Fearing the Hopeful Future

I look back on the dream of me, those memories that are mine that seem as true as the movie I watched last weekend. People are so many people in one life. 

I have times that stick out to me in my fog of memories and I remember the emotion, the facts get blurred and I don’t remember the exact day, or even the exact month, sometimes not even the exact year. But I remember the emotion. 

I just remember being fearless. I remember taking it all in like instructions for a pickup game of basketball, I didn’t know what I was doing, wasn’t my sport, a little worried my lack of skills would not impress the others, but all in all it wasn’t that big of a deal. But it wasn’t basketball, and it was a big deal. It was cancer.

I was fifteen years old. I had absolutely no clue who I was, I just rolled with the punches and tried not to get in the way.  Doctor appointment, ok. Surgery, I’ll be there. Cancer. My job was to have a good attitude. 

The day. The first of those days arrived. Surgery. I remember nothing about getting ready. I remember no nervousness over the risks. There was no caution, no stress, no worries. I can’t even recall any of the presurgery details. But I remember something, something I wish I could forget. 

A pain too intense for words.  Immediately, as I began to claw my way out of my painkiller sleep, my body now understood the meaning of the word cancer.

Pain. And isn’t that what we are all scared of?  The fear of all people of all the world. We aren’t worried about the future, but we are afraid it will hurt. Maybe we aren’t scared to die, just don’t want there to be pain in the how. I don’t have trouble trusting Jesus with my life, I just want to make sure that his plan isn’t a painful one. 

And how do I come to terms with fear, that fear of pain, not just cancer, but any pain?  And the answer is:  IT WILL. 

It will hurt. In this life, you will have troubles. What is my priority?  Comfort?  Money?  Health?  Well, Jesus has bigger plans for me, bigger plans than just this world. 

How are we supposed to cope knowing that it is sure to hurt?  “In this world you will have trouble, BUT I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD!”

Jesus knows pain!  The ultimate pain, more than any human will ever experience. And he chose it!  Why?  Because there is something greater than this world!

And I want that!  I trade this world for heaven!  I trade these earthly possessions that are out of fashion and fall apart much too quickly for eternal gold and glory. I choose serving over me. I choose love over selfishness. And I choose hope over fear. 

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My Cancer Survival Kit

Jesus. When I open my survival kit, there is one item:  Jesus. He completely fills and overflows my medical emergency survival kit. 

I was a teenage college student when I first began this book, literally when I began writing this book.  But its contents were real, they were raw, and it was relevant. It was relevant to a world that hurt and that needed my story. 

As a typical young college student, I was battling the discovery of who I was, who I wanted to be, and what was safe to share. Cancer. It was my little secret to keep hidden at all costs. Who could possibly understand that?  I sure didn’t!  

My release was found in writing. The story of a struggling young girl was scribbled through the pages of my Cancer journal. I, appropriately, titled it My Survival Kit. 

I shared my fears of others discovering my disease, my love of Jesus for bringing me to college, my uncertainty of the future, even my ignorance of what lived inside my body. 

Those pages were destroyed, burned for fear of being discovered. Dashed upon the rocks by an ignorant professor. I revealed to him my little secret that I was writing a book. That was all I had told him, it was the first time I had trusted anyone with that tiniest bit of information. 

His smirking ignorant comment sent my writing up in flames, “Write about something people will want to read. You can not write about yourself.”

I am a nineteen year survivor of a rare form of MEN2A Cancer. I am a rare condition within a rare condition. The specialists at Duke University Hospital study my case and the interns rub their hands together and giggle in excitement when they meet their living textbook, sitting in the doctor’s office with my family by my side. 

It took years and years and more years for me to begin to grasp that my weakness made me strong. Just now can I thank God that I am able to comfort someone terrified of their medical future because, I too, have been told those dreaded words:  Cancer. 

Only now, can I see that CANCER IS IRRELEVANT!  I am Caroline. I am a wife. A mom. A child of the King.

Wait. It is not just a comfort for the sick. It is a truth for the husband that walked out on his family, the highschool girl that longs for attention, the orphan baby with no mommy to make her dinner and no daddy to protect her, a real comfort to those that have screwed up big time and need the ultimate forgiveness, love for the unlovable, healing for the sick, LIFE FOR THE DEAD, we are loved by the King of all Kings. What else matters?!

