Thursday, December 17, 2009

At The Cross

I tell you...if you aren't busy enough at Christmas time, start working at a church. They will load your hind end up!! It's been too long since I posted, I know. Forgive me. I'll do better after the New Year. Promises.

Yesterday I drove to Albemarle for my mother. Mom has done great in Charleston, but struggles not being closer to Chad's resting place. She has been asking me for a couple of weeks to get over there and change his flowers out to his Christmas flowers (really just berries and twigs and evergreen because...let's face it...Chad wouldn't be much on any fruity flowers), but I was having a hard time finding daylight hours to get over there and do it. I asked my pastor yesterday if I could leave a little early and take care of it, and he didn't hesitate. Precious man.
So, I hopped in the car and headed home.

Going to Chad's grave isn't as hard as it used to be. I realize he isn't there. To me, it's a place to honor his place and time on earth, nothing more. Besides that, he would be incredibly annoyed to know that we went to his grave and sobbed and blubbered. That just wouldn't suit Chad at all.

Last year, I sang a song in church called "At The Cross." The song moved me, and I'll explain why...here are the lyrics:

Oh Lord You've searched me
You know my ways
Even when I fail You
I know You love me

Your holy presence
Surrounding me
In every season
I know You love me
I know You love me

At the cross I bow my knee
Where Your blood was shed for me
There's no greater love than this
You have overcome the grave
Glory fills the highest place
What can separate me now?
You go before me
You shield my way
Your hand upholds me
I know You love me

At the cross I bow my knee
Where Your blood was shed for me
There's no greater love than this
You have overcome the grave
Glory fills the highest place
What can separate me now?

You tore the veil
You made a way
When You said that it is done

And when the earth fades...falls from my eyes
You stand before me
I know You love me
I know You love me

At the cross I bow my knee
Where Your blood was shed for me
There's no greater love than this
You have overcome the grave
Glory fills the highest place
What can separate me now?

You tore the veil
You made a way
When You said that it is done


As I prepared for the song, I wept a lot over those words. On the Sunday I was to sing it my music minister at the time, Chad Pollard, called and said, "Marti, I just feel compelled to ask you if you would like to say anything before you sing that song today."

Wow.

I told the congregation that morning that my brother was buried on a hill. And as you walk up the hill towards where Chad is laid...you can't help but pass a huge Cross. I can't walk up that hill to my brother's grave without coming face to face with my Savior and a reminder of His sacrifice and victory over death. I can't walk up that hill without the reminder that He goes before me...wherever life may lead. So every time I walk up that hill, I kneel before that Cross. I thank God that He stands between me and that huge heartache I'm about to walk upon. I thank Him for His victory on that Cross, so that I can go to that grave not with devastation and defeat, but I go to that grave victoriously, with a wounded but grateful heart...

At the cross I bow my knee
Where Your blood was shed for me
There's no greater love than this
You have overcome the grave
Glory fills the highest place
What can separate me now?

Ya'll...can I be honest? Sometimes I get so frustrated that I can't adequately put into words all He has done. God Almighty Himself has done nothing short than bend over backwards to comfort me, heal me, love on me, remind me, speak truth over me...I could go on and on. I want that so badly for all of you. Just do me a favor and ask Him...just ask Him..."Lord, reveral Yourself to me." In fact, if you're in Albemarle, do me a favor and visit that hill where Chad is laid...kneel at that Cross, and ask Him right there. Then, go put a penny on my brother's grave...tell him that we love him...

And rejoice in a LIFE.

You have overcome the grave
Glory fills the highest place
What can separate me now?

I'll be back next week with a quick Merry Christmas. Hugs...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

He Holds the Keys...

March 19, 2004
9:13am


Hi everyone. Hope your week has gone well. This one will be short, I promise! Well, maybe not.

Chad had another follow-up with Dr. Salo on Wednesday. He is healing beautifully from the surgery and will be able to work next week. He's excited about that...all the while thankful that this time off has coincided with the conference tournaments. It's that time of year. ;)

Go Wildcats.

