A No-Brainer: My Public Thanks

I thank God for my faithful, kind husband of 25 years who still makes me laugh. In fact, on seeing my five glued abdominal wounds today, he called me his blueberry muffin. I laughed. It hurt. And we laughed and I hurt some more. It was very worth it.
The hallelujah view of The Basilica of St. Josaphat was a kindness, too, for it reminded me of where I heard my beloved Handel’s Messiah.
St. Luke’s omelette’s rate. I thanked God for one at dinner and one more at breakfast. I recommend the cheese and veg.
“Didn’t see that coming,” was Aunt Mary’s text on hearing of my unlikely post-op eye injury. I’m icing my eye here, and thanking God as I type that it’s almost all better.
This track was a sight for sore eyes, or at least the one (see above). I haven’t walked this slowly in 46 years—mom confirmed, I was quick out of the baby gate. But this week, I thank God for my slowest walks.
image of legs
These. I thank God for these. I almost didn’t want to leave the hospital because of these inflatable leg sleeves. The rhythmic compression was a major post-op perk.
My sisters are great cooks. One made this incredible Korean beef and veg fried brown rice. The other brought us kale-chicken-garbanzo salad. We devoured it before I took a picture.
I thank God for the sunset reflected in these clouds over Lake Michigan. How could I ask for more?
I thank God for good books like these: George Sayer’s, Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis and Andrée Seu’s, Won’t Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Seu is quoted below.

Pain, Op & Post-Op

This was a big week for me. A big week for me to give thanks.

Because my pain got bad in July. Then an ultrasound found a huge mass. Surgery was scheduled for August 16th.

I had a month to wait. A month to talk back to the little aches under my arms and to wonder if the mass was cancerous. Yes, a month to learn to speak peace.

But Tuesday was surgery at St. Luke’s. My only other operation was the prodding that named the pelvic pain behind my more painful infertility: endometriosis.

That was twenty years ago. This time we knew I had a problem. By noon the surgeon had removed a 12- cm ovarian mass and a second surgeon was called in to help remove the adhesions gluing organs together that don’t belong together.

The first three things I remember upon waking were 1) the painful eye, 2) reaching my dream room on the 12th floor, where lymphoma patients come, and 3) I remember a big smile on Jim as he said,

“Dr. Kamelle removed it all and would be shocked if it was cancer, but the lab will need to confirm.”

Not Everyone Is Healed

Even as I sat in those glorious leg massagers, I thought of my friend’s friend whose bones are literally breaking with cancer. I prayed for another church friend who probably won’t live to see her long awaited first grandbaby’s birthday. Then came a text from a dear friend whose husband has fought cancer for ten years. He was just admitted due to a serious infection, and is still there as I write.

I think of these God-fearing, Christ-loving, praying people. God doesn’t always heal, on this side anyway. He leaves some mountains unmoved.

The song says,

I know the sorrow, I know the hurt would all go away if you’d just say the word.

But even if you don’t, my hope is you alone.

I want to believe I’d still sing that, and his faithful follower I would be, for by his hand He leadeth me.

But would I? Would I still have enjoyed the room with the view if the surgeon pronounced the mass cancerous? Would I still be telling you how sweet is this place?

I don’t know.

My Shout from the Housetop

But Andrée Seu wrote—and I am 💯 with her—that since she and her prayer warrior had prayed watchfully and since their request for her healing was granted:

It’s a no-brainer that I need to give public glory to God. Still I protest: Many godly, praying people are not healed. [Her prayer warrior] replies, “You were. Shout it from the housetops!”— Plus words to the effect that it’s a dangerous thing to ask the Almighty for something, and then, having received it, to flirt with unbelief.

There was no gainsaying that, and in the end I saw the truth of it, and yield the doubt to faith and that is why I tell you this.

So here receive my public thanks to God. To Him alone be praise.

Do I know I would praise God even if? No, I do not.

But I will thank Him now. To Him alone be praise.

What Makes Me Cry

What makes me cry these days? I’ve been weepy for the 48 hours I’ve been home, and it’s not because of the incisions and I don’t think it’s because I’m down an ovary.

It’s because of kindness.

God’s first, and y’all’s next. I mean it. I can’t list all the names now, because I’d forget someone. But you know who you are—you texted and prayed. You made a meal or sent a card, you drove me, or the son, home. A couple of you took a son to lunch and met a son in court. You dropped off flowers. I give thanks to God for you. You were gentle and kind.

