Grace Like Rain

God's grace comes to us in many ways and sometimes... under surprising circumstances. Never deserved, always welcome, Jesus delights in blessing His people.

The event I had planned for the next evening was kind of like a party or a shower… if you took out all of the joy. As hostess I would rather not have had this particular reason to send the invitations and I seriously doubted that anyone would want to accept.

No. Unlike a standard gathering to celebrate an upcoming wedding or arrival of a baby, it wasn’t a happy occasion at all. Rather, it was a vulnerable invitation to intimacy, for me and for them. I was asking my friends to help me mark a significant moment in my journey with breast cancer.

My oncologist had told me that I could expect my hair to start falling out about twenty days after my first chemotherapy treatment. I had prepared for the event by researching the available methods of covering the resulting baldness. It seemed I had three main options: wigs, turban/scarf combinations, or hats. Some brave women even manage to embrace their new look by going bare-headed!

Wigs are a popular choice for many women but not for me. The thought of wearing fake (or even real) hair just didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t want to disguise my hair loss as much as I wanted to effectively cover my soon-to-be naked head, hopefully, with some degree of attractiveness.

The best products seemed to be designed by women who had actually experienced cancer. I bought a couple and gathered my small collection of scarves together. I was ready, or so I thought.

Two weeks after my first chemotherapy treatment the gentle rain of hair began.

Watching the strands slipping softly through my fingers to the floor wasn’t as upsetting as I had anticipated. I felt relieved… at least now that part of the ever-present waiting that comes with cancer was over.

I had read the stories of other women who had chosen to take this proactive approach to the whole hair loss issue by shaving their heads and it made sense to me. The idea is to give yourself some control over your body while dealing with an illness that oftentimes makes you feel helpless.

One woman turned her hair cropping session into a party that involved food, drink, and making merry with her family while her fourteen-year-old son did the honors! While that seemed like a positive take on what might otherwise be a depressing moment I decided that I wanted to go about it differently.

The next evening my friends joined me at my home for my impromptu head shaving “party.”

I had invited these women from my church community to come along-side me during what I felt was a significant time in my journey with Jesus through cancer. This was hard. Part of me wanted to just get it over with by doing it privately so I wouldn’t have to risk showing what I suspected were going to be vulnerable places in my heart.

But I have learned during the last decade or so that when I want to run there is often a blessing to be missed. And as Jesus has continued over the years to lovingly draw me to Himself, I have learned to listen to His voice and in doing so, resist the deceptively comforting urge to hide.

So when this idea occurred to me I decided to go through with it even though I thought it was a little weird. After all…

  • It’s too depressing to invite people to something like this.
  • They might feel uncomfortable… which really meant, I’ll be uncomfortable!
  • It’s so last-minute.

Besides, who wants to go to something like this on a Friday night? Apparently… my courageous and loving friends did.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 ESV)

I went into the evening feeling a little nervous. After all, I’ve never had my head shaved before and I anticipated feeling embarrassed and emotional. And although the women I had invited are my sisters-in-Christ, none of them are longtime friends as we have only been in Fort Worth a bit over two years.

So a steady flow of “what if” questions flowed through my thoughts all day… what if I cry… what if I look hideous… what if it’s awkward… what if, what if, including the worst one of all… what if no one comes? (That last one is tricky because part of me also hoped they wouldn’t!)

But come they did…

And like the blessing of rain after a time of drought, grace fell on our little gathering.

Six friends, two daughters, and two granddaughters gathered around me to give and receive love from our Heavenly Father. Ten souls joined me in my suffering and blessed me with their gentle and tender care.

  • Words of love and healing were spoken over me in prayers to Jesus, my Healer.
  • Laughter mixed with tears flowed and opened up tightly closed places in my heart.
  • Gifts of beauty… hats and scarves… were presented with a love and understanding that touched me deeply.

And to my great surprise, I felt no need to hide.

They saw me and accepted me in the midst of it all. My dear ones loved me in Jesus’s name and in doing so, they helped to carry my burden.

I am carried by the love of Christ through this portion of His body here in Fort Worth… and I’ve never felt any lighter.

God desires to pour out grace on His people. He’s like that. But many times in our fear and desire to protect ourselves we hold back… we hide. And in doing so we close ourselves off to expressions of His marvelous love. Let’s determine to stop running and instead, start saying, “yes," to His amazing grace!

Confidence for the Journey

Where do you get your confidence? Ultimately, we were created to receive our confidence for life's challenges through Jesus Christ.

I’ve noticed several similarities between two life events that couldn’t be more dissimilar: pregnancy… and cancer.

The first occurred when I found myself charging around the house checking things off my to-do list prior to chemotherapy infusion number one. (This included painting my bedroom the last two days before starting treatment!) The urgency to get my house in order felt surprisingly familiar to the nesting I did before each of my children’s births.

