I hardly know how to start this post.

There comes a time when life spills over the limits of words. That is where I find myself today. But perhaps moments like these aren’t for carefully crafted literary presentations. But instead, just honest, gut-level revelation.

So.

For those of you who read Monday’s post, you know I’ve been in a not-knowing place these past five days or more. As of late Tuesday afternoon, I arrived a bit closer to an answer. Although I didn’t get the answer we’d hoped for.

The cancer is back.

Yes, I know. Hard to take. Just typing those four words saps a bit of my strength. How I wish I had different news for you. For me. For my precious children and husband. But there’s nothing to be done about it.

I’ve spent the past thirty-six hours trying to wrap my head (and emotions) around this new piece of my story. In a moment—the span of a single phone call—nearly everything about my life has changed.

I’ll spare you full-exposure of my medical chart, but here’s what these next couple months will look like. This morning, 8:30 AM, a PET scan. A few weeks from now, surgery. Followed by 2-6 weeks of oh-so-slow recovery. After that, a couple different treatment possibilities. I just don’t have all that information yet. In spite of the fact that it’s a recurrence, it’s a highly curable cancer with a good prognosis, as long as we tackle it. My biggest challenges will be the pain, multiple surgeries, and the potential it may limit my ability to speak and eat (both of which I’m rather fond of).

Now, let’s talk about you. YOU, dear friends, have become part of my greater family. Do you know how much I love you? How much your presence here, you’re willingness to read and share these words, have given me courage and purpose outside the reach of my circumstances?

You’ve given me life here. *Thank you.*

Many of you prayed. Face-on-the-floor prayed. And although I’m nearly to bursting with gratitude, I fear you’ll see this answer-we-didn’t-want as a failing of God to come through. That is why I need you to know what I believe about my story and yours, what I’m hanging onto with both hands, when we don’t get the answers we hoped for.

We are not alone in our unwanted answers. Long ago I stopped asking the question “Why me?” I used to, at every unwanted intersection. But I’ve spent enough time in third-world countries and with broken, devastated people in our own country to know the real question is not “Why me?” but “Why NOT me?” There is a vast ocean of unrequited pain in this world. Mine is just a drop in a terrible and beautiful community of suffering.

Unwanted answers are not evidence of God’s punishment. It’s tempting to “go there” isn’t it? Even those of us who believe in a loving God still feel a twinge of doubt when facing unwanted answers. Did I do something wrong? Did I not pray hard enough, believe deep enough, love true enough? Oh, friend. Sometimes rotten things happen. It’s just part of this flawed life. HEAR THIS: the child who died too young and the mama who battles cancer are not being punished for their lackings. Don’t. Even. God may be mysterious and unfathomable, but above all He is love. He will redeem ALL of this one day—every last wretched and heinous loss—and will take great pleasure in doing so.

The most powerful stories often begin with an unwanted answer. THIS. Oh, friends, THIS is our rainbow! There is something about intense suffering that produces unparalleled beauty. I’ve seen it time and again, in the lives of people I most love and admire. God does his best work in the impossible, and in people in impossible situations. It’s not something we wish for. But when we’re here, in the unwanted muck, it tranforms into a place of revelation and beauty and possibility unlike any other. I believe this to my bones, and I can’t wait to see the view. 

Am I sad? Yes. I cried buckets of tears yesterday. It wasn’t pretty. Am I hopeful? Yes, buckets even bigger than the tears. There is something golden and worthy hidden within this story that I can’t uncover any other way. So I’m walking through.

Thank you for walking with me.

Have you ever faced an unwanted answer? What helped you walk through? 

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