Thursday, October 17, 2013

I am not a survivor

A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:10 (The Message)

     Over the past year or so, I have tried to pinpoint why I have a difficult time identifying with the title of "survivor". Many who have had a cancer diagnosis like mine rightfully wear this title as a badge of honor or a crown. I haven't quite gotten there. I am not ashamed of what I've been through, as mine is a story of healing and redemption, but I don't feel like a survivor. 
   
      I think I actually feel like a "thriver". God brought me through so much to not just crawl out of the pit but to also have "more and a better life than (I) ever dreamed of". Granted, many days have been about survival but I want people to look at my life and understand that God has not just kept me from death, but that I am joyful about life and that I am truly thriving. I feel happy.
     
     Perhaps my season of singing has started. My season of blooming. I don't know what God will choose to bring me to in the coming days but I know that my past has made me strong in Him, willing to surrender to his authority.
    
     I can see with clarity that there is purpose in the pain. Would I choose to walk through it all again? Ooh. That's a hard one. it was such a painful season but as I look at where he is bringing my family, it makes me pause and think. I don't think I can say truthfully that I would willingly choose the pain but I definitely accept my path. I accept it so that I can give credit to the One who redeems, who knows me and calls me by my name. Who loves me.

     I am not a survivor. I am a thriver. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I love Him more today

I recently read the following tweet from Beth Moore: We think we'd love God more if we had pain-dodging, success-driven, trouble-detouring lives but it's not true. It's faith that fans fervor.

     I've taken a few days and thought this over. I've thought about all that my family has lost over the past year and a half. I pondered the fears we've experienced, many of which became a reality that we had to walk through. I thought about the feelings of insecurity and inadequacy that we have felt so deeply. The conclusion that I came to? I love God now more than I did 2 years ago. I have a hard time writing that because the "good Christian" in me wants to say that I always loved God at equally measurable levels. But that wouldn't be telling the truth. Yes, I've loved God ever since I gave him my life as a little girl with pigtails (yes, I was pretty cute). And I have had some pain in my adult life, mostly in regards to relational divisions that have occurred in my family, but I haven't led a troubled, painful life.  Until last year.
     I took some time recently and read over things that I wrote and that were written to me when I was diagnosed. I read the scriptures that were sent to me and that I clung to. I read the prayers that I fervently wrote. I examined the relationships that blossomed in what was the darkest time of my life. Instead of feeling sad, though, I realized that it was also a time of life, faith, ultimate reliance, and a growing love for my God that I've never experienced before. It's a love that was born from surrender. A child clinging to her father, saying,  "I can't do this alone. I need You."
     So, does a pain-dodging, success-driven life grow our love for God? Not necessarily. It may grow our appreciation and our fondness for Him. It will probably make us feel blessed. But true love is grown out of knowing and acknowledging our need for Christ. Only when we admit that we need Him, do we learn to fully express our love to Him. This doesn't have to occur during crisis by any means. Oh, how much better to love our God well without experiencing the pain of this world. But the faith that is grown during a difficult season fans the fervor, the love.  Jesus himself expressed his love for you and for me by experiencing pain on the cross. Sacrifice.  Love. Surrender. It's all intertwined.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
 Lamentations 3:19-24

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I hate "cancer days"

They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
Psalm 112:7
 
 
     "I hate cancer days". This is how Jeremy summed up our day today.
     Anyone that has had a diagnosis understands that once you get through the worst of it, there are years and years of checkups that will test both your faith and your patience. Don't get me wrong. I am thankful for conscientious doctors that care for me and my family, both physically and emotionally. But these days are exhausting. I always say that I don't fully realize how much these appointments worry me until they are over and I feel the relief that comes with a doctor giving an all clear for 6 more months.
      So, why did I use this verse, you wonder? Because I wonder if I can ever get there-to the place of complete acceptance and peace. I'm not sure if, in my "pre-cancer" days, I feared bad news. I had normal concerns and worries, mostly about my children. But I don't recall having regular fear of bad news. I certainly didn't fear bad news related to my own personal health. Once you receive a potentially life-changing diagnosis, so much changes. You end up having to work through those thoughts (even if they are fleeting) of what it would mean to those around you if God's ultimate plan isn't to heal you.
     This fear of bad news isn't limited to health scares. Perhaps a marriage is shaky or a spouse is about to lose his job. How do we, as believers, not fear bad news? I'll be honest. I don't have a good answer here because I am clearly still working this one out. I don't want to leave you hanging, though. I do know this: When I am walking with my God daily and committing every circumstance and every moment to him, I fear less. I didn't say I was fearless. I just fear less than I do when I am working in my own emotions and feelings.
     Life can change in a single moment. In a phone call. In a doctor's appointment. We have all lived through enough adversity to know that. But I know that my God does care for me. I trust in Him.
But I still hate cancer days.
 