A treatment schedule was agreed upon on Wednesday. We had been looking at 3 programs. The one here at CMC, an experimental program at Duke, and a program at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland. Both the Duke and NIH programs include a vaccine. We have just been praying for guidance on which way to go. The Duke program ended last week, and Chad didn't have a specific marker in his blood they were looking for at NIH. So, CMC and Dr. Salo is it. Dr. Salo did speak at length with the oncologist at NIH and they agreed upon a program together. Plus, Dr. Salo is a strong Christian. Game, set, match.

Chad is still going to have radiation, but they decided to start that after the high-dose interferon (immunotherapy). Radiation, theoretically, helps keep the cancer from spreading. Interferon is designed to treat the cancer itself. Neither of these are effective on everyone, but nothing is. So, he'll begin the high dose interferon on Monday, the 29th. That will continue 5 days a week for 4 weeks. Radiation will follow, along with the low-dose interferon 3 times a week for 11 months. He will administer the low-dose interferon himself by needle. This is going to be a big waiting game (and patience has never been my thing). Pet scans will be done periodically to determine the cancer's growth. It will be a hard spring for him...the side effects of these treatments can be very tough.

So, again, I come to plead for your prayers. Not just periodic, but vigilant. I know some of you don't even know Chad...but you know and care for me. Some of you may not even believe in prayer, but I do. I promise, it doesn't hurt...but it can and will help. As I've told you before, God has graced me with a strange peace about this. I don't understand it, but I am thankful for it. Pray that this will continue for all of us. Pray for strength for our family. Pray for God's work to be done here. Pray for healing, and that these treatments he is about to begin will prove effective. Pray for all of these things specifically, and as often as you possibly can. I keep reminding myself that the greatest blessings come from the greatest strife.


Thanks again, I'll keep you informed. All my love...
Marti


I have had the hardest time sitting down to write this post. I have to get very still and quiet to get it done, and that has been a challenge. I intended to get it done all last week, but after Sunday's message at church I realized to a degree why I had been delayed.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades
-Revelation 1:17-18

Making the huge decision on where Chad would be receiving treatment was a difficult one for my folks. I suppose, at the heart of that concern, was a fear they would choose the "wrong one." Chad left the decision entirely up to my dad, and as you can see below, the options he had whittled the list down to easily excluded all but one. I found comfort in that at the time, but since have wondered, perhaps if we had done something differently, may he have lived?

Last week I went to a funeral of a man that I had never met. That happens occasionally when you work inside a church. I had helped the widow and his family, and done everything I could to make sure the day was exactly what they envisioned. In the process, I grown an affinity for the widow in particular. The gentlemen was an oncologist, and had himself died of cancer. He owned his own private practice here in Charlotte and, one particular time, the large healthcare system in town that he competed with was belittled. No big deal...just healthy competition really...but, that system he happened to belittle was the very system that treated my brother through his cancer. I wasn't at all mad...that's not what I want to get at. My point is this: for a brief moment I thought, "I wonder if Chad would be here today if this practice had seen to his care?"

There's the "What If" game, rearing it's ugly head again.

It took only a moment for me to gain perspective. You see, if it was God's will for Chad to go home...he was going home. It didn't matter where we took him, what doctors treated him, the medicines we gave him...it didn't matter. Now, I believe it was our responsibility to do all we could do save him, but at the end of my days, I don't believe I will face my Lord and hear Him say, "Too bad you all picked the wrong treatment program for Chad. He could have lived a long life if you had."

My pastor preached a mighty sermon this past Sunday on the verses in Revelation listed above, with particular emphasis on verse 18...He holds the keys to death...

Meditate upon that for a moment.

If He holds the keys to death, and He most certainly does if His inerrant words say He does, then I simply do not die until He says so. Does you understand the magnitude of this? Do you understand the freedom this gives me? Do you understand the comfort this brings me? It's not my call. It's not my decision. It's not anybody else's decision. You can seek to destroy me if you like, but I don't die until He says I die. Satan himself can seek to destroy me...but I don't go until my Lord gives the go ahead. I'm a daughter of The King.

I don't have to obsess over treatment options. We don't have to endure paralyzing fear over our safety. We don't have to worry ourselves sick over our cholesterol that, despite our best efforts, we just can't get down to a healthy level. We don't have to send our children out to play and live in the world with sick stomachs. I could go on! We don't have to worry that we could blow it, and cost ourselves or someone else their very lives. Does He call us to be responsible? Yes! Does he call us to live in fear and bondage over things we simply can't control? No! All of it...it's His call. He's got us.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. -John 3: 36

He holds the keys to death and Hades...