What felt vastly different was my emotional view of the upcoming change. On one hand, each of my seven baby’s arrivals was anticipated with a mix of impatience, joy, and excitement. On the other, my upcoming chemotherapy filled me with an uneasy sense that life as I knew it was going to radically change… and perhaps not for the better.

In either case, adjustments had to be made as the new normal, for myself and my family, became a reality.

The other thing that struck me was how pregnancy and cancer both seem to give people a green light to invade my personal space. When expecting a new addition to the family became common knowledge it seemed to serve as an invitation for all sorts of unsolicited advice and questions. And there’s nothing like a protruding belly to cause folks who normally know how to keep their hands to themselves to “reach out and touch!”

The same thing has happened to me when people find out I have breast cancer. Pretty much everyone has been touched by it to one degree or another and the impulse to help in some way tends to come out in advice regarding nutrition, alternative treatments, and even, amazingly(!) opinions about what kind of surgical options I should consider.

The most recent encounter happened yesterday while I was checking out at a local store. The cashier noticed my medical port, a device surgically implanted under the skin of the chest that is used for chemo infusions, and asked me about it. I didn’t mind and I gave her a brief explanation. But afterwards she went on to quiz me about my illness and treatment plan.

While I attempted to grab my few items to make a quick escape, she continued to give me advice about breast cancer in general and finally ended our uncomfortable conversation with a warning to, “not let the doctors take both of them!”

As awkward as those encounters can sometimes be, I can usually appreciate the kindness and concern behind them.

But here’s where the comparison between the situations become apparent, and to me… darker.

Most of the comments about each pregnancy reflected the speaker’s desire to rejoice with and come alongside a joyful event. Their advice or stories were reflections of their own experience and while sometimes were a radical departure from how I planned to prepare for my new baby’s arrival, I could usually appreciate their point of view with some degree of equanimity.

However, I’ve noticed that the same kind of exchanges between myself and others regarding cancer seems to have a quite different effect on me. They make me doubt myself. And in the doubting comes anxiety followed close behind by its crippling companion, fear.

These questions and others have pounded me when I have been at my weakest moments thus far:

  • Immediately following my visit and decision to go with the treatment plan proposed by my new oncologist
  • The day before my first chemo infusion.
  • During the first debilitating weeks following chemotherapy.

Fortunately I am provided with a loving support team led by my wise husband. He and my daughter, Erika, have been on hand to help me see the dark thoughts for the lies that they are and then point me back to my loving Father.

Each time I allow myself to second-guess decisions that were made in a peaceful assurance of being led by Jesus I open myself up to the enemy.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 ESV)

My body is already in a battle to avoid being consumed by cancer; the last thing I want to do is allow the devil to devour my soul’s peace too.

Pondering this point as I have walked through what are only the beginning of hard times in the coming months has helped me to realize a very important point; my physical healing, just like my spiritual salvation, is not determined by anything I can do to earn it.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)

Oh, the blessed relief there has been in allowing that truth to sink deep down into my soul. Jesus, and only Jesus, is my Healer. I don’t have to do this cancer journey “right.”

One dear friend, who knows me only too well, gave me permission to fail at this cancer fighting thing. Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t want me to die. She just doesn’t want to see me trying to rely on my performance to see me through… because it can’t.

My confidence doesn’t come from believing that I have whatever it takes to get me healed. Rather, it comes from the knowledge that I am in the loving arms of the One who will bring me though… in His time and in His way.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

Amen!

Confidence… where we get it and whether we have enough of it to get us through the hard times can be difficult to determine. Self-confidence can only take us so far because we were created to rely on God for everything we need.

How to Love Your Child Despite the Pain of Rejection

Rejection is tough... period. But it's especially painful when the one rejecting you is your child. Jesus understands your pain & He can bring healing too.

The pain of being emotionally pushed away by a beloved child is excruciating. When my normally communicative teenage son began shutting his father and I out I initially felt bewildered and then hurt. Seeing the change, not only in his relationship with us, but with his siblings too, was heartbreaking.

The fact that there was no concrete reason for his apparent disinclination to be involved with the family added to our bewilderment. What could possibly be wrong? And, most important to me…. how could I fix it?

Some kids transition smoothly through their adolescent years. But for parents of the ones who don’t, the teenage years can mean heartache, confusion, and conflict. Christian parents often struggle with an additional sense of shame or guilt in not being able to prevent their child’s suffering.

After all, shouldn’t godly parents be able to prevent brokenness and discord from happening in their children? Isn’t that the point of learning how to parent well by using good techniques and following established guidelines?

But what about when we do all those things and our child still hurts?


Please join me for the rest of this post at the blog www.lifeofscoop.com where it is my honor to be a part of Alison Tiemeyer’s series called Let’s Talk Relationships.

Rejection hurts... a lot. But it's especially painful when the one rejecting you is your own child. Our Heavenly Father understands the pain of being rejected by the ones you love and He provided the answer to your pain through His own son, Jesus Christ.