when your friend has leukemia

I first met Jen at Myrtle Beach when we were part of a college ministry summer project. She was as joy-filled and gracious then as she has proved to be in the 18 years since. We later were roommates while we were both at seminary. She was a co-conspirator with my husband when we got engaged, leading me into New York City despite my initial resistance and saving my engagement pictures from the gaudy St-Patricks-Day-themed outfit I’d first chosen. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding. We were in Philadelphia for several years together. And then she got married, and they moved to a farm in New Hampshire to pursue their dream when Seth and I moved to Virginia. We were pregnant with our first babies at the same time, their due dates only days apart. After years of living states apart with sporadic phone calls and emails to connect us, reconnecting in person last year was as if no time had passed. When we caught up over lunch, she listened empathetically as I spilled out my heart that was on the verge of burnout. Just like she always does.

Then cancer came along into this beautiful mother-of-three-kids’ life. A diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia in March. It came out of the blue, one of those fear-inducing stories of going to the doctor because her back hurt and finding out that in fact the major problem were the bruises that didn’t go away. She pursued treatment, and it seemed to be working well until an unexpected turn into blast phase happened a few months ago.

Today she undergoes a bone marrow transplant thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor. (Did you know that you, too, could register to help another in this way? Go to “Be the Match” for more information.)  And the many, many of us who love her are praying for her today, day 0 as it’s termed in the transplant world, that this would be the rebirth of new, healed blood cells for this friend.

If you’re reading this, and you want to join along, we would all be honored if you lifted her up and asked for healing with us.

a-prayer-for-healing

 

 

Five Minute Friday: “gather”

Week in a summary: Had a lovely, soul-refreshing visit with Kimberly and Erick; then got hit with laryngitis; had hard-but-good conversations with two close friends (after laryngitis was over, of course …) which reminded me that working through conflict actually strengthens and deepens true friendships; and now we are looking forward to a visit from my Mom this weekend (in response to the SOS text I sent her on Monday – saying “we can’t do this anymore. Help needed from Gigi, please?!”). Oh, yes, and right in the middle of this week, I was privileged to hear the rich teaching of Ruth 2 that God provides generously and specifically for his people (and for the “outsider” – Ruth). Thank you, Sara, for teaching us this week.

And now, this Friday morning, I come to Five Minute Friday – a 5-minute unedited writing exercise – a familiar writing anchor as the weeks roll by.

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One day we will all gather there together. From every tribe, tongue, and nation, says Revelation. We will gather at the throne room of our glorious King, and we will worship. We will be in full-soul delight, no more sin or crying or sadness or tears or injustice or frustration or brokenness or wounding. Nothing but worship. Loving and being loved perfectly. Aahh, how beautiful that Day will be!

photo from 6degreesms.wordpress.com

photo from 6degreesms.wordpress.com

But we will have to be gathered there. Which implies a scattering beforehand, and that is certainly true of our lives right now. We are scattered physically, emotionally, spiritually. We are individuals who are broken into a thousand pieces of ourselves, and we are trying to be made whole again. And we, the Church, are scattered into a thousand corners of this globe – as God sees fit – in an attempt to gather in, to bring in, those who are not yet here. We are scattered from brothers and sisters who are being persecuted today. Beheaded, hunted for their faith. And they belong to us, and we to them. (But we forget – let us gather our thoughts to be present with them through at least our prayers today.) We are scattered from our brothers and sisters who are impoverished while we complain that we can’t afford the latest in home and fashion style. We are scattered from each other in our churches by our busy lives and busy schedules and self-centered hearts. 

