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Monthly Archives: August 2009
The daffodil sellers at St Vincent’s yesterday brought this poem to mind. I dedicate it to my sister, Kim. It is her favourite poem.
I have never wandered lonely as a cloud because she has always been beside me. Even when I didn’t want her to be! She used to wake me up in the middle of the night to sit outside the bathroom door because she “didn’t get scared when I was there.” That was when we lived in a rambling rectory in Concord Road, Strathfield. There was much to be afraid of back then, with ‘drunks’ sleeping on the front verandah and drug addicts knocking on the door for money. We were the minister’s family and it was our job to give people refuge.
There was often a break-in. We were so close to the station and on the main road. I remember the police being called time and again to wipe the windows with the solution before they took finger prints. “Just people looking for things to pawn for quick cash.” It wasn’t big to them but huge for us. Such an invasion. So much of my mother’s jewelry was stolen. So Kim and I would venture to the back porch loo together, even though the howling was just the wind in the old jacaranda, most of the time.
St Vincent’s feels remarkably like Concord Road. Fear whistles loudly to get us off track. It’s just the wind. I am not alone in this battle. I am not intimidated. I am not overwhelmed. Our lives are in the hands of my maker.
How lovely for me to see the daffodils and think of Kim amidst the things that tried to ruin my day. How incredible to know that the Cancer Council are doing so many things to make a difference for people who aren’t surrounded by family.
When Sam was admitted the old man in front of us had no next of kin, no emergency contact. I just wanted to cry. Sometimes you want to scoop up the whole world in your hands and love them. No one wonder God sent Jesus. I feel God’s aching heart for lost humanity pounding in my chest. He holds us in His hands so we can take delight in His rest. Enjoy your poem precious Kim but as for me I’ll enjoy the waves at sea.
I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed — and gazed — but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).
I caught a glimpse of the house, the sandstone wall, the Juliet balcony, the colorbond roof before we drove into the cul-de-sac. My heart stopped beating for just a moment and it felt like life stood still. By the time we had pulled up out front it was beating again and I found my words to exclaim “Oh, it’s so beautiful,” and threw open the door of the car to get a better look. The house in front of me was the house I had drawn for a draftsman in 1994, when I was pregnant with Jack.
Reid was on staff at the church in Melbourne, employed as evangelist, he took teams overseas and he preached regularly in church as well. Together we ran the Sunday evening service and I helped with the women’s ministry in one of the fastest growing churches in the C3 movement. I also worked at PLC, Burwood. The ideal job for a teacher with young children, Emma came to work with me and after Jack was born he went to the early childhood centre on campus and I breast feed in my breaks.
Life was ideal. I spent the days I didn’t work with Jack on my hip in demo yards and tile shops determined to get every detail right for the house of my dreams. It was incredible in the end.
Standing in the kitchen I could look up to the cathedral ceilings and through the triangular windows either side of the sandstone chimney the sun streamed in, reflecting golden light off the 6 inch Baltic pine floor boards. In the evenings we chased our nude children around the lounge room after they had bathed in the antique claw foot bath and pinning them down we would towel dry them in front of a roaring fire. Emma and Jack would play ‘Ba doom,’ bouncing their flannelette bottoms down the stairs from the loft where Reid and my bedroom was. Sam helped me set the table and prepare everything for dinner, occasionally entertaining us with her rendition of Tina Arena’s “That’s a way a woman feels.” It still makes me laugh, she was 8. From our bed I could watch through the railings as the last cinders burned out in the hearth; from red, to orange to black coal dust. We were young and the world was our oyster.
I’ll never forget that day when I put Jack to bed and I had time to pray. I can still feel God nudge me and ask ‘Would you give it all up, if I required it?’ My response was ‘Yes, but you will have to ask Reid as well.’ We had been in the house for about a month and Reid came home with something to share. Throwing his keys on the kitchen table he said; ‘Honey, I think we are meant to go back to Sydney.’ It wasn’t a surprise of course but it didn’t really make sense. Life was perfect in every way. The house, our jobs, our role in church, our children’s schools – everything had fallen into place at last. The building of the house had taken forever and the hurdles we jumped to get there were similar to anyone’s who builds but things were settled now. Jack, who was born with chronic reflux and screamed for the first 6 months of his life, was well at last. It made sense to rest in all we’d achieved.
