Open Hands

Each day I think to myself, “Today I will write more about my journey, and it won’t include grief.”

Notice how I’ve not written?

Oh, friends, I ache to write the joyful news I wrote last week and stay there, joyous and celebrating! And I am. I am still so very, very thankful that the chemo seems to be working, that we are moving in the right direction, that there is a glimmer of hope in the medical sense of the word.

This last week and a half though, was just really hard. There is no other way to say it. Life is just really hard for us right now.

I walked into my hair salon on Wednesday morning last week, and my stylist and I bemoaned the thinning of my hair and the way it was becoming so dry and damaged from the chemicals of chemo. I had been trying to grow my hair out for locks of love, but I sat instead with tears streaming down my face while he cut six inches off because locks of love wouldn’t take my hair in the shape it’s in. I needed to give it lightness and bounce to hide the thinning, and we had to have the discussion of “if the time comes” that we shave it. My eyebrows are disappearing, too. It seems small in the scheme of things, this grief… but I love my hair. I love the femininity of long hair. I love styling it and trying new looks with it. It’s one more thing I’m holding with open hands to my God… I must hold with open hands.

My children are struggling. We can’t seem to get our footing underneath us as to what this new normal even looks like, and Bri and I laugh wryly and call it “new chaos”, and then I cry because chaos overwhelms me, and my ability to multi-task is lessening each day. The children cheer when it’s my week off chemo because I get to cook dinner and while we love that we are loved by those bringing us meals, they just want some normalcy. We bicker more and we cry more and things impact us more deeply, so we find ourselves sitting around the dinner table reading Little Pilgrim’s Progress, and we look around to see tears glistening in all our eyes as we take in what it means to climb the Hill Difficulty and the sad end of Formalist and Hypocrisy who chose to go around met with doom. This feeling things so deeply, this chaos, this longing for orderliness, It’s one more thing I’m holding with open hands to my God… I must hold with open hands.

Brian traveled last week, first to a wake for one of his mom’s best friends, so we grieved together for her pain. Then he went to Costa Rica for four days, and I was so thankful for him to be able to go. He needs to be able to get away, to destress, to escape every now and then. My parents came to stay and help which is always a gift, but I struggle with panic when he’s gone. I feel unsafe. See, when we are all together, at least I know we are all okay in that moment. Yes, this. This desire for safety, for togetherness, It’s one more thing I’m holding with open hands to my God… I must hold with open hands.

On Monday I had chemo, and on Wednesday night we bundled our family up to go to a college leadership meeting. I wanted so badly to be normal, to be with our friends again. I have missed so many meetings. It was a bad idea, and as we packed up to leave early and I sat in a chair waiting, my sweet friend, Jaye, came to me to hug me. As she made her way over, I heaved deep and said thickly, “This sucks.” And she put her arm around me and I buried my head in her side and she just let me cry. “I just want to live life again.” I whispered. Living life again. It’s one more thing I’m holding with open hands to my God… I must hold with open hands.

Thursday I began baking and planning for my boys’ joint birthday party for the weekend. My friend, Tiff, drove from Tennessee to help me for a few days, and I was so looking forward to spending time with her, catching up, decorating, cakes and shopping. I came down with a cold. It was inevitable. We’ve had the flu and strep and everyone else has had a cold, and I’ve remained well, but not this time. By Friday afternoon my temperature was up over the threshold the cancer center allows, so I was making phone calls with nurses and talking through what we do if I have certain symptoms. They called in medicines for me, and Tiff and I had just finished the boys’ cakes when we decided to call off their pre-party sleepover that they’d been planning for months. I was so sick I didn’t have the energy to hold it with open hands… but I knew I must. (With gracious love to my children, friends stepped in, and Bear and Bella were whisked away to a sleepover elsewhere and Ash was picked up for an evening of Wii and board games with a friend.)