For you all, and for strong Tylenol, a funny husband, inflatable leg massagers and a friend named Gwen; for sunshine, omelettes, and my slowest walks, I give public thanks to God.

I also give Him thanks for the call in the elevator on the way down from the 12th-floor room.

Is this Abigail? It’s pathology. We wanted to let you know: no cancer was found.

Public thanks goes to God for that too. From the housetop.

And the roadside, in my slowest walking shoes.

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.

Psalm 39:7 (ESV)

Trust Only: A Wet Dog, Quicksand & A Lily Pad

Wet dog on kayak with owner and lily pads and river in background hope
Nolie after landing two feet on the lily pad.

They trust not God at all who trust him not alone.

Not at all? Them’s fightin’ words. I read them once, twice, then promptly looked for a way around them. Because of course I trust in God and in other things.

Then I heard about the little dog named Nolie who stepped out onto a lily pad. And I started to think about rocks, quicksand and trust in God alone.

Nolie, named after cannoli, is my friend’s roommate’s sweet pup. Nolie went on an outing this week. It was her first time in a kayak and she liked the ride. But Nolie got an idea as they paddled through the lily pads. She decided to take a walk.

So with her hind feet planted on the kayak, she stretched one foot out on the smooth green pad. Then she landed the other. And one surprised little Nolie got very, very wet.

He will sink and perish.

So can you trust in God and trust in something else along with God to keep you safe and secure?

Well, what happens if you place two feet on the kayak and two feet on a lily pad? Or, what happens if you set one foot on a rock and one foot on quicksand?

Nolie’s walk on the lily pad makes me wonder, do I really hope and trust in God alone? Can I hope in God to redeem my life and restore my soul and also hope in other things?

If my hope is in uncertain, unstable things—my wealth or health, or my family and friends—will I not sink?

Are these not quicksand and lily pads?

They will disappoint. They will let us down. As sweet as they are, as much of a gift as they are, they are all shakable, created things. (This is a favorite post about kids growing and good endings shaking me.). All other helpers will fail me and all other comforts will flee. Only one thing will remain.

So it only makes sense to trust only in Him.

Do you trust in “God and,” or in God alone?

Now back to those fighting words. They referred to Psalm 62, including verses 5-6, which say,

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

In the Hebrew text the word only, truly, or alone occurs five times in the first eight verses. Bible scholar Derek Kidner says this little Hebrew word ak, “is an emphasizer, to underline a statement or to point to a contrast; its insistent repetition gives the psalm a tone of special earnestness.”

I think the contrast is between trust in “God and” and trust in God alone.

They trust not God at all who trust him not alone. He that stands with one foot on a rock, and another foot upon a quicksand, will sink and perish, as certainly as he that stands with both feet upon a quicksand.

John Trapp, Quoted in David Guzik’s Commentary on Psalm 62

Nolie learned that two feet on a kayak and two feet on a lily pad means the whole dog goes under. David learned that one foot on rock and one foot on quicksand means the whole man sinks—even, get this, if the rock is the Rock.

So David earnestly calls us to trust in God. Alone.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.

Nolie, and I, are with David.

Are you?

Nothing which does not shake the rock can shake the frail tent pitched on it.

—Alexander MacLaren

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken

—David, in Psalm 62:1-2, ESV

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To Those In Pain: There Is A Spacious Place

Image by jplenio from Pixabay.

I had some intense, unexplained pain last week. The constant ache made it hard to think, hard to write, and hard to smile, plus it kept me awake. Just to sit—to sit—made me wince.

My margins for movement were razor-thin. I learned that hurt constricts, that pain makes life feel tight.

Then, in the throes, I read about a spacious place.

A Spacious Place

Gathered around the coffee house table we all opened to Psalm 31. That just so happened to be the psalm on Friday.

My friends noticed. I squirmed and leaned and may have grimaced now and again, as we read about a spacious place.

I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.

Psalm 31:7-8, NIV

The Hebrew word “merchâb”—translated spacious place—means “to breathe freely, to revive, to have ample room, or to be refreshed.” Broad, expansive, wide-open places—places where we get a big view, where we can bound along, looking up, sure-footed, free. Other Bible translations might call this place of abundance, a “broad,” “large” or “wide” place.