Back home in Sydney our church home in Brookvale was moving to Oxford Falls. We wanted to be there, we wanted to go home. So we waited for a confirmation and we pondered what we felt we had heard from God. It came through a prophecy while we were visiting family in Sydney. Pastor Phil called us to the altar and said, “I can see you walking like your shoelaces have been untied and I’m going to tie them up. Suddenly, I will do it…” It was how we felt, like even though all the boxes were ticked, it was Sydney where we really belonged. We wanted to go back to the church where we had been since I was 17 and Reid was 20. It made no sense really but we were young and nothing was impossible. It’s a very long story and we’ve learned through the years that God takes a very long time to do things suddenly. Eventually the house did sell but for a lot less than we expected. Eventually we did move back but a massive car accident that saw me break my leg so badly prevented me from ever returning to pack up the house.
So on Thursday this week when I went to my house, to the house of my dreams it was strange. I felt emotion pass over me like a wave that you think is so big it’ll dump you but it turns out to be one that picks you up and gives you a remarkably pleasant lift instead. A lift that gives you an ‘on top of the world perspective,’ when you know everything is finer than you could ever imagine. I walked inquisitively down the stairs towards the house with the wrap around verandah and I opened the gate as a boy came out to ask me who I was. While I explained I discovered that he had lived there his whole life and the house that we’d built for us had been the only home he ever knew. Strangely enough it was okay.
Then Emma remembered where we had carved out names in the drive with the Berry children who had been visiting from Sydney when the concrete was poured and so we took the liberty of finding the names. I took photos and I posted them on twitpic, it was invigorating in the strangest of ways.
Above all the things that I have discovered about God and His character is that He is faithful. He is always faithful. If we hold our life lightly on outstretched hands, like an offering, He is faithful.
“And He will establish you to the end [keep you steadfast, give you strength, and guarantee your vindication; He will be your warrant against all accusation or indictment so that you will be] guiltless and irreproachable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 (Amplified Bible)
Tonight as I write, I’m reflecting on all God has done for me. His goodness endures forever. Jack returned home from my mum’s house were he stayed while we went to Melbourne and mum said to me that all Jack spoke about was his church and how he loves it. He spoke about the blessings he has had in his life. How he is blessed to grow up on the Northern Beaches, how he is blessed to know God, how he loves getting coffee before school and doing devotions with me at the café. How he loves SG youth and the leaders that have taken care of him this year, even though Sam has been so sick and mum has been so busy with Sam, it’s all okay because of church.
As our plane landed in Sydney, Emma was making plans to get to the Change leaders camp and asked how soon we could drop her to the Palm Beach Ferry to get there and Sam was making plans for a weekend away with some leaders from SG youth.
We gave up our dream house to come back to Sydney, to be in our church. We gave up jobs that others would consider foolish to walk away from. We did it in response to a sense that it was what God wanted. It wasn’t easy, when I broke my leg. It wasn’t easy renting again. It wasn’t easy finding our way back into the workforce in Sydney. Walking in step with God isn’t easy but it’s necessary. When you discover His voice and you put your head on His chest you hear his heart beat. You hear the rhythm; it soothes your anxious thoughts. You discover He’s not in a hurry. He doesn’t want to rush you. He waits. He allows the tests to come. He watches. He hears when you cry in the night. He hears when you wonder if what you did was right. He watches when you strive and laughs when you try on your own. He loves it when you have a go. He’s not in a hurry. He doesn’t mind when. He says “It’s up to you. You can peddle with the training wheels on, or I can run fast behind you holding onto your bike til you gain the momentum you need for the journey.”
He is enjoying you.
Watching you grow.
He is kissing your sores,
He is wiping your knee,
He is drying your tears.
He loves you so.
When you are finally ready to say, ‘I have no idea but my trust is in you,’ He gives it all back. People arrive at your house with trailers and tools, and buckets and cloths. They unroll paper, they write a list. They clean for you and they get up on your roof and they empty the gutters. When they find a leak that has rotted a wall and discover termites they find a way to fix it. They empty your pantry and put everything back with new eyes. They find a better way. They are under your house, sorting, stacking. They rebuild your BBQ, bring sausages, and make lunch. They rake your garden, they scrub windows, and they take things to the tip. They bring snowbells and manure, they plant new life. They phone when they get home and it’s dark because they are thinking of you. They have thought of a better way and they draw plans so you can imagine what they are thinking.
