August 10, 2014

“I’m not afraid to die.”

“I’m not afraid to die…”

The first time I heard those words I was sitting next to my mom in a New York City hotel room.  It was during an interview my father had with NBC. His response to the correspondent’s poignant question was filled with resolve and conviction, yet tempered with deep humility. My mother and I both looked at each other and started to cry.

Since then, my father has been interviewed numerous times and I guess due to his ongoing battle with cancer, the topic of death naturally comes up. And every time it does, he confronts it with those same words, “I’m not afraid to die.”

I’m not going to talk about football or what it means to be a Buffalo Bills fan this week, instead I’m going to tell you why my dad isn’t afraid to die and why I’m not afraid either.
But before I dive into what might be uncharted waters for some of you, I’d like to make a few things clear: I’m not trying to tell you what to believe. I’m not even remotely suggesting that I’ve got this all figured out.

What I am going to do is share the source of my hope — a hope that is greater than me, greater than my fear, and greater than death itself. A hope that transcends time and reality, bringing light into the darkest valley. A hope I’ve found in the midst of my father’s battle to stay alive so he can walk me down the aisle one day, even if he has to “crawl to do it.”

For though my years aren’t many, I’ve lived long enough to know full well that the next heartbeat is not promised to anyone, and each breath is a gift — to be unwrapped with gratitude, and never to be taken for granted. I am well aware that as sure as the sun rises to bring forth a new day, filled with promise, among those promises is the assurance that life on earth will end someday.

Whether we like or not, death comes to all of us.

I first experienced this when my brother Hunter died at just eight-and-a-half years-old. I remember that day as if it were yesterday — every feeling, every tear as joy intertwined with tremendous pain. Joy because I knew my brother was in Heaven and he wasn’t suffering anymore. Pain because I miss him with every breath I breathe.

I didn’t want my brother to die and I don’t want my father to die either. But, I know that death is real and lays claim to each of us — whether we age-out of this life and into the next, or something intrudes to violate the natural order of things to take us earlier. However, I believe there is something more real than death. Something greater. Something stronger. Something more powerful.

LIFE!

In the Bible, in John 14:6 Jesus said unequivocally, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The Bible is not a book about religion; it’s a book about relationship. It’s the greatest non-fiction story ever told about man’s deepest need and God’s perfect fulfillment of that need. It’s about life and death and the Creator who is beyond both holding all things together in time and eternity for His glory and our good. 1 John 5:12 clarifies what true life is, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

My dad isn’t afraid to die because he knows and trusts the Author of Life, God. It’s that simple, and yet, it’s the most important thing for us to contemplate and conclude. He has “life” now and when he takes his last breath, eternal life in heaven…not because of anything my father did or has done but solely because he trusts in what Jesus already did for him. Trusting in a God who is greater than our circumstances, greater than our very lives  —isn’t merely a religious experience, or a reason to go to church — it is an ever-present active reality that is meant to be lived out one day at a time and as my mom would say, “one prayer at a time.”

My dad and I, we’ve been changed. As a result of the reality and fear of death we had both experienced we have been ushered into an even greater reality. One that has taken the sting out of death because of the One who conquered it to give us life here and in eternity in all its abundance. 

June 20, 2014

An Update on Jim and some thoughts…

Monday was our first follow-up visit with both the radiation and chemotherapy teams since Jim completed his treatments on May 28th. Basically, the visit was to determine the extent of healing that has taken place in Jim’s mouth as well as his ability to eat since he’s still using a feeding tube for all nourishment. Jim has lost a total of 44 pounds since the beginning of this second go around with cancer.

 

We are considering another type of therapy in the interim between the last treatment Jim had, and the scans that are scheduled two to three months up the road. However, we are still gathering information and haven’t made a decision about that yet. Additionally, we’ve also been looking into implementing alternative and homeopathic protocols in order to strengthen Jim’s immune system. This is an area that is fairly new to us so we are trying to learn as much as possible and implement what we can as soon as possible. He is still very weak, extremely tired, and he’s not himself — but he’s still “Kelly Tough,” focused on God and the goal line, and victory. He always has and always will persevere and fight the good fight.

