Why you can celebrate anyway


She sits uneasily on a cushion of air pockets to help ease the pain in her bones. Another bone is at the breaking point, consumed by the cancer that has chewed up and spat out the fragments of bones too numerous to count.

We eat éclairs and drink tea out of antique hand-painted china cups. Sometimes you have to stare death in the face and celebrate anyway. Sometimes you can stare death in the face and celebrate anyway because someone else has stared it down first and come out singing.

We grip hands – the only part of her body I can hug without breaking her – and pray. Lament, pleas, praise – all mix together in this holy space. And it is good.

* * * * *

I write and relive pieces of my story, our story. There is reason we’re told to remember.

The new stack of disability forms lies open on the counter, waiting for my pen.

I walk and pray and wonder what I can say that might be gift to the friend who has lost her husband, her daughter; to the one who can scarcely dress herself for the pain; to the ones homeschooling four kids or working three jobs or struggling to get out of bed and face the next hours of confusing life. I have no words.

The question shifts: What are the things I believe with all my heart, the things I lose sight of, sometimes, but return to again and again? They’re simple things, familiar. When life is calm I can race past them, or fall asleep in their presence. But when the wind rises, here is where I cling. Sometimes we don’t need new; we just need to remember.

You are loved – so much more than you can imagine.

This God who gathers our tears never wastes anything. Especially pain.

Everything – everything – is an invitation to come closer.  Broken bones and shattered marriages; new life and the laughter of hope reborn; unanswered questions and overflowing inboxes and too-long lines of people all wanting your attention. He says it best, this one who knows that the only place we can ever find rest is in his arms: “Come to me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will rest you.” (Matt 11:28)

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. momfan

    Thank you again, Love. Your words keep bringing me back to the essentials that need to be remembered over and over again. I once read something to the effect that just like we need to be awakened from sleep each day of our physical existence, so in the spiritual realm, we need to keep being awakened to (reminded of) the truths that matter.
    I don’t know if you remember the year (1990) when our mutual friend with whom you shared tea in china cups the other day spent Christmas with us. She was carrying a different kind of pain then, and her gift to our family was a beautiful art book of sixty calligraphic renderings by Timothy Botts of Bible passages from which she had highlighted one page in particular. It was an artistic representation of Psalm 56:8,9 from The Living Bible. “GOD IS FOR ME!” (vs. 9) in large red and orange letters were shaped like a bottle and into it were pouring tiny blue letters illustrating verse 8: “You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle.”
    Much love to you and to our dear friend! “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold-though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:7)

    1. hearingtheheartbeat

      Thanks Mom. I hadn’t remembered that image. I’ll have to try to remember to look at that page in the book when I’m next home. It sounds beautiful!

      1. momfan

        I checked to see if by any chance I had copied into my “Favorite Quotes” book the real quotation I referred to above and found it. It’s by R.C. Sproul – “We are born only once, but need to awaken daily. This is also true in the Christian life. God gives us new birth at the beginning, but that does not guarantee a continuous state of alertness to who He is. Since we always fall asleep, we need to be continually awakened.”

  2. Jo Dee Ahmann

    Thank you, Carolyn. I join you in returning and rehearsing these truths. It is LIFE to return again.

  3. Madeleine Oostindie

    Caroli, Such a beautiful blog, thank you! And that was a wonderful visit – I loved every minute of it – thank you! How you are missed. I am so excited about your book, and your upcoming course in January – just love the way God weaves one’s life together … Indeed it does appear that not a tear is wasted – all is used for His honor and glory and purposes. And how would we move on without knowing God is at our side each step of the way, and the hope we have of life eternal with God and His people – so much to look forward to, so, so much freely given to us – blessings upon blessings upon blessings. I am so blessed to have you as a dear sister / friend. There will be much rejoicing when all pain and suffering ceases. Fabulous photo of your new favorite tea cup (I’m glad it has found such a good home) – it’s wonderful to watch your photographic eye evolve … another gift God is developing in you. Love and a big, big cyberspace hug hug, Madeleine

  4. Joan Keeping

    This blog brought teary emotion, but it’s all good. Chronic pain certainly wears you down and can zap your joy (human). However, as Paul teaches “……whatever is true…noble…right…pure…lovely…admirable-…excellent…praiseworthy-think about such things.” For here lies your Joy. Your Savior Jesus Christ. Bless you and your gentle spirit.

  5. Janet Sketchley

    Carolyn, I’m way behind in my blog reading, but this post speaks peace where I’ve been walking lately. “Everything is an invitation to draw nearer” adds to what I’ve been reminded about God’s goodness, and about The Message’s phrasing of the yoke passage: “learn the unforced rhythm of grace.” Thank you.

    1. hearingtheheartbeat

      I love Peterson’s wording of that passage! Thanks for reminding me of it again, Janet. It’s such a wonderful way to live, but seemingly so hard to keep living it. . . .

  6. Bonita Dirk

    Hey Carolyn,

    Thanks for this.

    Those are things I need to remember.

    I guess sometimes I wonder about the first one, and the others, but especially the first one – how do you know that? What verses or other things do you go to? Do you have any resources on that?

    Thanks, Bonita

    1. hearingtheheartbeat

      Thanks Bonita. Great question. There are lots of places I go to be reminded that God really loves me, but Ephesians is a big one. There’s so much there about God’s love. I also return often to the bridal imagery that is used throughout Scripture – Eph 5:25-33, Jeremiah 2, Ezekiel 16, Hosea, Rev 21, John 14, Song of Solomon. I go back again and again to John 14-17, especially John 17. There’s something about hearing Jesus pray that he wants us to be with him where he is. . . .
      I wrote a bit about the bridal imagery here: http://hearingtheheartbeat.com/2013/03/25/why-i-cant-mourn-the-cross-this-year-and-what-i-do-mourn/

      Then of course there’s God’s willingness to give up His Son for us. I often return to Romans 8:32 (and the rest of the chapter) . . . pretty strong evidence of God’s love there, echoing the most basic declaration of His love in John 3:16.

      If you only have time to read a bit, try Romans 8:28-39 or Ephesians 1:1 – 2:10 and 3:14-21.

      Sometimes the bigger issue for me is not finding verses to prove God’s love, but asking God to show me what it is in me (experiences, incorrect beliefs, etc) that is holding me back from being able to believe what is right there in black and white. . .

      Does that help?

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