It’s the people you have done life with, and some you hardly know. God cares. It doesn’t make sense. The choices you make, the places you go, the years that you wait. Sometimes you are wrong by a long shot, sometimes you hear so perfectly right. It doesn’t matter really if you are right or wrong. It only matters that you love Him and if you love Him that you love others. These are the things that make His joy complete. When we unite in purpose we can achieve great things.
Philippians 2:1-3 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
So in spite of ourselves and the decisions we have made and the hardships we have known, we know God is faithful. A house is just a house if it’s not where your heart is. But if you are prepared to listen to God’s voice and trust Him, it all turns out in the end. Your house can be rebuilt, your daughter can be healed, you can live in community with others and have a great life. It’s not a perfect life but you feel, and you ache and you laugh and you cry. In a way it is perfect enough. You discover you can’t do it on your own. You swallow your pride. You say, ‘thank you.’ It doesn’t feel like it’s enough, perhaps its not but its all you have; just words and humility and the need for community. People start to drop their guard too and admit that they also are needy, incomplete, frustrated. You take each others hands and you pray. You say thank you. It is all you need. He is all you need.
Yellow is the colour of daffodils and wattle
And the baby ducks at our back gate
White is the colour of daisies in our garden and baby lambs
White is the colour of clouds sailing by
As I lie on my back on the trampoline
Blue is the colour of ‘forget me nots’ and lavender
And the speckled birds eggs
These are the colours of spring
The smell of jasmine wafts over the fence from Laurie’s garden
I can smell it from far away
The lavender smells as I brush past it with my school bag
And freesia reminds Grandma of her wedding day.
These are the perfumes of spring
I hear the sounds of the ducks quack at our back door, looking for bread
I hear laughter from kids playing outside as the weather changes
I hear the waves, crash on the beach when we go for walks after school.
I hear the sounds of birds tweeting, singing their spring song.
These are the sounds of spring
Longfellow writes “spring means youth, love, song and all that is beautiful in life.” Mummy says that was why I was born in spring.
I love spring. (Emma Froggatt, age 6)
As the air grows warmer, the weight of winter passes.There is new hope in the air. The possibilities of new life abound.Yesterday marked the end of our pilgrimage to RNSH and our reappointment to St Vincent’s hospital in the city.
We are leaving RNSH because Emma and Jack are not a match for Sam’s tissue type and they therefore can not donate stem cells to sustain Sam’s life.The search for a donor went on for many months and during that time Sam endured the most horrendous high dose treatments of chemotherapy. The year has passed by slowly and each day we have sought the face of God for grace enough for that day. A matched unrelated donor (a MUD) was found, two in fact, both from overseas. So then the inquiry began to see if they were still available, still healthy, still willing. The forms were filled out for the Government to approve of this all going ahead, the funds, the travel and the many details of the process that I may never fully comprehend. MUD transplants don’t take place at RNSH so we must transfer to St Vincent’s and one week from today that new journey begins.
In some ways it’s a privilege to be forced into total dependence on God. We are at His feet, completely surrendered, clinging to His word and His faithfulness to perform it. Outside of His word there is little to pin our hope to. We would never choose this path. The rest we enter is not a relaxed, carefree type of rest; instead it requires great vigilance and courage. You can not slip back or allow your heart to be troubled. The rest He requires says “Its in your hands God, she’s on your altar and we wait and we climb to the mountain top ready for you to provide.”
The transplant book prepares you for all the incredibly horrible things that can go wrong. Graft Versus Host Disease can affect any major organ of her body, it can be mild or it can be fatal. So fear creeps in, under the doorway, seeping in like unwanted sewer from a burst pipe. The stench of fear attaches itself to your nostrils awakening your unconscious thoughts. Pulsating through your blood stream, it leaks down into the pit of your belly and its acidity strips your inner lining. It’s in this place that you decide. You remember that God is able, that He is faithful, that He sustains you. You repent for your unbelief and ask for forgiveness. In moments you get right back on track but you have to be determined to walk closely and slowly, in step with Him who is able.
As Bern Williams wrote “The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created spring.”