 

Most importantly, he is healing.

 

It’s a tough time for us, but we are encouraged and hopeful. We’re not grasping at straws, but instead resting in the reality that God is presiding over our destiny, He didn’t fall off the throne in shock and surprise at Jim’s diagnosis, and He hasn’t changed, meaning He still has a perfect plan in the midst of all this.

 

That being said, it’s…

 

One day at a time.

One prayer at a time.

All in God’s timing…

 

And so we wait.

 

Wait for test and scan results.

Wait to find out if the treatments worked.

Wait to heal.

Wait…

ON GOD…

 

But…

I’m sitting here sharing this update and standing on His promises…But to be honest with you I’m just really sad. Sad that Jim has to go through this. Sad because my girls are sad and they don’t know exactly what to do with their tears. And I feel like most of the time I don’t know how to help them because I’m dealing with my own sorrow.

Honestly, the thing that makes all of this even harder is the fact that I know beyond a shadow of doubt that God is who He says He is. I know that we are not waiting on a result or scan or anything or anyone else for that matter — we’re waiting on God.

 

I also know that He already KNOWS the outcome — and that that should be enough for me. And I guess that’s what makes this all so hard and yet so comforting.

 

My hope in the God who holds the universe and my heart and our lives in His hand is the same God that is big enough for moments like this.

 

Moments when I’m confused and sad.

Moments when I feel like He’s not moving and healing even though He absolutely is.

Moments when I’m trying so hard to hang on to faith when all I really need to do is let go — and let God.

 

This is where I am right now. These are the things I’m wrestling with. And even in this, God is greater…

 

Greater than cancer.

Greater than the outcome.

Greater than this life and the life to come. 

Greater than my heart and hopes and dreams.

 

He’s greater still.

 

And because of this, I can say like the Psalmist, with complete conviction — whether I feel like it or not, “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!’” (Psalm 70:4)

May 14, 2014

Talking to God about Ben…Nicole and cancer.

 A few days ago, a dear friend of mine, Nicole, died.

Today, I picked my daughter, Camryn, up from school and the first thing she said was, “Did you know that little Ben died?”

Both from cancer.

Ben left behind his 5-year-old twin brother, Jack.

Nicole left behind twin sons, both 5-years-old – Trevor who has Krabbe disease and his brother, Tyler.

 

Lord,

I don’t understand.

I can’t help ask…WHY, God, WHY?

Why not a miracle for Ben and Nicole?

You’re the God who heals all of our diseases.

You still perform miracles in our day.

So many people prayed for Ben.

So many people prayed for Nicole.

SO MANY PEOPLE PRAYED.

Like the paralytic who was carried to Jesus by his four desperate friends…we all carried Ben and Nicole to you.

 

If we can’t run to You with the depths of our despair, where else can we go?

The weight of this pain is overwhelming.

Lord, how will You work all this together for good?

How?

Will all of this bring You glory?

Help us find You in the midst of all this despair and anguish.

My faith is drowning in a sea of tears.

I’m trying to keep my head above water but I can’t seem to catch my breath.

I can’t even move or open my mouth to scream for help.

It’s like I’m paralyzed.

Lord,

What is this?

Is it heartbreak?

Doubt?

Fear?

Grief?

 

Did we focus so intensely on the healing that we took our eyes off of You, the Healer?

Don’t You hate cancer too?

So many questions.

So many tears.

And even now, my heart longs to praise You.

To give You thanks.

Why?

Maybe because, it’s okay that I don’t understand.

It’s okay that I don’t know why.

It’s okay because no matter what, no matter who, no matter why…

YOU’RE STILL GOD.

You’re still good.

You’re still gracious, merciful, loving, kind, long-suffering.

You’re still big enough for my doubt, unbelief, and fear.

You’re still the One who understands.

You’re still the One who saves, forgives, redeems.

You’re the ONLY ONE.

