The sun is shining today, the birds are singing through my bedroom window as I curl up this morning with my pile of books around me trying to decide what to delve into first. I will open them all today at some point, I am sure. I have read already of God’s great love for us, and I am trying to soak in God’s care for me, how “He will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus.” Oh, what a source our God is, what a supply His riches are, what a means my Jesus is! I ache to cling to this every day.
It will be a quiet day for me. I have just passed the mid-point for chemo and my energy level is low. I struggle to rationalize a fatigue that is so mind-blowing and a body-feebleness that makes moving an effort. If I’m going to just sit, this exhausted, at least I should sleep, right? But sleep doesn’t come with this fatigue, rather restlessness to do something, yet debility to move. It creates a longing in me that I cannot explain.
But this past weekend, as we sat with friends around campfires and RV tables and picnic tables, we shared of this longing together and it was so good to know and be known.
We loaded up our RV again this weekend for our annual Memorial Day trip with dear friends. We filled our fridges and coolers with all sorts of deliciousness, bikes on racks and duffels of clothes and swimsuits and we escaped for the weekend, no phones, no internet, no grid. I like to call it blissfully and deliciously off the grid.
We arrived within 15 minutes of each other, honking horns and throwing our arms outward in thumbs up signs. We’re here! We unpacked grills and bikes and then the rain arrived. Awnings out with chairs underneath, picnic table covered with screened in canopy, a pop-up camper and our Merlin and we knew we would stay dry, but it wasn’t what we wanted. The guys grilled and boiled while we cut up fresh veggies for the kids… a plate that emptied within 10 minutes. Wait a minute, how many peppers did we bring?
We corralled our eight children (ages 14-8, perfect age pairings to complement each other) around the table in the pop-up and we adults surrounded the table in Merlin for dinner at 9:00. We laughed and shared over good wine and steak and shrimp and potatoes and beans. We poured our hearts out to each other about jobs and life and the kids and parenting all while the rain rustled the trees around us and drummed on the camper roofs. We listened to the raucus laughter of our children at the next campsite and smiled deeply, understandingly… this is why we do this. To be together. To do life.
Saturday dawned warm and sunny and we slept in late (except for our middle boys who were up and early making a fire and hunting for kindling). We brunched late on campfire donuts and eggs and bacon and the children hung hammocks all through the woods around us, their laughter a musical echo for our morning. We drank good coffee and sat together just watching and listening to our loves. No words were needed.
Amy and her two oldest had to leave for the night, and our other children hiked off to the lake with Cooper to play and cool down. We adults just napped and chatted and sat. A quiet day that just wasn’t right without the other three, but still full of rest and play, whittling and wood splitting and bow and arrow making and soaking up the sun and fairy gardening. More food, more games, more laughter and night fell around us. Children joyfully switched sleeping berths for sleepovers together and we called it a night, tired from a day of play.
Sunday dawned with the drumming of rain on the roof again and children playing in puddles and building fairy gardens and generally not caring how wet they were. The boys were at it again, trying to keep the fire going and warming wood to add to the fire as needed. I woke weary… the weariness I wrote of above, that seeps into the bones. The guys took care of everything, “You just sit.” they said. And I did and they made breakfast and parented children and at noon I told Bri I needed to lie down. At 1:00 I would get up again and shower for a wedding we were supposed to be going to.
At one he came to me and found me in tears. “I have nothing. I don’t know what to do.” The thought of a shower was a monumental task. How was I supposed to go to this wedding and be surrounded by feasting and merriment and three hundred people? “You sleep some more,” he told me, “We can just go to the reception.” By this point, Amy and the girls were back, and I trudged over to their campsite, my face fresh with tears, deep sighs. Amy sat quietly for a moment, and then said gently, “Ang, it’s okay to take care of you. Community is good. This wedding is good. But if you don’t take care of you… how will you continue to be able to do community and weddings?”
I am so thankful for friends who are not afraid to speak truth into my life. Twenty years of knowing and being known. She knew what I needed to hear and wasn’t afraid to say it. So we sat at the table in silence other than my quiet orders of what to add to the feta-avocado salsa I was planning for snacks, the guys chopped and poured cheese and dressings into the bowl and we finally declared it ready for afternoon snack. I returned to bed and woke at 5:30, too late for even the reception, and I wept some more over the ways this cancer has stolen beautiful things from my life…
But yet, it has given me beautiful things, too, like the richness of our friendship with Matt and Amy and others that only deepens over the years.
We had sat near the fire Sunday morning in drizzly weather and sang over and over of God’s great love for us. Brian played guitar and Matt helped the children choose songs. We stopped to praise God for life. “What about you?” Matt would ask, “What are your praising Him for?” How could we look around at the lushness of His creation and be silent? How could we look around and stare into the faces of our loved ones and be silent? How could we eat the bounty of fresh foods and delicious meats of the weekend and be silent? How could we sing of our great Redeemer and be silent?
Even in the pain of the “no’s” cancer brings, how can I be silent when He still gives me so many good things?
That evening, we adults piled into Matt’s truck and drove around the area for a while, stopping at lakes and reservoirs, pulling to the side to listen to rushing water and babbling brooks and just be silent. We found new campgrounds to try and the guys hiked up dams to see the deep pools of water while Amy stayed with me in the truck knowing I was too tired to walk.
Dinner found us again cooking under awnings and piling around tables in the pop-up and RV. I had gone to lie down again and soon the adults arrived in our RV with plates of food piled high with pasta and veggies and Italian sausage sauces they had created together. We sat for hours at the table, laughing and sharing, and yet crying together this time of all the goodness God has given us and yet the deep longing to know Him more, to not take this all for granted, to not assume life would always be like this.
I would be lying to you if I told you it doesn’t make me question, “Will this be my last one?” Battling this raging monster inside of me means a constant battle for my mind to not go there, yet the bittersweet acknowledgement that cancer wants. to. kill. me. And I fight it and feel the way I feel today so I can have weekends like this…
I left early Monday morning from camping to take my Bella-girl to her final softball games–a double-header in May’s normal heat. Halfway through the second game, I looked at my mom and said, “I don’t think I can make it anymore.” She told me I could go home and they would bring Bella to me when she was done. Tears filled my eyes, “But it’s her last game.” I couldn’t leave, no matter how miserable I was, I had to watch her play and then watch her glow when she said goodbye to her coach and reveled in his words of encouragement to her, “You didn’t play like a girl who’d never played before. You have spunk and hustle and a great attitude and always followed the plays. You’re a great runner and our best bunter and I hope I have the privilege of coaching you again.” Oh, y’all, if you had only seen her eyes and her smile.
But I saw it.
Do you understand the poignancy of those words?
I. saw. it.
These are the things I thank God for.
I saw it.
I am here.
We are together.
I wept again that night as Brian and the children arrived home and unpacked Merlin and finished up homework so they could go to a cookout with friends. A cookout I ached to go to and yet found myself too weak, too weary to go. Bella cried, curling up next to me in bed, as we lamented this loss. My mom and I texted for a while about my struggle to submit to God’s will in this, to grieve once again the way cancer has limited me.
This morning my phone blew up with communication from those friends. We were so sad you couldn’t make the campout. We missed you. I’m sorry you’re struggling so much. And the one that reduced me to yet another puddle of tears this morning, “We all love you.”
Yesterday Matt praised God for voices. For His voice that created the splendor of the forest around us. For the voice of the rain drumming on our campers. For the voice of children laughing together, even bickering together, but learning to work it out together. For the voice of friendship, chatting long into the night.
Praise God for voices.
For the voices of friends who walk alongside me in this struggle, who reach out to us in relationship and remind us we are loved, who share heart longings around small tables piled high with luscious food and drink, who listen to the voice of God in the rushing water of brooks and the laughter of children.
What happens matters.
All of it.
“He will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus.”
Our needs are met.
Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for your eyes.
It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of a single heart.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life-just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe
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