On sunny, spring days hope is ushered in. New life breathes everywhere just like the poem of my six year old Emma depicted so beautifully at the top of this post. This spring, Emma turns 19 and this morning when we hugged in the corridor, she whispered, “Wake me up when September is over.” My heart is heavy for my sensitive girl who fills my world with sunshine and light! It affects every corner of her world as well. The joy that wells up in Emma has always been my greatest pleasure. She is my delight, my song, my laughter. From the time she was born her laid back carefree ways have alleviated me of all pressure. We understand each other and enjoy hanging out. For many years we have read poetry together in her bed until our eyes could not stay open. This year those precious connections have been so few and far between.
A week from now I plan to move into Sam’s room at St Vincent’s to keep watch over her. I know that the cost of my decision to do so is enormous for Emma, for Jack and for Reid but to me it is necessary.
When I heard that the transplant was referred to as a MUD I immediately thought of Psalm 40 which says “1I waited patiently and expectantly for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up out of a horrible pit [a pit of tumult and of destruction], out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, steadying my steps and establishing my goings.And He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many shall see and fear (revere and worship) and put their trust and confident reliance in the Lord.
The English Poet George Herbert wrote, “And here in dust and dirt, O here the lilies of His love appear.” There would be no spring if it were not for the well tilled soils, the barrenness of winter and the season of hibernation. God knows our journey and He is “leaning toward us with favor and regard for us, rendering us fruitful, multiplying us, and establishing and ratifying His covenant with us.” Leviticus 26:9
God has delicately woven promises through every fibre of our lives. His grace is sufficient. He sat in the room with us all this year through every diagnosis, every anaphylactic reaction, and every predicted outcome. I don’t know what the future holds but I know that my God is a God of grace and he is faithful. Spring marks the season of new life. This spring, life comes to us in the form of a matched, unrelated donor. As his stem cells enter Sam’s body, new life enters as well.
Like the caterpillar in the chrysalis, it may come with a struggle, making the wings strong. She merges forth; we will watch and be amazed. Yes, He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to my God. “The battle is won, by lifting Jesus higher in the midst of us.” His name is exalted on high.
The colours, smells and sounds of spring are a little different this year but I can feel the hope of new life throbbing in every heartbeat. I dance to the rhythm of His grace. Because when “grace dances, I should dance.” (W.H. Auden) Romans 12:12 tells me “Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer.” Step by step, one day at a time, we live our lives. Grateful to Him who called us and who engraves His miracle touch all over our lives. “Listen,” I remind myself, “to the still small voice of His spirit.” Emma knows the steps of the dance, the rhythm of spring. Like I do with Sam, I place my Emma in God’s hands.
Many years ago God spoke to me from Isaiah 60:4 and I have declared it over my children’s lives. “Lift up your eyes round about you and see! They all gather themselves together, they come to you. Your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried and nursed in the arms.” My daughters and my son will be gathered to Reid and I for eternity. It is all part of His magnificent plan.
There is a saying amongst the Jews that “A human life is like a single letter of the alphabet. It can be meaningless. Or it can be part of a great meaning.”
I teach the alphabet. That’s what we do in Kindergarten. We open up a whole world of possibilities with letters and words and rules. We teach the children to love their letters and everyone has a favourite. Usually a child’s favourite letter is the one that ‘starts their name.’ Human beings are like that, we like it to be all about us. Even from the youngest age we cry to our parents, “Look at me, look at me.” We want to be noticed, observed, praised, congratulated, encouraged and valued. We are wired that way by God. He values us. If only we really understood just how much He truly does value each individual life.
My heart has broken a thousand times this year as I’ve listened behind the curtain to the very loud doctors tell the patient on the other side what their diagnosis is. I’ve overheard a thousand conversations between loved ones wondering what the doctor will come and say. I’ve heard the man and his wife pondering together; “What will we tell the children?” and they sigh and say “It’s a very terrible, terrible state of affairs.” I feel like peeling back the curtain to prepare them as to what the diagnosis may be. I know now that 12D is the blood cancer ward of RNSH. I didn’t know that 6 months ago when we were admitted there. I know that the patient on the other side has cancer, it’s probably in their blood (because otherwise they would be in 12B, Oncology) and its probably Leukemia or Lymphoma or a Myeloma but whatever it is, its big and they won’t be going home any time soon.
I want to go and sit with them and ask them if they are a part of a company of people who will help them fight because life is about to become almost unmanageable. I want to tell them to gather everyone they know, get them to pray, get them to cook, get them to visit your house and clean it. I want to tell them that they will need all the practical help they can get because the journey they are about to embark on is absolutely overwhelming. I know this because even surrounded in a company of people I have had days when I’m overwhelmed. Okay, so I lie, I have had days on end when I have been overwhelmed.