When I proclaimed Jesus as God's son and Risen Savior over my life, God's wrath and the keys of Hades, of Hell, were locked forever for me. When Chad walked the aisle of a tiny church in Livingston, TN, at the tender age of 8, to proclaim an acceptance of Jesus Christ, He did the very same. And no one...no one...can coerce my God to unlock those doors.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. -John 14:1-3

Trust.

I'm safe with him. Chad is safe with him. You...you are safe with him as long as He is your Jesus.

He's my Jesus. I rest in that.

So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" -Hebrews 13:6

Nothing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Sullivan 5

Monday, March 8, 2004
10:23am


I wanted to give you all an update on Chad's surgery. Things didn't go as well as we had hoped for a couple of reasons. One, the tumor was wrapped around a nerve. The surgeon was able to extract the tumor without damaging the nerve, but this heightens the risk of a recurrence because cancer cells were were probably left behind on the nerve itself. Two, there were 5 or 6 lymph nodes affected that the surgeon didn't expect to find. Dr. Salo believes they are malignant, but we won't know for sure until the pathology reports come back in a few days. It could be that the nodes were just inflamed and irritated by the tumor itself. If in fact they are found to be cancerous, this also heightens the chances for a recurrence, and the surgeon is recommending radiation. We had hoped to try and avoid that. My folks are, again, looking at all the options. Big decisions ahead.


I am going to keep reminding you all to lift this up. We pray for good news at every juncture, and that God's will would be to heal Chad in a time that would bring the most glory to Him. Pray for a good pathology report, and that Chad's body would be receptive to the treatments and therapy he receives. Pray that all of us keep our eyes on God and His plan and love for us...pray that we would have the strength to hand Chad over to Him. You think you have faith...and then something like this comes along and it's so hard to say, "Whatever you want, God." Pray for my mom. She continues to struggle the most.

I so appreciate all the support and compassion. I hear from more and more people every day. Thank you. It means a tremendous amount to my family and I.

Marti


I remember this day vividly...the day Dr. Salo walked into our waiting room with the news of Chad's surgery. The day had been agony. We had gotten there at the break of day, it seemed, and the surgery lasted hours longer than originally scheduled. They had said we should wait only 2-3 hours, and the surgery wound up going almost 7 hours. Those times Chad was in surgery were the longest of my life. What I remember most about this day was not that time of waiting, it was the time after we had received the news of the surgery. The doctor was sober, and I was very suddenly made aware of the gravity and longevity of the situation. It was almost as if, up until this point, I had been trying to pretend like nothing had changed and, soon, all would be back to normal. Reality was setting in.

I remember my mother asked penetrating and bottom-line questions, and my father's hand was on his face, the way he does when he is worried and thinking and introspective. When the doctor left the room, my mother laid in the middle of the floor and wailed. We had a private waiting room, so the only people that witnessed this were my father and I. My father let her be. I left the room.

It has been...interesting I suppose is the right word...to watch my family deal with and change through this tragedy. My father has become even quieter and more introspective than before, but also more laid back and relaxed about life's little snafus. He is also far more willing to do something extravagant and frivolous, realizing life is short. He is and always has been our family's rock, an ever-present blessing and peace to me, but I have seen his humanity in this journey. I'm somehow thankful for that. Alex, too, has turned inside himself even more than before Chad's illness. He's more serious, not as silly and goofy as he once was. Because he is the baby, we all worry and fuss over him, but he is a strong and capable man...this journey will only make him stronger throughout his life. Alex is no quitter, just like his big brother. I sense God working in Alex's life, and I am grateful and rest in His strength, provision, and timing where my baby brother is concerned.

The change in my mom has been the most challenging for me personally. My mother was a very hands-on mom as we grew up. She stayed at home with us, and she was strong and capable as well...she was wise and discerning and very controlled in her parenting. She rarely if ever cried and, although we all knew she was crazy over us, she rarely hugged us or doted over us very much. My dad was the affectionate one, my mother demonstrated her love for us in other ways which were not usually emotional in nature...time, sacrifice, creativity, and absolute loyalty to the call over her life which was to be a wife and mother. She was the best at that. I grew up with godly parents, and not a day goes by that I am not reminded and thankful for it.