 
Lord, remind me that you do not want me to fear bad news. Help me to look to you and confidently trust in you to care for me. Thank you for loving me through the moments of self-reliance and for guiding me into a life of You-reliance.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Courtney

     Recently I, and the countless people that knew and loved her, experienced a tremendous loss. I met Courtney King several weeks after I had been diagnosed with cancer in the winter of 2012. A mutual friend suggested we get in contact with each other because Courtney had also just been diagnosed with breast cancer and we were in similar stages of life, mid/late 30's, young family, etc. He thought we might be a source of support to one another. He was right. We immediately struck up regular correspondence. Whenever one of us struggled or was dealing with an unexpected cancer-related occurrence, we messaged each other and committed to pray for the other. We sent each other bible verses that might encourage the other. We finally got to see each other this summer at family day for Winshape and we immediately hugged and cried. We spoke of children and husbands, treatment, fear, and struggles.When God brings you down a similar road with another believer, it knits your heart to her heart. God provided perspective and hope through two people who truly understood the anxieties, hopes, and changes that come with cancer. When I had a scary moment this past summer, she was one that I immediately got in touch with and even though she was still dealing with her own cancer, she encouraged me, prayed, and checked in on me. Here is part of our conversation that day. It makes me smile.

    • Courtney Jones King

      This makes everything scary! God is bigger than fear and bad news. I cling to that every day!
    • Laura Joy Wolfe
      Laura Joy Wolfe

      Will we ever not sweat these things out??? I so thought I had all of my fear under control.
    • Courtney Jones King
      Courtney Jones King

      We are still human. It's hard to totally toss the fear, but I have gotten a little better. We can't wrap our minds totally around God's power, but just keep having faith and giving Him credit as you do so well. He will protect you.
     Courtney had a more formidable battle to fight than did I and she fought hard. All with her eyes focused on Christ and her young family. Several weeks after the conversation above, Courtney was sick again and passed away a few weeks later.
One of the verses that she continually referenced throughout the short time I knew her was John 11:4.

    "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it"

     When I received the news in the middle of the night that Courtney had died, this verse was the first thing that came to mind. Why, God? Why place that verse on her heart and then take her from her young family and husband? I had to really wrestle with this for several weeks. I know the "right" answers but they weren't providing a whole lot of reassurance at the time. 
     Then I began to understand. Her sickness did not truly end in death. In the physical terms, yes. But the moment she was absent from this world, she was present in the arms of Christ. Whole again, healthy, never having to fear bad news again or the threat of another treatment. I felt a relief for her at that moment. I count it a privilege to have known a bit of her heart and to see how God is using her complete faith and ultimate healing to bring people closer to Him. 
He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. 8 His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. Psalm 112:7-8


Much Love, Laura 


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

An Open Letter to the Rest of the World

I am participating in the Open Letter Challenge writing contest organized by Josh Irby. The following letter is my response to An Open Letter to You from the Rest of the World.

An Open Letter to the Rest of the World:

     I am not afraid. Hear that, world?!? OK. Maybe I am sometimes but doesn't it sound better to you if I say that I'm not? What if I tell you that I am a Christ-follower? Then I really shouldn't show fear, right? I started a journey almost 2 years ago in an attempt to eradicate fear and anxiety from my life. I researched and scoured the scriptures, studying them to find out how we were supposed to handle fear. What I thought would happen and what actually happened were miles apart. In my heart, I truly believed that through my studies I would enter into a serene life filled with security and peace. Some sort of a "Super Christian!!!", able to handle life's punches as they came at me. 
     What actually took place was that my very life was turned on its head. The losses and hurts began to mount. And they kept coming. Month after month. Being diagnosed with cancer and having to tell our children? We handled that with a pretty strong punch. Husband loses his job while wife is in cancer treatment? Slightly less energetic punch back. Foreclosed on our home? No punch left at all.
    During this time,  I tried to combat 'life' with smiles and with a wave that disregarded and denied the concerns of those around us. 
     Then, I was just so very tired. I was tired from cancer treatment and trying to act like life was normal. It was exhausting. It was not, indeed, normal. Everyone seemed to grasp that except for me. 

     So, I decided that I would be real. So, world, then there were days when I was sad. Days when I was angry. Days when I felt the weighty impact of the injustice of our circumstances. But you know what, world? When I finally allowed myself to feel my feelings, I began to truly heal.God teaches me every day how to honor Him by being real. I hope that's OK, world. Because life is so incredibly hard for many people and if I act like it's not, I don't look like "Super Christian!!!", I look like a liar. Please forgive me for acting like it was no big deal. Because it was. But my God is a bigger deal. And I am not afraid (mostly).