When Sam first got diagnosed, some friends who’d been through a similar journey told us, “People will say, ‘Call me if there is anything I can do to help.’ They were being facetious and they laughed. “Very few people will actually help you,” they said, “it’s not because they don’t want to but it’s because they don’t know how.” And it made me think of the thousands of times I have cried out to God in response to Isaiah 6″8 I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” I see the state of the nations, the cry of the poor and the hungry, the state of the economy and now the epidemic of cancer and I am paralyzed to do anything. I don’t know how to help either.
Yet God calls us to rise. He calls us to be like the woman in Proverbs 31 completely prepared for what each day presents us. Life is full of challenges, mountains to conquer, and sicknesses to heal but in it all Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]” John 16:33
If we stand alone as a single letter we can do nothing but if we gather we can do exploits. I love the story of Deborah who was Judge of the nations. She did not fear the battle, nor was she overwhelmed by the mighty men. She appointed others and inspired the seemingly insignificant people around her to take their part in conquering the enemy.
In so many ways I find myself on the front line. I am an advocate for Sam. In the hospital I am her voice. She is the only cancer patient in 12D this year under the age of 40. Everyday we sit with people at least twice her age. It makes no sense to see my stunning daughter in this place. I fight for her life. The staff are excellent but overworked. They too, are tired with the system.
Last week Sam’s haemoglobin was low and I begged for blood. It’s not their fault but they said “No, we don’t have enough staff, there’s no blood in the blood bank and you’ll have to come back tomorrow.” I looked at my Sam and I knew that if she didn’t get blood that day we would be back in Emergency that night. So I rang my friend who sometimes works in the blood bank and she was there. She became my advocate. She found the ‘cross match’ results for Sam, she made the calls necessary to order the blood and she messaged me to say it was ready. So I asked again but the nurse looking after Sam had another patient and she asked us to leave.
I felt helpless and annoyed especially knowing there was blood so I asked my friend, Suzanne in blood bank to call and request that the nurse reconsider. It was a big thing to ask my friend, it may have even jeopardized her job but she took courage with me and partnered in the battle. I guess together we formed two letters but not enough to create a word. The nurse would not change her mind. So I took Sam to the other treatment room and I asked all the nurses, “Is there anyone who is willing to give my daughter blood today?” and one of the nurses who I’ve struggled with all year looked at Sam and agreed she needed blood. She said she would make time but that she would have to get permission to take Sam as her patient that day. The sister in charge was not happy. She told the nurse that I was crossing a line and that I had to take Sam and leave.
My daughter needed a blood transfusion but all the doors were slamming in my face. We got in the lift to leave and I felt helpless. I guess at that moment, I knew the heart of my Father in Heaven who relies on us to reach our community for Him. We get too busy to act, too preoccupied to care. He watches them suffer though He paid a price through His only Son for their lives. Yet it is us that He called to do His work. He equipped us but we are taking tea or buying clothes or focused on our own weariness. Too busy to care; we send them away.
Then I thought I could go to the doctor’s suites on level 4 and ask a doctor to look at Sam. I pushed her there in the wheelchair I had borrowed. She had no strength, not enough haemoglobin pumping through her veins. And I walked into a doctor who knows us well and I pleaded our case. She made some calls, she warned me that we were unpopular but we headed together back to 12A and my friend, Suzanne from the blood bank arrived with the esky as the nurses talked in whispers about how pushy I am and the nurse who I used to find difficult hooked Sam up to receive her blood.
God reminded me never to judge others because I do not know who will rise up to support me. The letter I don’t really like might just be the one I need to make a word. Like in a game of ‘Scrabble’ it might have the greatest value like “Q” and just when I’m positioned I’ll pick up a “U” and score.
God doesn’t work the way I think He should sometimes. I say “make it easy,” he responds “my yoke is easy.” I say “it’s too heavy,” and he says “I will help you carry it.” He doesn’t take it away, instead he equips us. He calls us to gather, he calls us to use what he has placed in our hands. It doesn’t seem like much but together we make a whole alphabet. There’s no end to the possibilities.