My mother has probably changed the most since our journey with Chad, and it has been an adjustment for me. That day in the waiting room was the first time I had seen her demonstrate such raw emotion, and I have witnessed it many times since then. That day, I had to leave the room . That sort of emotion is not what I was accustomed to in regards to her, I have many times made the mistake of becoming frustrated and even angry at her over it. I don't like for her to cry or grieve in front of me. Even now. That's just me being terribly honest. I grew up with two parents in control and Christ-focused...the grief I have seen my family endure has been completely new and by far the hardest piece of this journey. Not only because it pains me to see those I love the most suffering, but because I was simply not accustomed to the level of emotion and abandon it has required of us.

I was wrong. I've been too hard on her so many times. There is no greater sorrow on earth than a parent losing a child. She deserved more grace than I have given her at times...many times.

My mother now likes to hug me, hold my hand, tell me she loves me, and just pet on me in general. I have grown more accustomed to it, understanding...if at all possible...she loves me even more on this side of her tragedy. I have learned that I have to give her grace in ALL of her emotion, whether it be grief or affection. I have found I had to be comfortable with the change that took place in her. My mother has been wounded terribly in the journey, but she is not destroyed. God has shown me that just because I am not always comfortable with the change, does not mean it was wrong of her. I will admit...I was most often the one in the wrong. I have found the more grace I give her, the more her grief eases.

My family has changed. I have had a hard time swallowing that, because I loved and cherished every bit of my family and our time together. The Sullivans knew how to have a good time! Pastor Roger Thomas said at Chad's funeral the we were a family that seemed not only to love each other, but to like each other as well. It was a perfect description of a blessed family. I have to tell you...I miss them. Just recently, after having a minor meltdown about the changes that have come upon us and the new dynamics of our family without Chad, my mother said to me, "Baby girl, you can't make us what we were. No matter how hard you try, we're not the same. You have to let us be what we are now."

She's a good mama.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." -2 Cor. 4:7-9













Monday, October 12, 2009

Look for Him...


March 11, 2004
11:53 AM

...I want to take a moment to thank all of you for the amazing support. People have been coming out of the woodwork! We have truly felt your prayers carrying us. You all know me (and my Drama Queen tendencies) and I have really been pretty calm so far. We have a long road ahead of us, however, so I ask that the prayers continue. God has spoken to me in ways that He never has before the last couple of weeks. And, as horrible as this situation may seem, I feel blessed to have experienced Him in a way that I never have before. I plead with each of you to continue to lift us up. Pray that God will guide us in selecting a treatment schedule for Chad. Pray that his body will be receptive to the treatments. Pray for healing as soon as He would allow. Pray, as well, for strength for Chad and our family. My mother is feeling encouraged (after Chad's recent pathology results), but we all acknowledge this will be a long road.

Thanks again. You guys are the best. Love to you all...
M



Have you ever really looked for God? Be honest.


During this time, I needed to see God. I needed affirmation that He was real, even if I had bowed to Him all my life...all of sudden I needed proof. Just between me and Him, I needed to lay eyes on Him, feel Him...experience Him. If I was going to trust my brother into His care in this matter...right or wrong...I needed to know He was there beyond a shadow of a doubt.


The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end...the Maker of all Creation. Somehow, in my desperation, I found the humpha to ask the great I AM to show Himself to me. Amazing. Even more amazing?


I think it tickled Him.


As I began to "look for God" I found Him all around me. This is a frustrating entry to write, because there is just no way I could possibly describe how He ministered to me in the physical world..so sweet...so precious...so personal...


It was during this time that I began to understand what we mean when we say "a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." It was personal...this blossoming relationship over Lover and loved, and soon, between lover and Loved. Do you understand? He showed Himself to me in ways that only He could have known. He really cared! He really knew! He really hurt..for me. It all really mattered to Him...a great deal, in fact. As I cried and poured over His Word, as I saw His Hand move to comfort me as panic sought me all hours of the day, as I prayed and begged...only to look to Him and experience the strangest calm and even, dare I say it...joy. Joy at the work being accomplished in our suffering. I realized in all of this how crazy He was over me, and yet if He still deemed it necessary to allow this suffering over my life and the lives of those I loved...it must be for a great purpose indeed.