Jesus knows my body inside and out. He knows my body needs extra salt and that I need to drink more water. He knows I love reading CS Lewis while drinking black coffee, that I love hitting the town and drinking a draft beer with my dreamy husband, it is no surprise to Jesus that I dream of a swimming pool in my backyard. He wants me to have all that!  BUT HE WANTS MORE!

More than being comfortable and enjoying a book, he wants me to serve. More than being healthy, he wants me to depend fully in him. More than a pool in my backyard, he wants me patient. And more than this life, he wants me for eternity. 

ETERNITY!  Cancer is irrelevant. 

The Best Things in Life are Free OR $6.99

  
The reward for completion is that her little eight year old fingers get to erase the completed chore off our dry erase To Do list. 

Laundry. Check. Make beds. Check. Grocery shopping. Check. We have gotten to the point in our summer day where the next item to be completed is reading. 

She reads the coming “chore” as…just that…a chore. But she curls up on the sofa pillow with a throw to one of both of our favorite books, Trumpet of the Swan. It is the first time SHE is reading the book to herself, but it has already been read to her two times. (I adore books that are so good that they must be read more than once. In the words of CS Lewis, “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and only reading it once.”

I hear a deep roll of thunder in the distance promising relief from the drought. The moment could not be any more perfect. It is that time when all is at peace and my heart is happy. 

Madison looks up from her book giggling. When she gets excited, she gives two really deep breaths and then continues with something she is eager to share. Her chore has become a love and now she can’t put the book down. 

I am quite a long distance from being what I want to be as a mother. Sadly, it is not hard to find fault with my accomplishments. However, I swell with pride and thanksgiving that I have passed on a love of books to my daughter. 

READ. Learn. It is one of the greatest accomplishments this life has to offer. And once you have become an accomplished reader, pass it on. 

The Pursued Decision

My mind engaged in Buddism, clearing all the chaos. I released myself of riches and the hamster wheel of comfort. When suffering plagued my days, I sought to release their power. There was no purpose in their pains. But they stalked me, humoring in their disturbance, and I wasted away my life seeking relief from my fleeting days. My days of calm were no peaceful offering for the meaning of my passing life. 

I seek Allah, days full of ritual prayer. His commands tell me to be good, to follow his decrees.  But when the hammer of judgement falls, I find that I fail so miserably. I can not live up to his scale. Fear is all I know. 

I live for this world, pursuing pleasures. One after another, I drink in their delight. When this one fades, so very quickly, I seek the next craving, surely it will fill me. Unexpected and hurt,  it leaves me even more empty. 

Who is this God that pursues me?  The Creator of hydrangea blossoms and painter of beach sunsets. “My child, that longing and ache in your heart, it is my whisper. It is me, come and see what I have prepared for you. Your weakness will be my strength, for I will make you whole.”  My every hearts desire leads me to his purpose. The tears of my hopeless nights, undone in his presence. Mercy to erase my hate, my selfishness, and my quick to anger ways. Grace that abounds what my soul longed for always. 

“Why?!  I have searched the gods, I have traveled far and wide and longed for just happiness. All the gods demand that I meet their standards and they ask for all of me.  But you tell me that I am offered the gift of you. Why would you far exceed what I ask?  And why would you possibly approach me?!”

And when all the gods dismiss me, when I find myself failing, the only one that matters searched and he found me. 

Summer Promises

The gray has turned green and yellow.  The sun is so hot, I pulled out the sprinkler to water my newly planted flowers. Madison put on her bathing suit and ran over the grass with the water falling down on her. I love summer nature!

Being outside makes our bellies hungry and we slice open a fresh watermelon. Fire up the grill, pop open a drink, and slice up some summer veggies. My girl and I will hold a contest to see who is the fastest at shucking corn and we will have to shoo away Tucker (our doggie) who would like to participate and snatch an ear of corn. I love summer food!

