to look for the golden threads in our situation. She would say, “We get to see God work in ways others never will.” I didn’t love it when she said that, but looking back now I can see them. Those shiny bright parts woven into us.
- We celebrated often
- I lived with an urgency to love well and keep short accounts
- I became assertive. I listened in meetings with doctors about decisions and asked good questions
- I didn’t have a strained relationship with my parents like 95% of my friends did with theirs
- My sister and brother and I clung to each other in ways that still connect us deeply
- We talked about hard things
- Petty things seemed petty
- God felt nearer
12 long years. And then a couple of weeks before I turned 26, on Christmas Eve, she died.
And I found it real hard to find the golden threads. The “good in all of this.” The parts that are “making me better” and “bringing hope to the world.” I still struggle now, 14 years later, to understand why He didn’t let her stay. Why He said “no” to the thousands of prayers for her healing.
Suffering makes us dig deep. Don’t we want deep? Don’t we want real? To know what we’re made of? The chance to witness His redeeming work that brings beauty from ashes?
There are hard realities of living in loss. I need her. I have the complete incredible Jesus, but I want her too. My dad doesn’t get to live the second half of his life by her side. My sister and brother ache for her. She never met my husband.
(My bridal bouquet with a photo of my mom on her wedding day.)
Now that we have two small kids, boy do I need her. I need her to help me, inspire me and talk me off the ledge. I need her to know them. For them to experience her salt & light, her acceptance and her warmth.
But I can’t bring her back so I’ll accept the depth that has come. I want depth. In my relationships, in my work, in the way I see the world. More than anything I want to see God and frankly that depth often finds its route through our aches and longings. Suffering makes things dark and cloudy, but if we wait long enough and dig deep enough, we’ll find the golden stuff.
Every trial has some golden threads. He weaves them in to remind us that He loves us and that we’re not alone. My very being- the fabric of who I am is shiner now. I’ll never be the same.
“He is near to the broken-hearted.” Psalm 34:18
Jesus makes a lot of “I am” statements (I am the light, the door, the shepherd, the truth…) and ultimately just says “I am.” Period.
“I am here.” Not just “I was” or “I will be,” but now, “I AM.” Wherever you’re at, He is sufficient. He lacks nothing. He is complete.
Woven throughout scripture and throughout my life is the truth that He digs deepest. He reminds us, He pursues us.
And when he reaches us, He has what we need.
This week’s “Bright Spot”- Mom’s Legendary Cheesecake
This cheesecake made me love cheesecake. I’m not a big fan of typical cheesecake, but this one…it might change your life. My mom made it most years at Christmas and eventually it was what I requested every year on my birthday. I now make it every chance I get and this cheesecake is legendary. I have been asked for this recipe more than any other thing I’ve made. The secret is that it has two layers; one with cream cheese and one with sour cream. Creamy, a little tangy and altogether perfect.
1 ¼ cups crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
Combine above ingredients with fork until blended. Cover sides and bottom of a springform pan with mixture using the back of spoon.
Put in refrigerator to set.
1 lb. cream cheese (softened)
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs at room temp
¾ tsp vanilla
Separate eggs and beat whites until stiff. Combine all other ingredients in separate bowl and then fold in egg whites. Mix together until smooth.
Pour over chilled crust and bake at 375° for 20 min. Let cool for 15 min.
1 pint sour cream
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Mix all together and spoon over cooled cake. Bake at 475° for 10 min
Chill in refrigerator until served