Trust. Rest.

I don't remember when I began to do this, but I saw redbirds as God's sign to me of His care and faithfulness to Chad. I saw them EVERYWHERE. It just wasn't normal how many cardinals I saw...almost daily. I would sometimes laugh out loud at their unusual appearances...He seemed to even have fun with it, as He saw the delight it gave me when I spotted those lovely creatures. My family adopted this tradition, and we enjoyed it together as we shared stories of who saw redbirds when. It continues to this day.


The Christmas after Chad passed, he had only been gone a few months. It was...difficult beyond words, to speak truthfully. Some of you know exactly what I mean. Traditions that have for so many years been cherished, all of the sudden become painful and dreaded in an inescapable way. We decided to bunk tradition and spend the Holiday in the mountains, at a cabin in Linville, NC. The season was bittersweet, but God laid His hand of protection and blessing heavy upon us, and we managed to survive it amidst tears and laughter, and an awkward cloud of pain that hung over us. I found an abandoned puppy, a tiny little thing, near Blowing Rock. An engaged couple I met on the street there wanted to take him home, but asked me to keep him overnight until they could pick him up on the way home. We had such fun with that puppy! The perfect and precious diversion...straight from the King of Kings. My sweet Comforter.


Christmas morning we woke up to a fresh snowfall...just enough to cover the ground. That in and of itself thrilled my soul, but He didn't stop there. Mid-morning, as we were readying ourselves for a Christmas brunch, my father called quietly for me to come over to a near window...


There, in the snow, was the fattest and most beautiful redbird I had ever seen. He tarried on the lawn, enjoying the snow. We wept.


What a precious Savior we serve. Don't miss Him. Full of might...and full of mush over His beloveds. He's my Sweetheart.

Ephraim indeed.


The picture at the top of the entry today was taken with my cell phone and was the last picture I took with Chad...on his boat at sunset on Lake Tillery...perfect peace on still waters...


Do you see Him? It's all about the Cross.


The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
-Psalm 19:1

Look for Him today, beloved.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Today Is The Day...


Jonathan Chadwick Sullivan
2.19.74 - 10.1.06
Three years ago this morning it was a clear and beautiful Sunday. The sky was without a single cloud, and so bright and blue it almost hurt to gaze upon. A gorgeous Lord's Day...the day my brother went home to be with Jesus...
May I tell you a quick story, to honor him today?
Chad, late in his illness, had to have brain surgery to remove a tumor. After the surgery, he insisted on being at his house down on the lake, so we all had to take shifts in the weeks after he got home. He was not to be left unattended, doctor's orders. One evening, I was down at the lake taking a shift. I had been, for some time, feeling a tremendous burden to talk to Chad about the Lord. Pridefully, I had considered myself the more spiritually mature of the two of us, and I was just sure he needed my infinite wisdom...(gag). Now, remember, Chad is my older brother, and little sisters sometimes have a hard time confronting their big brothers on matters such as these. Chad bowed to receive Christ years before me, but his walk had been different than mine to some degree. It was changing, I sensed. So, I tread as lightly as I could and began to ask him some rather pressing questions about his relationship with Christ, and what He believed God was doing in the journey. As he saw where I was headed with the conversation, he quickly cut to the chase, as Chad was known to do. He looked me dead in the eye...
"Marti, there's something you need to know. God and I have an understanding. If He wants me to live, then I am ready to live. But, if He wants me to die, then I am ready to die."
I was furious.
How dare he give up? How dare he even consider accepting defeat? How dare he not muster up all the faith and conviction he could to save his own life? How dare he not shore himself up for the fight? How dare he not think of his family, and what he would leave behind? How dare he think of the Father above all else? How dare he commit his life unto death to our Savior? How dare he say "Have thine own way, Lord?" How dare he do exactly what the Lord asks of us each and every day by laying down his life and following Him? How dare he?
"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it;
but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."
-Matthew 16:25
That evening, unbeknownst to me, Chad gave me the greatest gift I have ever received aside from my salvation in Christ. I cling to that night almost daily, remembering in peace that Chad was ready to do what the Father called him to do.
Can I just share with you? I'm so proud.
I celebrate the life of Chad Sullivan today...all the wit...all the charm...all the brains...all the valour...all the courage...all the strength...all the grace...Only through Jesus...
I am better to have known and loved you, brother. See you soon...
Only through Jesus.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

24 Hours...

At this point in the journey, as I look back over those emails, I begin to see a lot of words that would cause much anxiety over the next few years...some of them I had never even heard before, but would become acquainted with intimately.