Two more days of school!  Two more days of waking up at 6:15.  I will set the alarm for an hour later, or maybe a little more. I will roll out of bed and grab a throw and a fresh cup of coffee and sit and write. My sleepyhead will join me just a little later and we will sit and cuddle. When we chat a bit and begin to wake up and plan our day, we will make some pancakes. I will add bananas to mine.  She will take her’s plain.  I love summer mornings!

Pretty soon I will write about late nights watching fireworks, summer weddings and my crazy dance moves, the perfection of a fire pit and a backyard full of cousins, and Madison swimming with dolphins!  The dates are set, family awaits our travel, it’s going to be a celebration to write about!  I love summer promises!

Read a Book! (May I Suggest Mine?)

“We read to know we are not alone.” – C.S. Lewis

Every time I read a book, I connect.  I may feel connected to the author, but the author never knows me.  I may feel connected to the characters, but they are not even real.  I can connect to others if I discuss the book, but they can not know my emotion during the time of reading.  I connect with God.  Together we experience an adventure.

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I Am Wrong

Somewhere around five years ago, James and I set our minds on buying a leather couch. I had a little bitty budget that I wanted to spend and unrealistic expectations on what I could get. Routinely, I scanned Craigslist and was discovering that I had set the bar a little too high.  Perhaps, our old couch would have to do for a while longer. 

And then it happened, like the ad was shining and glittery and playing angelic music, I found it. The couch. It was exactly what I wanted for exactly my budget. It had to be a typo or a scam, it was a little too good to be true.  But I am a sucker for these kind of things, so I gave the number a call.

Nope, it hadn’t sold yet. Yep, he was available that afternoon. So, a few hours later, I loaded up toddler Madison and dragged along husband James (poor guy with a logical brain that falls in love with a dreamer like me.)

On the short drive, Madison fell asleep, so we were the kind of dorks that do things like this:  James “went in” first to scope out the safety situation and returned to watch the baby. Next, I knocked on the door to give the fashion approval.  James would return to break the deal. That is pretty much how we operate. 

Well, approximately two minutes later, I return to the car decorated in a huge silly grin, “I bought it.”

“Huh?”  I had overstepped boundaries, James is the final deal maker.

So I explained the situation:  the couch was perfect. In fact, it was a practically brand new $1,500 couch and the guy was asking $400.  Yes, I was going to buy it. I was already thrilled about the situation. But just because I am American and good enough is never good enough, I just have to ask, “Will you take anything less?”  And I waited for the guy to tell me to leave for being rude, insulting, and ungrateful of a good deal when I see one.

But he pauses and smiles at me like I am his daughter that he can’t tell no, “Sure, I’ll take $300.”  If I had the strength, I would have grabbed the couch and ran at that point, but the man is not done yet, “No…” And damnit, I should have grabbed the thing and ran while I could, sure he was changing his mind, but he continues, “No…I’ll take $250.” (!!!)

At that point, I felt a little obligated to explain Math to him, “Dude, you just dealt in the wrong direction.”

I smiled, offered my many thanks and walked away with the furniture I wanted and a little extra cash. 

I love the story, but I am just like that man, almost every single day. There is something that comes with proclaiming the truth, people want to debate. But it goes a little like this with me:

Person:  You call yourself a Christian?  Well, You are a sinner!  Me: oh yes!  The very worst!

Person:  Well, Jesus said to give all your stuff to the poor!  Me:  I know.  I should do that. I really suck!

Person:  Yeah?  Well, the church is a bunch of hypocrites!  Me:  oh, much worse!  They are liars, cheats, murderers….much worse than hypocrites!

Person:  I am my own god. Nobody tells me what to do.  Me:  I suck as a god!  Glad you have it all figured out because I am really screwed up!

Ya see, being a Christian is not about winning the debate or having a clean house or a new car or well behaved children or going to a Wednesday morning Bible study. It looks more like the outcast guy scraping the bloody man up off the pavement and taking him to the hospital, it looks more like the Mommy sitting with her eight year old for the tenth time in one day and apologizing that Mommy is a sinner, it is more like the woman dragged into the streets and having her tongue cut out by her brother because she rejected the family faith and gave her life to Jesus. 

So, in this debate, before you even say it, I confess I AM WRONG but the only hope is JESUS IS RIGHT.