It’s the opposite of my narrow, constricted space, and it’s not the only time we find the phrase.

  • “He brought me into a spacious place, he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19, NIV
  • “When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place.” Psalm 118:5, NIV

You get the picture. It’s a big-breath, take-it-all-in vista, a free-to-roam, wide-open safe place.

It’s where I want to be physically, emotionally, spiritually.

He Leads

How do we get there?

God must lead. At least that’s what I see in those three verses. I read, he brought, he brought, he set my feet. By his own hand, He leadeth me. I can’t lead me.

A few days after the Psalm 31 study, an ultrasound showed a 9 cm and a 5 cm cause of pain. There is cause for concern and for surgery. But there is no room for worry. The doctors say it’s not likely to be the dreaded C.

But it could be. God already knows, and we shall see.

Meanwhile, the King of Love leads me. 

Jesus Christ, Our Spacious Place

J. Todd Billings wrote a book in the wake of his cancer diagnosis. It’s his meditation on Psalm 31:7-8. I have not read it, except this brilliant beginning:

One thing about the experience of being diagnosed with cancer is that it feels like a narrowing, a tightening, rather than “a spacious place” to dwell. . . . It feels a bit like the lights in distant rooms are turning off or, rather, flickering. They were rooms that you were just assuming would be there for you to pass through in future years. The space starts to feel more constricted, narrowed. . . .

In light of all this, it is important to remember a distinctive entryway that Christians have into this Psalm—that through God’s victory, our feet have been placed in “a spacious place.” Ultimately, to be and to dwell in Christ is to dwell in the most “spacious place” imaginable. In our culture, to focus one’s trust and affection on one hope—Jesus Christ—strikes many as narrow or risky. But because of who Jesus Christ is [the Alpha and Omega, and the One in whom all things hold together], to dwell in him is to occupy a wide, expansive place.

Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ 

Take that in. To dwell in Christ is to dwell in the most “spacious place” imaginable. Now breathe out.

Already & Not Yet

I just said I’m waiting for God to take me to a spacious place. At the moment, there are constrictions and restrictions and, now and then, a moan. I’m not in that expansive place yet, physically or in my family.

But in a very real way, God has already brought us—even us in pain—there already. Because in Christ, we are free (John 8:36). In Him, we live abundantly (John 10:10).

Meanwhile we groan. Surgery, biopsies and court dates await.

And God is with us. The best is yet to be.

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.

Isaiah 64:4

He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction,

to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.

Job 36:16

First the Deer: Then the Rest

fawn at rest in daisies

We hit a new low in our home this week. On Monday, strong grace led me to a place I never wanted to go.

But First The Deer

But I’m not writing for sympathy. I’m writing to tell you that the God is good. He gives peace. He gives rest. I’m not whistling Dixie.

I had not been in a court room since jury duty 14 years ago. For love’s sake, Monday I went.

But first, the deer. I was dressing for court when I glanced out the bedroom window and saw her.

The little deer wandered through, perused the blooms, then nestled right in. She lay down. The fawn found rest in those bright white daisies.

Then The Rest

As she did, I stole over and snapped these. I heard a few short snorts. Mama was near.

Five minutes later, I was was on the way to the courthouse. That story is still unfolding. This chapter is more soul-stretching than any God’s granted me yet. I won’t sugarcoat.

But I will say, God gives rest. He is the Prince of Peace. His anxiety cure is tried and true. I lie down and sleep in peace. He provided this quiet fawn moments before my hard hour on a harder bench. I don’t think I’m in denial.

I just want you to know God’s Word is true.

5 Favorite Rest Verses

Which verse can you take for your own? Or is there another you go to? Would you drop it in the comments?

1. My soul finds rest in God alone my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1

2. Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

3. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell and safety. Psalm 4:8

4. You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

5. The Lord is my shepherd I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters. Psalm 23:23:1-2

Will you lean into these? With me?

Lean In, Lie Down, And Sleep

I know this water might get faster, deeper, stronger. I might sink lower. After Monday, I’d be naive to think we’re clear sailing.

But as I said in Monday’s SOS texts, “those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.” They don’t. They lie down and sleep in peace. They rest. We rest. We lie down in green pastures and fields of daisies.

The fawn knew her deer mother was watching, close. We know our good Father is watching, his Spirit with us.

My soul finds rest in God alone. No good thing does he withhold.

So child, will you rest? With me?