PET scan...surgery...pathology report...lymph nodes...metastasize...immunotherapy...margins...

There were doctor's appointments after doctor's appointments and tests after tests. All of it fought my peace in the fiercest of battles time and again, and it seemed as soon as we got any bit of good or even "adequate" news, another battle was just around the next corner. There was no rest from the worry. I can recall sitting in front of my computer one day, playing the "what-if" game. You know that game. You play it all the time...

What if the bills don't get paid?
What if my kids get into trouble?
What if I lose my job?
What if my husband leaves me?
What if I never marry?
What if something goes wrong with the house?
What if I never have that baby?

Remember? You know that game as well as I do, and cancer will take it to a whole new level. Except, you jump quickly to the bottom line.

What if he dies?

There are no guarantees on life or death when it comes to an illness like cancer, much less the road to life or death. No one can tell you at diagnosis how many surgeries there will be, how many rounds of chemo or PET scans he will face, how many times he may or may not go into remission and how many times he will relapse. My mind headed down every one of these rabbit trails and many more time and again early in the diagnosis and I struggled with my helplessness. So...as I am sitting in front of my computer on that day, it occurred to me I had a choice. I could either focus on God and let Him lead me though this nightmare, or I could focus on the nightmare...and very literally lose my mind playing that wretched "what-if" game. I couldn't live like that, and I praise God continually for that moment of clarity. It saved me, and I believe chartered this course to be one of blessing rather than despondency...of beauty rather than bitterness. I was in no emotional state nor at a level of spiritual maturity at the time to be so wise and coherent all alone. Oh, no. That was the Lord, and the ministering of His beautiful Holy Spirit.

I learned so many precious lessons on this journey with my big brother. But this one...the necessity of taking life 24 hours at a time...was by far one of the most valuable. I practice it every day that I live and breathe. It's what He intended, you know...

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.
-Matthew 6:33-34

Day by day, and moment by moment, seeking not our own gain but just seeking Him. He is the prize, after all. I praise God that I am finally beginning to truly understand that. He taught me to take each hurdle as it came, focused solely on Him. In this way, He made me stronger for the next hurdle...and the next...and the next...


March 1, 2004
10:03am

...Chad just went in a few moments ago to have the PET Scan. Please pray as hard as you can.

March 4, 2004
11:30am

Chad is going in for surgery in the morning at CMC, around 11am...pray for healing and that God will bless our family through this.

March 8, 2004
10:23 am

I wanted to give you all an update on Chad's surgery. Things didn't go as well as we had hoped...You think you have faith, and then something like this comes along and it's so hard to say, "Whatever you want, God."


Those hurdles continued of course, and they still do, but as I determined to take my fearful and anxious thoughts captive and redirect my focus to Him...His cross...His suffering...His sacrifice...the whole situation transformed before me. It began to glow with a beauty and a depth and an abundance such that I had never before seen...

Ephraim.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus...look full in His wonderful face...and the things of earth will grow strangely dim...in the light of His glory and grace...










Sunday, September 13, 2009

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

February 26, 2004
9:26am

Morning all. Well, we got a rush biopsy done last night and the tumor is malignant. Lymph nodes surrounded are somewhat affected as well. I'm not sure what from here. The surgeon is recommending surgery to remove the affected areas, but I think my parents are going to talk to a couple of specialists before making any decisions on where we will go from here. It remains to be seen how progressed the cancer is throughout the lymph nodes. There could still be good news here...we pray that the lymph node progression is limited. That would be unbelieveable. Chad's health insurance will not be paying for any of this, because the cancer was a pre-existing condition prior to his beginning his current job. We just need a lot of prayers. That's all I'm asking. Thanks for all the calls and emails as well...I am very blessed to have such wonderful family and friends.