As He did to Sisera in Judges 4, he will do to the devil who tries to take us out. He will use a man, He will use a woman, He will even use an ass. He will use your life if you are willing, if you give him what you have and act in faith (even as small as a mustard seed), He will cause you to conquer. It isn’t about you, or your life, or me and Sam’s life. It’s about all the believers working together in unity to accomplish His will in the earth. There are lives to be saved, people who need value, cancers to be eradicated. He will use a tent peg to defeat the enemy if that is what’s in your hand.
Yesterday I got another call from Centrelink and spent the day on the phone fighting for Sam to get the payment she is entitled to. Every time I ring they send me a new form or ask me a new question. They wanted to know what date Sam withdrew from Uni. We didn’t record it anywhere and the university would not release it and after almost despairing I remembered my friend Kate, who works at the University and so I called her and she took it out of my hands. She became my advocate and today Sam received her first payment all year.
Whatever we face in our lives it is a relief to know that “We have an Advocate (One Who will intercede for us) with the Father–[it is] Jesus Christ [the all] righteous [upright, just, Who conforms to the Father’s will in every purpose, thought, and action].
And He [that same Jesus Himself] is the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not for ours alone but also for [the sins of] the whole world.
And this is how we may discern [daily, by experience] that we are coming to know Him [to perceive, recognize, understand, and become better acquainted with Him]: if we keep (bear in mind, observe, practice) His teachings (precepts, commandments).” 1 John 2:1-3
I am also pleased to share that our friends who warned us that people wouldn’t help us were wrong. An army has gathered around us. People are praying, they are cooking, they are sending their cleaners, and they are rebuilding the walls of my life. I am humbled daily by the help I am receiving. Yes, I am still a little overwhelmed by the words I read in the Bone Marrow Transplant book but as my Pastor Chris Pringle ‘twittered’ me the other day “courage grows strong at the wound.”
Paul writes “You show and make obvious that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, not written with ink but with [the] Spirit of [the] living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:3. So through it all we bond together, the troops are gathered, the alphabet letters mingled to form not just a letter but letters. Not just empty words on a page but lives impacted and hearts changed. Perfectly positioned by the hand of God.
NB: If you aren’t familiar with the story about Deborah it is in the book of Judges 4.
Photography by http://www.courtneyking.aminus3.com (see Blog Roll)
Living with cancer can be quite surreal. Like lying in a bed of daisies pulling out the petals, one by one. “He loves me, He loves me not, He loves me, He loves me not, He loves me…” And you’re left holding this little yellow button, on a stalk, as bright as the sun, bright enough to leave a little light when you shine it under your chin. So bright you can even pretend with a friend that they like butter.
He does love me. God that is! But it’s a roller coaster ride through cancer and you hang on all the way for dear life, tilting into the turns as you anticipate them, hurled back in your seat when you don’t. All the time you are trying to remember the light of the little yellow button reflected on the chin of your friend. You try as hard as you can muster to cherish every memory, every fine experience and even the most simplest of things that used to make you smile. You hold onto them squeezing the images in your mind so you can look at them for longer and laugh.
I thought by now we would be into the intermission stage between treatments of high dose chemotherapy and the ever looming transplant. I’d hoped for a lull, a few days off, a wee little break, a long weekend.
It’s not been like that. Her counts are still down two weeks after the chemo she’s having blood tests and transfusions nearly every day and now there is an infection in the Hickman’s line. Its complicated, the nurses and doctors say ‘remove it,’ but Sam’s specialist says it should stay in. It’s definitely useful for blood tests and transfusions; it’s better than getting a pick line in your hand everyday; it’s kinder on your veins but its infected and if the infection travels it’s dangerous, extremely dangerous. So last night and twice today and again tomorrow and for who knows how long after that we drive to RNS for IV antibiotic infusions.
St Vincent’s called late this afternoon. I told them about the infected Hickman’s and they want it out; they prefer to insert a central line. It’s out of my hands. I do what they say, I go where they ask and I punctuate my life with pleasant moments with Sam and meals with friends. I do what I can for Jack and Emma. An early coffee seems to satisfy Jack, or extra money for a choc mud scone at Baker’s Delight. When I can, I make tea for Emma, ‘rose tea,’ and we sit and share our love of words and our observations. We sigh, and we worry for a little while together about how much our life has changed this year, then we remind each other that its going to be okay. “Everything’s gonna be alright,” just as our friend T, used to sing.