And right now that’s enough.

It has to be.

Because in the midst of this we still seek YOU…in the midst of the tears, despair, doubt, questions…YOU understand it all.

You’re the only One who does.

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8

March 21, 2014

Meeting Jason…

His name is Jason.

He’s in his late thirties.

He has just weeks to live.

His body is riddled with cancer,

But his heart abounds with hope.

 

We had the privilege of meeting him as we were anxiously packing up Jim’s hospital room to head out to yet another scan. Cataloging a litany of appointment dates & times, scans, blood-work, diagnostic tests, and clinical abbreviations — the hospital rooms are where we “huddle-up” as a family to call the next play and plan the next move now that the cancer’s back, aggressive, and starting to spread.

Jason graciously entered our world after Jim had endured a very difficult night, and was having trouble keeping food and water down due to some medication. And as the nurse reviewed his final release instructions, Jim interrupted her  “Wait a minute, I want to give away the flowers.”

He does this.

Every time he leaves the hospital, he gives another patient the flowers that have been sent to him so they can enjoy them too. I’m surprised he remembered the whole flower thing because he’s so drained and feels so sick.

The nurse responded, “I know the perfect person.”

 

» Read more

March 2, 2014

All Things New…

She’s away at college.

She’s got a heavy study load this semester in addition to the navigating through of all things college life.

I get this text from her yesterday: So I wrote a blog.

She doesn’t have time to write anything other than what’s required of her, so I know this is big.

I read it, cry and then…I THANK GOD.

Thank Him for “circumstances” that cause us to cling to the TRUTH.

Thank Him for reminding me that He’s in control and I’m not. » Read more

February 26, 2014

When We Forget…

It was just a response to an email I sent the day before.

Or so I thought.

It was all about business initially until he said this – “I wanted to say that I went to your website and followed the links to read about Hunter and your story.  I just wanted to say your testimony is amazing and what God did through ya’lls lives through Hunter’s disease is incredible.”

After I finished reading the rest of his message, I went to my website. » Read more

June 6, 2013

Some Thoughts about Waiting, cancer…and Christ.

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I could tell by the look on his face that something was terribly wrong. My heart began to pound as he stumbled over his words and struggled to share the news. Countless thoughts erupted from every corner of my mind in anxious anticipation as I waited — not knowing what to expect…

But I never expected to hear the “C” word.

Through one connection or another we’ve all been touched and terrified by this fearsome foe.

Cancer.

We don’t like the way it sounds rolling off the tongue. It’s the demon that takes loved ones causing unimaginable pain, dread, and anguish. So when he told me, I was shocked and scared. But not for long. » Read more

March 31, 2013

His Words…on that Friday!

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I was invited to participate in the Good Friday Together event held at the First Niagara Center. (On Good Friday) Overwhelmed by the invite and the verse I was given to share…I prayed a lot. Actually, I freaked out and prayed a ton.

It was an extraordinary event.

Unforgettable!

To see how God the Father packed that arena for the praise and glory of His Son – well, words fall short. It was like a glimpse of what worship in heaven might be like – every tribe, tongue and nation – hearts full being poured out in uninhibited worship for the King. Absolutely unforgettable. His presence was tangible. His people – ONE in Him and for Him. » Read more

March 27, 2013

Because I’m their mom…

photoI know it’s true but sometimes (well, often) I forget.

They don’t belong to me.

I don’t own them.

 

They were His long before I even knew them and they’re still His.

Maybe it’s because they’re flesh of my flesh that I feel this way.

Like I have some sort of say in how their lives should be – a claim to what kind of future they will have and what that journey should look like every step of the way – because… » Read more

January 11, 2013

What about after the MIRACLE?

Miracles-HappenThe best way to share this is to just tell you what happened — the way I remember it.

 

But, before I unload I preface all of this by first telling you that I’ve prayed hard and long about what to share. And I trust that God has given me the right spirit and words.

If you watched the local news stations (either last night or this morning) you might have heard part of the story. If you missed it — here’s a link: » Read more