Marti



One of my primary concerns at this point in the journey was finances. My family was never wealthy by any means, but we are certainly blessed and I never wanted for anything. However, I knew enough to understand that the medical bills that could arise from this illness would be staggering, and at the very least change our futures drastically. It is not my intention to make a statement or point about health care reform. I vote, but otherwise do my best to avoid politics. I've had to come to the conclusion that it's all in God's hands, and I trust Him...knowing He will never forsake His own.



I would like to testify to that today.



The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning;
great is Thy faithfulness.
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in Him." - Lamentations 3:22-24



Very quietly and miraculously, new legislation on pre-existing conditions was passed by Congress just months before Chad's diagnosis that made my financial concerns obsolete. Legislation was passed...seemingly just for us...before we ever even knew we needed it. He is faithful, and that's reason I am compelled to share. I want to simply testify of the lengths and depths that He will go to for His own. Chad's medical bills were nearly $2mm dollars by the time it was all over. It took an Act of Congress to save us...DONE. Nothing is too great for Him, the great I AM. HE IS...all I need....

"The Lord is my portion."

Literally. Stop and soak that up, because it's the absolute truth and the sincere knowledge of it will change your world in every way. Everyday, most often without my even knowing it, He is in the business of protecting me...you...His children. One of the greatest comforts I carry is the knowledge that nothing comes upon me without the Hand of God Almighty allowing it...and allowing it only because it can be used in some way to bring and honor and glory to Him. That knowledge...that'll change the way you look at your day.


Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father...morning by morning new mercies I see...all I hath needed, Thy hand hath provided...Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord...unto me...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Eight Belles

Why am I doing this? Why relive it all now, just as life is beginning to show some signs of normalcy again? It's a fair question.



A couple of years ago I was at home on a Saturday afternoon alone with not much to do, a rare treat in my world. It was Kentucky Derby Day that particular Saturday, and I had settled into my spot on the couch to enjoy the event. I love to watch the specials on the horses before the race itself, and this year was no different. A filly would be running in the Derby that year, somewhat of an oddity, and before the day was over that little girl would have won it all. Tragedy quickly replaced celebration, however, when sweet Eight Belles had to be put down on the track because of a devastating injury she incurred after crossing the finish line. If you know me at all...you know I lost my mind over that horse. I sat on my couch and wept...and wept...and wept. Hours passed, and my sobs continued. Only...



It wasn't about Eight Belles.



By this time, Chad had been gone just under a year. I had taken a lot of time off of work while he was sick, and then another week off after he passed. After that, life had to continue whether I was ready or not. So, I did what I had to do. I put one foot in front of the other and I kept moving forward. When the waves of grief hit at work, in a meeting, out with friends, I became very deft at swallowing it, suppressing it, ignoring it. That practice quickly, and really without my being aware, became a habit. Even when I was in a place where I could be alone to cry and scream over it...the normal and healthy mourning things...I chose not to. Why? Because it hurt, and I was tired of hurt. Done. I chose to ignore it. Now, it unnerves me to realize how quickly that habit had begun to indwell me. And, what I hadn't been able to see at the time, was an angry and bitter spirit slowly festering and growing inside of me.



I sat on my bed that night, after losing my mind over Eight Belles, and talked with God about what had gone down on the couch that day. By the time my friend Sarah had come in the door around dinnertime, she found me sitting in the middle of a mountain of tissues and tears...all the tears I had chosen not to cry so many times over those last weeks and months. The screams and cries I had stifled time and time again hung thickly in the air around me. It was a sight to behold, I have no doubt. As I prayed on my bed that night, a very soft and gentle message landed on my heart. My sweet Lord...



"Baby girl, you have to feel it. I need for you to feel it."



You see, all those months that Chad was sick...some of you heard me....I had told God, begged God, to please use Chad's journey and suffering to bring glory unto Himself. I wanted that. When I saw the miracles He could perform to make the very darkest moment of my life something so beautiful and life changing to myself and others...those miracles healed me. They made Chad's suffering matter. They made his life matter. They made his death matter. Yet, how could I now testify to His faithfulness on a journey that I had shut myself down to, and numbed my heart over? The answer was simple. I could not. In the end, within the embittered and angered and resentful spirit that was slowly manifesting itself inside of me, I was surely headed for sin. But it was hard work to hurt, and I was weary...


What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He makes everything beautiful in its time. -Ecclesiastes 3:9-11


If I want God to use me and to minister through me, if I want to bring God glory in the journey...I have to feel it. If I want God to truly heal me...I have to feel it. We all have to feel it. Even...no, especially...when it hurts. Whatever it is...feel it. And then, lay it at His feet. Make the suffering, loneliness, failure, weeping, heartbreak, depravity, all off it, your personal offering to Him. Lay it down, and then watch Him work the miracles with it all that only He can. But first...feel it.


Ephraim. He makes everything beautiful...in its time...


Monday, August 31, 2009

In The Beginning

February 24, 2004
3:52pm

Hi, guys. I'm not sure how many of you were aware, but my older brother, Chad, had (melanoma) about two years ago. We caught it early and he has been in remission for about 18 months. Today, he went to a surgeon to have a knot under his arm looked over. The surgeon in Albemarle didn't like what he saw and is sending him to Charlotte in the morning to have it removed for biopsy. I'm trying not to get ahead of myself, but, naturally, we're all very concerned and shaken. I don't know how many of you are praying people, but I believe in the power of prayer, and I'm asking all of you to lift him up tonight.

Love to you all...Marti



The next evening, in the check-out line at my neighborhood Bi-Lo, I got the news that Chad's tumor was malignant. I began to sob...right there in the grocery store, as the cashier and fellow-shoppers eyed me nervously. I just could not get a hold of myself. As I think back on that moment, and I remember it well, I realize, more than anything else, I was grieving the all too sudden passing of life as I knew it.

The Wonder Years had come to an end. They would not return.

The above email to various friends and family marks the beginning of my journey of suffering. It doesn't speak to my brother's suffering...I cannot even begin to do it justice. Neither does it speak to my family's suffering. Truly, I can only really speak to my own There would be many, many more emails to a growing number of folks over the course of the next few years. And, as the distribution list grew, so did the author. I would like to share the messages and the journey with you through this blog.

How one seemingly normal afternoon I was sitting in my cubicle...and how the ringing of the phone on that afternoon changed everything...

The very first step on my road to Ephraim.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Wonder Years

I have been meaning to begin a blog for some time...even feel called to it. I have put it off...for no other reason than I wonder what I could have to say that anyone else would want to hear? Blogs seem a bit narcissistic, don't they?

Yet, here am I. The truth is that I do have something to say...Ephraim.


The second son he named Ephraim and said,
"It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."
- Genesis 41:52


I lived a somewhat charmed life in my early years..."The Wonder Years" as Gen X could refer to it. I was raised in a home that did not just teach me about my Savior, they showed me. There is a mighty difference, and I'm no fool. I am well aware that I am blessed. As an eight year old, I began to feel a tug inside of me..."What does it mean to be this Christian that I hear them talking about?" One night, I asked my father that very question, and on an old church pew my mother had placed right there in my bedroom, I surrendered to Lord Jesus.

Then what?

Nothing really. Of course, I attended church and memorized Scripture...the usual...but by most standards my life was incredibly normal and, really, rather uneventful. I actually had a psych teacher tell me in college that I was so normal I was abnormal...for real. I'm convinced it started at home. I'm sure of it. There was never any real unrest in my home. You know what I'm taking about...there was no marital discord, drinking, abuse, anger...all the unthinkable atrocities that we all know lurk behind front doors all over America. As an adult I have learned that there were tough times, but my parents did an incredible job of making sure those concerns were kept where they belonged...with the mommy and the daddy. It was very peaceful in that respect. Peaceful, yes. Quiet, no. With two brothers and myself...you get the picture. My family was strict, but full of happiness. It was such a wonderful thing.

I tell you all this because during this time...I truly had no idea who I had surrendered my life to. Of course, if you had asked me to tell you about my Jesus, I would have answered. "He is my Savior!", I would have said. "He is the Son of God, crucified for my sins and victorious over death!", I would have told you. And I would have been right. I had no idea, however, just who He is...and how crazy he is about me. Not because I wasn't saved, but because I had not truly struggled...wrestled...fought...begged...trusted...rested.

In my twenty-seventh year, that all changed.

Ephraim. This is the story of my struggle. This is the story of my harvest...