We have One who even now is gathering us together. He is healing the fragmented pieces of our hearts and our souls and our churches and The Church/Kingdom. Let us look to Him for Lenten repentance, and let us beg Him to continue to gather us together, until the day when we will celebrate face-to-face.gather

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beauty in darkness: what’s good about “Good Friday”

I had skimmed over the verse countless times in the 30+ years I’ve read and meditated and studied this familiar account. Good Friday is the time to read the crucifixion story. A story of horror turned beautiful. Yet if you’re like me, too often I jump to the “turned beautiful” part without staying with the horror of what Jesus endured. It’s uncomfortable to sit with the events that culminated in the most gruesome of deaths on a Roman cross. But this week – this Holy Week – asks us to do just that. To sit. To see. To hear. Because in the horror, we are saved. We are deserving of all that the King of Glory endured innocently. And we who bear his name are called to endure similar suffering for the sake of love. Love enters into the messy, the broken, even the so-gruesome-you-can’t-bear-to-hear-it and Love takes it. Love endures. It does not run away. It stays. It shows up.

What feels impossible for you to endure today (and yet you must because of Love)? How can Good Friday become truly “good” for you today? What brokenness do you run from in your own heart and in the lives of those around you?

In my calling as a counselor, I often sit with those who have endured stories of abuse that are too difficult to name. And to think that what I have a hard time hearing is what they lived through. Well, that causes you to pause. To pray. To beg for redemption, for healing, for a Justice to make it all right. 

On Good Friday, we are given just that. Not only in the cross, but in the events leading up to the cross. Here’s the verse that stopped me in my tracks this morning (from Matthew 27:27):

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him.

Do you know how many soldiers are in a battalion? I didn’t either, so I checked the footnote and saw that a battalion is “a tenth of a Roman legion; usually about 600 men.” 600 men. Quite different than movies who portray this portion of the scene with a couple soldiers kicking Jesus around. That’s bad enough, but this has an arena quality to it. 600 soldiers. That’s a very full auditorium hall. And what did they gather to do? Well, read on:

And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Utterly shameful. Shameful if it’s an audience of one, but for these horrors to happen before an arena-size audience of 600? Shame magnified. Shame too great for words. Twice he was stripped of his clothes. In addition to the emotional abuse of this mockery, there was the physical abuse of being “crowned” with thorns and beat on the head with a reed. What is striking is Jesus’ response. Nothing. The one who was God incarnate – who could have called down fire from heaven to devour these fools – stayed still and endured. That is the miracle. The miracle that turns bad into good, abuse into redemption, mockery into honor.

Centuries before, a prophet called Isaiah wrote about this and puts words to the what and the why of all that Jesus endured on “Good” Friday:

Surely he has borne our grief
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed. …
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth …

Because Jesus did not open his mouth when enduring abuse, we can open our mouths and beg for healing and redemption. Healing from our own abuse and from the ways we have abused and oppressed others through our sin – through our brokenness seeking false healings.

In the place of your abuse, there is healing. Because he took the shame for you.

In the place of my sin, there is peace. Because he carried the guilt for me.

In the places where you and I have been silenced, our voice is restored. Because his was silenced this Good Friday.

So go. Walk as one who is healed, who is at peace, who can speak up and speak out and speak of darkness turned beautiful on this most good of Fridays. 

Five Minute Friday: “Broken”

I think of hearts metaphorically speaking. Broken after a severed relationship, severed by grief or a break-up or moving or death or relational discord.

And bones. I’ve had a few in my day – two broken arms when I was younger; a broken ankle when in college. Nothing since. (thank goodness!)

Broken implies a need to be healed. Waiting for restoration. Gently cradling and nursing the hurt place, the hurt bone, stabilizing what is broken so that healing can come. It will come. But it takes time.

It was six weeks of a cast on my arm. And you begin to get used to it before finally you’re free. But being healed and being whole feels strangely light after being broken. The process is painful but the result is beautiful. Getting that cast off my arm, and my arm felt like it was light as air. Same with the one a few years later; and then several years later at college. I was only too glad to say farewell to the cast and the crutches.

Now as to hearts after being broken. Well, that’s a different story. There is no six week cure. But the healing is just as sure. Just as certain. There’s simply more waiting involved.

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I’m participating today in Lisa-Jo’s “Five Minute Friday” where you write for five minutes on a topic, unedited. Fun way to get a quick blog post and stir the creative writing process.