So All May Know, Hope

God has spent the past year teaching me, very loudly, about what it means to have hope. This is a message that I am both terrified, and thrilled to be able to share with the public. To get to where I am now I had to be brought through a place that felt like the very antithesis of that safe feeling you get when you have faith. I walked through the very blackest and darkest parts of my soul, and I hope that sharing those terrifying and lonely moments can help others breath in the beautiful grace and mercy of our Lord. Now, I never had a easy life. I had been through my shares of trials, and I thought I was done. In my mind, any further trials would just simply be unfair and unjust. Job 23:10- “But He knows the way that I take; when he tested me, I will come forth as gold” I was ready for the next chapter. I was like any typical early-20 something girl. I worked my way through college, got my masters degree, moved away from my family, got my first “big girl” job as a social worker, my own apartment, two cats… I was ready to start my life. Then BAM! December 23rd, 2016 I was diagnosed with Stage II triple-negative breast cancer. Who gets breast cancer in their 20’s? How was this fair? The year ahead would be a trial that I could have never anticipated, prepared for, or dreamed of. I would have to go through fertility treatment first, since chemo had the possibility of making me infertile. After that there would be 5 and a half months of brutal chemotherapy, followed by surgery, 7 weeks of daily radiation treatments, and 6 more months of oral chemotherapy and physical therapy (which I am happy to report will be over in TWO MORE MONTHS!). Remember a few sentences ago where I had declared my young adult independence by moving away from my family? Well, yeah. Now I was stuck in South Florida, unable to leave my job due to fear of losing my health insurance, with no friends or family getting ready to fight breast cancer at 25 years old… alone. And I truly did feel alone. Although I have grown up believing in God, and going to church, I had fallen away from my faith. A few bad experiences and I had written the whole things off. “All churches are corrupt” I thought. “All leaders are hypocrites” I said. I was under the crazy delusion that I could walk in my faith alone, and as the years wore on, my faith diminished more and more. Although I never experienced anger towards God, I had never felt further away from Him than after my diagnosis. But God did not change when I was diagnosed with cancer. Little did I know, that He was holding me so close, that not a single need that I had went unheard or unanswered. He did not forsake me. I’m going to spare everyone the gorey and very unpleasant details of treatment. Lets just sum it up like this…Imagine every sickness and pain you have ever had, now combine all of those sensations and imagine that they last non stop for months on end. Imagine feeling as though every tiny cell in your body has waged war against you, with the goal of sucking every drop of energy and life out of your body. The medication, and the menopause that they induced me into, had mental health repercussions as well. I was so defeated. And to top that off, I had lost all of my previous coping mechanisms. I could no longer physically, financially, or mentally do the things that kept me sane in the past. Any friends that I thought I had could not handle the reality of cancer, and could not handle my own negativity. Even my cats, my best friends, had to go live with my mom while I was on treatment. I felt like I had nothing. I was forced into a living situation that did not honor God, and jeopardized my health further. Slowly, but surely, I began to lose all my desire to continue the fight. I just wanted to be DONE. “Fight like a girl”, please. “Oh you’re so strong”... ha, catchy phrase, but if you only knew how weak I was. I lost the desire, not only to fight the cancer, but to live. I saw no point in the future. I was going to continue fighting and walking through this darkness for what purpose? So another tragedy could hit me later on? And then, of course, there was the voice in the back of my head that told me I wouldn’t beat this disease. Unfortunately, the subtype of breast cancer that I had is very aggressive. Although it typically responds very well to treatment at first, it has a 1 in 3 chance of re-occurring in the first five years after remission. When it does come back, it nearly always comes back as Stage 4, which there is no cure for. So then, why? Why did I even care? I got to the point where I would just sit in my room and stare at the wall for days. I had stopped caring for myself in every way and I was simply existing. My hope was gone. God was not done with me. In the beginning of my treatment I had met this girl. She reached out to me, and she had swooped me up as a friend without a second thought. She showed me a different type of compassion than I was used to. She lived differently than most, and carried a type of joy around with her that I just could not understand. I worked hard to shut her out, expecting to be disappointed by her as I had been by others in my past. For months she kept inviting me to her church, Christ Fellowship for young adults, and for months I rejected the offer. I had every excuse in the book. ….I am tired, I don’t feel good, I don’t feel like being around people, everyone would judge me for wearing a wig, everyone will just keep telling me to be positive and I can’t stand that anymore….. Finally, when I reached the end of myself, and I didn’t want to go on anymore… I gave in. It was my last ditch effort. I had nothing left to lose. I will never forget the first night I walked into young adults. Although I cannot remember specifically what was talked about, or what moved me (lets blame it on chemo brain), I will never forget the feeling that I got. I was home. I remember trembling during prayer, and being so moved by God’s spirit that I instantly felt a warm wash of hope that I hadn’t felt in so long. God pulled me in, and He whispered to me a question: “Why are you scared of giving me a chance? I WILL carry you through this, just surrender.” After that night everything began to change for me very quickly. I had a group of friends unlike any that I had ever had before. How could I possibly feel alone? They showed me a real, and true love that no other friend had ever shown me before. They cared about the status of my soul. God had delivered me from my isolation. How utterly foolish was I to try to walk that journey alone. These people were a safety net. They were the family that I had been so desperate for. How did they come into my life now, after begging God to bring me friends for years? I had surrendered to Him, I had given Him a shot, and He delivered me my heart’s greatest desire. I was speechless. My life looked so dramatically different than I had ever pictured it in my past, but it was so much sweeter and more beautiful. Every moment held more meaning than ever before. Day by day, I grew more aware of His love and affections for me. Day by day, my prayers were answered. Day by day, my hope grew stronger. I had purpose again. I understood myself, and my cancer, in ways that are difficult to even put into words. God had sought me out. He allowed cancer into my life, and used it to knock loudly on the door of my heart, pursued me, and held me close. Through the church, I found a way out of my living situation. My new friends kept me accountable, but didn’t leave me to figure it out on my own. My strength was returning. Eventually, I was no longer defined by my illness. The blessings just did not stop. I found my voice in a new way. My stories of pain and suffering turned into stories of FREEDOM. Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Psalm 139: 11-12: “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You. But the night shines as the day. The darkness and the light are both alike to you.” I am very happy to report that I can now cancer free and in remission! But I would no longer change this event in my life if I could, because it has given me too much good. I have learned many lessons. I have learned that there is nothing ahead of me that can detour His will for my life. He will fulfill His purpose for me. How can I not just swim in hope with the knowledge in my heart? Now, whenever fear or doubt creep in… (because I’m human, and it does) I can just ask myself, “How can I not believe that He will take care of me? Hasn’t He already?” These trials have only prepared me for the blessings in my life. God never told me that I would die of cancer. God wanted me to be silent, and to trust my future and it’s unknowns into His care. God leads us very specifically, and uniquely, and this is how He needed to lead me. God used cancer to accelerate my desire to know Him. Psalm 138: 3: “In the day when I cried out, You answered me. And made me bold with strength in my soul.” I have also learned that although my body and mind is crucial to my survival here on earth, they are not really who I am. They are not my identity. My identity is in Christ, and cancer can not have the “real me”. The real me has already been bought by His blood. When my time here is done, I will return to God. What amazing a miraculous hope there is in that. I no longer worry about the cancer returning, because if it does, God will guide me just as He has already. Although my story is very specific to my battle, and my struggle, I hope that it can inspire others to surrender to God and give Him a shot when He pursues your heart. When the bad in life starts pouring down, and it is so easy to lose sight of His affections for us, we have to remember that He is there working all things for our good. God will never forsake us. So All May Know, Hope

So All May Know, Worth.

Worth. The idea that God, the Creator of the Universe looked at us and thought that we were important enough to have here, in this moment of time, will always blow my mind. I struggled with this concept for a long time. I didn’t understand how a God so good and so Holy could love a person who is not at all close to His standards. I can see how many times I ran from God because I was so enthralled with myself. But in every scenario I play in my head, I can look back and see His relentless pursuit of my heart. God, in His greatness, still pursued me. When I was struggling to believe in myself, He believed in me and for me. I thought for so long that my worth could be found in achievements, appearance, popularity. I tied myself to the idea that my worth comes from other people and when I don’t meet the standard, I felt unworthy. But God has called us worthy way before we ever had a chance to even try. Luke 12:6-7 says it this way: Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. You’re worth more to God than you think. I pray that you stop striving to find your worth from people and turn to the One who gave you worth from the very beginning. You are called. You are valued. You are Worthy. So all may know...their worth.

So All May Know, the reckless love of God.

Love is one of those terms that is thrown around so often in a society that doesn’t even have the right knowledge of what love truly is. I used to think that love was a method. For me to be loved I had to do the right things. I mean as a child, I was often told that if we behave we get rewarded and if we misbehave we get punished for it. As a young child I never fully grasped what that meant, and I thought when I was being punished it was because I wasn’t loved or lovable. Today I know just how wrong my thinking in that was, when in fact punishment is a part of being loved. My parents punished me BECAUSE of their love for me, they didn’t want to see me run astray from the simple rules placed in front of me. The older I get the more I find this to be true in my walk with my heavenly Father. Growing up I heard about Jesus, I would sing the songs when we’d go to church and id pray the prayers. But it wasn’t until I found myself really lost, broken, and confused that I realized just how powerful Gods love for me was, and in that moment, I realized my love for him was lacking. But even as I began to chase after Jesus I had this false understanding of his love. I knew he loved me when I read his word and sat in church and did good things for his name. But in those moments when the enemy took ahold of me I thought I lost the love that God had for me. When I would be punished for my sin, when life seemed to be going anyway other than the way I desired I thought I had lost his Love. Little did I know that it was in the moments of refinement that I was being more shaped into the man he has created me to become. His love never gave up on me, I gave up on him. Recently, I’ve began really seeking to grasp just a little bit more the Love of God. To me, it doesn’t really make sense. It’s a love that holds nothing back, a love that cannot fall, a love that surpasses all knowledge and understanding, and love that’s reckless. I looked up the term reckless and it can be defined as, “without thinking about the consequences of an action.” Sounds crazy, but we serve a crazy God. God loves us without thinking, he loves us regardless of whether we love him back or not. He loves us regardless of the consequences it may bring. When I think about this reckless love God has for me, I can’t help but want to love him recklessly. I don’t want to ever have to think about loving God, I want it to be what wakes me up in the morning, what puts me to sleep at the end of the night. I want to love God regardless of the consequences this earthly life may bring, because I know and I’m certain that eternal life with my Father is greater than any pain this world can throw my way. The best part of all of this is that Jesus IS love. We no longer have to question what love is and what it looks like to love, because our God who loved us so much sent Jesus to this earth to be love, to show love, and to die because of love. I don’t have it all together but one thing that I can know moving forward is that Gods love, Jesus, won’t ever turn his back on me. Even when I turn from him, he stands with arms open and heart abandoned to love me all the more. The reckless love of God is beyond words and comprehension yet so real and tangible right in front of our very eyes. So all may know.

So All May Know, Fulfillment

I come from a family where divorce and spite run rampant. Division and negativity was a large cloud hanging over my family, even as a kid I identify the negativity. Not finding what I needed in my family, I started to look to other people. They became significant in my life, and I had finally thought I had found the positive family atmosphere I had been searching for. After some time, those people who I can come to call friends led me to dark places where I had been convinced I was where I wanted to be. That could not be any further from the truth. I was betrayed, ridiculed, and rejected. I had elevated their words and thoughts about me above anything else, yet I was empty. I tried my best to please them any way I could. They kept taking and taking from me, until I was left completely broken and drained to the point of crippling depression. Here, in this terrible state is where different people used and abused me in unspeakable ways. I tried to run. I hid who I really was and wanted to just hide everything. I had not learned, I still was trying to find something where I would only find nothing. As I look back on my life, I can recognize I was searching, yearning for something I could never find in the people and the places I was attempting to find solace. I was trying to find fulfillment. Finally, I found the fulfillment I was so desperately yearning for. I found that in Jesus. In Jesus alone, I had never felt so filled, so loved, so complete. All the pain, all the brokenness, all the insignificant, hollow baggage I was attempting to fill the void in my heart with has been washed away and replaced with the only thing that could complete, repair, and resurrect anything and everything. His love made me complete. I never feel more fulfilled and alive then when I am walking the path he wants me to. So All May Know Fulfillment