It’s not all bad. You really do appreciate life when you are confronted with a life threatening illness. The daisies in buckets outside the deli beckoned us to buy them. So we bought 6 bunches, 3 bunches each and when we got home we filled a tin bucket with Sam’s and a vase with mine and we enjoyed them all day. We breathed in the scent of them, delighted in the simplicity of them, rearranging her room and the back deck to put them on their best display. We talked about how much we loved daisies as we ate our gnocchi that was drenched in fresh chilli, garlic and tomato sauce and felt the warmth of the winter sun strong on our backs. We did this between our trips to the hospital today and it was grand.
I love flowers but I don’t like to garden. My friend Bin (who is a landscape gardener) will tell you that it’s really not my gift. I’ve had some success with lavender, daisies and even sweet peas but I’ll never be a gardener. Many years ago in Melbourne, I had a delightful cottage garden that I grew from seedlings. Unfortunately Reid accidentally wiper snipped the delphiniums just as they were about to flower and though I forgave him, I never quite recovered my passion for growing flowers from seedlings after that. I am not an expert on plants or trees or grafting but I am stuck in Romans 11 this week and its bearing some truth for me.
17But if some of the branches were broken off, while you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them to share the richness [of the root and sap] of the olive tree,
18Do not boast over the branches and pride yourself at their expense. If you do boast and feel superior, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root [that supports] you.
19You will say then, Branches were broken (pruned) off so that I might be grafted in!
20That is true. But … you are established through faith [because you do believe]. So do not become proud and conceited, but rather stand in awe and be reverently afraid.
I know that in this Paul is talking about Jews and Gentiles, not trees or transplants but it illustrates my point. God is in the business of restoration and growth, forgiveness and grace. He takes the pieces of value in our life, He cuts off what is useless and he forms miracles out of what we give Him.
It has nothing to do with us and everything to do with His grace, His unmerited favour. Just as it is also written in Romans 11: 6But if it is by grace (His unmerited favor and graciousness), it is no longer conditioned on works or anything men have done. Otherwise, grace would no longer be grace [it would be meaningless].
God is in the growing business. He can create life from a seed or he can snap off a branch and graft it in. The life in Sam’s bone marrow isn’t creating anymore. It isn’t produces the right cells. She said as we drove home today, cradling our daisies on her lap “Isn’t it strange how I would have been dead by now without chemotherapy?” It’s definitely strange. Who would ever have imagined that my petite little girl (pictured at the top of this page, aged 4 in our Melbourne garden) would be undergoing this horrendous disease? It doesn’t seem right, or fair, or possible but this I know – God always produces life. He always creates. It was always the goal from day one – CREATION.
This I know, that God can take the life that is being generously donated by Sam’s donor and He can graft it in. He can prepare her like he prepares the soil; he can protect her while her body (the host) takes time to recognize her donor. He can protect her from Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHS) he can heal her; she can be completely whole again. The donor is anonymous, like the branch it carries the life but it must be connect to the body to go on surviving. It will take some time; there may be some pain, some stripping away, some marks from the tape (so to speak) as things are set. But God is the life producing force. Our roots go deep in Him, we feed on His word only and faith rises through our vessels bringing hope and life and fruit.
God always works His plan through redemption. We are broken, all of us broken. Like Eugene O’Neill says “Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.” It is always His grace that is mighty to save. Jesus became sin for us, He who knew no sin, that we could be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. We are all going to die but God came to deliver and to rescue us, to give us life through Him, through His death, so that we would have eternal life.
Jesus looked up and said “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” (John 11:41) Lazarus was already dead. They all thought it was over but Jesus was positioned in praise. Praise is vital for the bringing forth of miracles. I thank God now for a miraculous transplant, for health, for restoration, for minimal GVHD (apparently a little is good), for no complications. I thank God for her complete healing, that every possible documented side effect will not touch her life. Just as Lazarus did, she comes forth defying the odds and the people rejoice.
1I AM the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.
2Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.
3You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you].
4Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me.
5I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.
6If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned.
7If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.
8When you bear (produce) much fruit, My Father is honored and glorified, and you show and prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine.
9I have loved you, [just] as the Father has loved Me; abide in My love [continue in His love with Me].
10If you keep My commandments [if you continue to obey My instructions], you will abide in My love and live on in it, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commandments and live on in His love.
11I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing.