it's christmas time and i'm at the beach.
there are palm trees with twinkling lights and garland decorated with seashells.
and i bet if i stopped there, you'd think, "wow, how cool. how lucky. maybe even, how downright lovely to be at the beach come christmas."
at first glance, yes, it might seem that way.
but this weekend i'm not really here for a december vacation or a holiday visit, but to stay with my in-laws for a couple of days --- to help out a little where needed.
a few weeks ago, rick's mom, marilyn, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. just days before thanksgiving, a doctor sat knee to knee with her and said, "i'm so sorry ..."
and none of us have truly been able to wrap ourselves around this news since. even with a recent surgery to extract the tumor and upcoming chemo, none of us can really believe this diagnosis was delivered ... that these words were uttered. not to this woman. not to marilyn. not to our mom ... our grandma.
not my mother-in-law who has dedicated her entire life to nursing and serving and ministering to others -- surely, this news wasn't meant for her. she has always been the one bending over the hospital bed, holding the hand of the heartbroken, encouraging the weak, and praying for the patient. always. i've known marilyn for almost 28 years and i'm pretty sure each of those years included a long list of people who she has come alongside -- family members, neighbors, church friends, strangers --- no one exempt from the realm of her capable and caring hands.
she's a caregiver at her very core.
in fact, the other day, i remembered the first time i met rick's mom she was wearing her nurse's uniform. i don't know why i thought of that, but it's a crystal clear picture.
and now this.
and now there's not a one of us who doesn't want to shake our fists at the heavens and cry out, "this isn't fair. this isn't right. this isn't possible."
she has always been in amazing health -- doing absolutely everything right. appointments and check ups and health scans and lifestyle ... and, well, everything. i know it's a nurse thing, but she's always been on it. always careful, always going above and beyond what was ever required or recommended.
mother-in-law and daughter-in-law gazing at the deep blue, drinking in God's grandeur.
that was her one request when i showed up yesterday. yes, i could do a little cooking and shopping, "but," she said, "what i really want is for you to drive me to the beach. i want to sit in the sunshine and breathe in the ocean."
and so, today, we sat. shared. chatted. talked about a lot of things ... but the most memorable thing she said was this, "i don't know how people handle diagnoses like this without faith in God. i simply don't know how they could do it."
she went on to say, that it was one of her very first thoughts after the doctor gave her the news. "how do people who don't have God hear this and handle it?"
God who understands the heartbreak and the sob and the fear and even the fist shake. God who is sovereign and all-powerful, but completely understands the questioning and the wrestling and the grieving of His children.
God of real peace when our pain seems too much to bear.
God of our days when our doubts begin to dig deep.
how does anyone do this without Him?
this past summer, i sat here at this same ocean and watched my mother-in-law boogie-boarding out in the waves with her grandchildren. it was the week she turned 69 and she was riding waves and body surfing with the kids. laughing in the ocean she loves. loving her time with her family. living life at its fullest.
it was a different kind of day at the ocean this afternoon. the beach was empty, the water was calm and our mood certainly more subdued.
but, you know what? it was beautiful.
and even in the midst of this awful, painful stuff, we both felt the peace and presence of God.
God who holds the oceans in the very palm of his hand (isaiah 40:12), will hold this woman who holds on tightly to Him.
so i share this tonight, asking you to keep my sweet mother-in-law in your prayers.
we love her and we'd like an army of people praying for her!
yes, she knows the water ahead is deep ... but she also knows she's not alone in this ocean.
her hope is in Jesus who holds and heals and has a plan for her.
and peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” so peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “o you of little faith, why did you doubt?” and when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. and those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “truly you are the Son of God.” ~ matthew 14:32