By Saturday I wasn’t even getting out of bed, and Brian ran the show. He picked up kids from sleepovers and took Ash-man to his basketball game. He fed them lunch, then piled up all the birthday party supplies, and with the help of his friend, Tim, ran a party for twelve 11-13 year old boys (and they had a blast!). He texted me updates and pictures so I could see for myself all the happenings. Then he came home and got himself and sweet Bella ready for their Daddy-Daughter Sweetheart Dance that night. I cried buckets this weekend, aching for the loss, the disappointment I knew my sons felt, agonizing over missing yet another one of Ash-man’s basketball games, over missing their party, over not being able to help Bella fully prepare for her dance. I knew it was many more things I am holding with open hands… I must hold them open.

This life is hard. The ongoingness of this is overwhelming.

But He meets me.

He meets me, not because my hands are open to Him. He meets me because He loves me.

He meets me, not because I’m not “holding anything back”. He held nothing back for me in His Son, Jesus. He will not hold anything back from me.

He meets me because He loves me.

This morning I listened to a sermon. Y’all, if you have an hour of your day to listen, to sing beautiful truths along with their worship team, to hear the Word opened up so clearly, you won’t be disappointed. It’s the third in a series at Fellowship Bible Church in Nashville, TN: Burnt Offerings, Joy and Weeping. And it was a much needed reminder of where my security lies and my desperate need for worship.

I weep, rightly so, over the brokenness of this life, of all the struggle we fight through.

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But there is so much joy to bad had in the midst of the broken. The joy of time with friends… who hug me and feed me and share with me. The joy of forgiveness and restoration when conflict arises. The joy of snuggling with my loves by a warm fire and time with Grand and Grandy. The joy of reuniting with my love when he returns. The joy of a pup who is more therapy for my children than I could ever dream. The joy of boys rushing in my room to open their presents from their party and the tumbling of words over and over as they described their amazing afternoon. The joy of my Bella girl’s face as she trots out the door for a date with her daddy and the sparkle when she returns. The joy of worship in the morning as I sip my coffee by the fire.

The joy of truth. My life will ebb and flow with disappointment and with happiness, but the presence of my faithful God will never change.

“When we bring our fears in worship and when we see God for Who He really is and when we see that He can be trusted, we see in His character that He is faithful, that He is good, that His promises are true, that He is way bigger than we could have ever imagined in our fear, that He cares about us more than we could ever comprehend, then, get this, WE begin to change…our greatest joy is found in our impossibly faithful God.” (my paraphrase from the sermon linked above)

2 responses to “Open Hands”

  1. God bless you for sharing your journey with cancer. How true that in all areas of our lives, we need to hand it over to our Saviour! He understands and guides us ! Your story will touch many people and bring many to our Saviour!

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  2. I am loving you today, in Jesus’ name and longing to be one of the pairs of hands in your life who can serve in the ways your wonderful friends are serving. But I am here. You are there. Still, I can fold these hands in PRAYER and love on you before the Father with requests and petitions and blessing. And I will do the same for your helpers.
    My offering today will be to give a concentrated time of prayer focus for your help, health and hope.
    The LORD is instructing you and guiding you, Angie, which is obvious from your beautifully written post today, so that you have no need of any “instruction” from friends or strangers. Neither would it be appropriate for us to give you any. Job’s friends were faulted for making that mistake!
    We want only to love you and cheer you on and hear your cries with tears in response. We want to laugh when you laugh and cry when you cry and BLESS you in Jesus name and also to BEG the Father to give you relief or GRACE or BOTH! We want Him to find some glory in it all and not waste a thing! We want Him to grant your requests and reward you richly for your faithfulness. Please know, for all the failings you may think yourself “guilty” of you are doing WELL. I commend you. You are being faithful AND honest in your frailty. You are being brave through your limitations and thoughtful of your weakness. You are strong. And brave. And helpless and helped. And I commend you.

    Lastly,
    I want to tell you a story. Something that helped me learn something about open hands. A time when God required a very hard thing of me:
    One day, I was driving to work and praying (per USUAL) for my family members to be safe in the day as drivers. I was praying “fervently” and with faith and some distress as my imagination pictured various scenarios of their possible harm and I was trying to “cover in prayer” all the right blessings for their safety as I imagined them each commuting to work and going about their day. (There are 7 adult drivers in my family because I have four children grown with two of them married, plus my own husband.) I am in the habit of praying for their safety in intersections and when I hear sirens. It’s just something I DO. So this particular day as I was praying for their safety in driving etc. for the day I was caught off-guard when God turned a deaf ear and said “Stop. Stop praying for their safety.” I was stunned. I thought maybe He meant stop begging and trust Him with their safety. So I tried a different kind of prayer. I gave Him praise FOR their safety and thanked Him for the years of safe driving and asked Him to continue this blessing. He wasn’t having it. He repeated “STOP. Stop praying for your loved-ones’ safety.” I was stunned. Hurt. Even feeling a little rebuffed. And confused. Firmly, the LORD said, “You pray for their safety like it is your god and theirs. You ask for safety like you HAVE to have it. You are making their safety YOUR great need. Like a god. You need it and want it in a way that you are meant to need and want Me. And Me only. You clutch it and grasp for it as though your life and future depended on it. It is a GREAT DESIRE in you.” I defended myself with scripture. He answered “I have not promised to give you their safety. And so if you are denied it, what then?”
    Wow!
    His tone was firm, loving. Not threatening. Not mean. This was God speaking. He is good. And kind. And patient. And holy. And right. ALWAYS. And so, I had to hear it in the only tone He would and did speak. Firmly, like TRUTH speaks and kindly, like LOVE speaks.
    I went “blank.” I didn’t know what to say. I was hurt. I was a little scared. I was a bit disoriented. I tried using some more scripture to defend myself. Verses came to mind about casting care and worry on Him. Or trusting in Him through prayer. He gently stood by the instruction and said “No” to my desire to pray for my loved one’s safety. And I saw, by His words and by my own response to the instruction just how much the safety of my family had come to mean to me. EVERYTHING. I saw in the discipline I had made an idol out of a good thing. A right thing. I had lifted up a good thing and set it high up on a high place. I thought asking God for it made it His. . . UNTIL He “took it from me” and made me see how much I had come to neeeeeeed it.
    Sigh.
    He kept up this discipline for 2 or 3 days, “refusing” my prayers and stretching me in the process to see HOW often I asked Him for this good thing and how badly I neeeeeeded it.
    It was very humbling. I cried some. I argued some. I fell silent some. But I had known the LORD long enough to trust Him in this lesson even though I was not liking it at all. I began to experience the wisdom of this fast of a good thing. He was making a point. I needed it.
    Finally, on the last day, when I was wanting to pray for my son’s safety but not yet having the permission, I said wearily, “Father. if I can’t pray for his safety, what MAY I pray for? When you take, You give. You create voids only for a purpose of filling. That is Your way. So what will You give me in place of this THING I have made of safety? What prayer may I offer in place of the one You have removed? What would You rather have then the sacrifice I have made? ” Tenderly, He said that I could pray for my son’s destiny. That lit a spark of life and hope where I had been deprived those 2 to 3 days. I saw in the word, not a promise that nothing bad would ever happen to my son. Not a certainty that suffering would not come. But rather a reminder that GOD HAD HIM and that his days were numbered by the Father and I would be in agreement with the Father to pray for His good plans and purpose in the life of my son. And prayed I DID! It was a wonderful breakthrough. Sweet. And full of hope and reality and trust and life…. The fast was over. BUT God was not returning me to the excess or idolatry. My desire had been adjusted. He replaced the clutching with a holding. He handed me a NEW prayer. It was a right and good re-entry. I found that praying for my son’s destiny that day, had my thoughts on WHO God is to my son and to me. It refocused me, just by the use of a new word.
    Kindly, God returned His blessing for me to pray for the safety of my family. He knows the nature of a mother’s heart to have such concerns and responsibilities. He was not intending to harm me but to bless me in the correction by revealing to ME what I had made of the good thing.
    Why did I share this story?
    I wanted you to know I identify with your “holding with hands open to my God…with open hands.” It’s in my own story too. As it is likely in the story of each of your readers. You bless us with the telling of yours. It “calls forth” from us for our own journeys.
    It is a lesson of His for each of us – that kind and good lesson to loosen our grip on the good thing. Clinging to Him alone and holding the rest with OPEN hands.
    Blessings, Dear One.
    Melissa

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