Two of my best friends (more like sisters) wrote a book! I am SO proud of them: between 13 kids, traveling the globe and founding a non-profit they are now authors (eek!!) and encouraging others to take ONE step of obedience in Christ and see where he leads them, they completed it. He is so faithful! The sweet-full-circle-teary-eyed thing? They dedicated their book to my sweet momma.
It was a cloud-breaking, blustery March day of 2012. Living my collegiate dream my dad told me over the phone while I stepped out of the microbiology lab double doors that I had not been accepted to my dream school’s nursing program where I was currently enrolled. I was stunned. This was so in my control, I had the perfect GPA, resume, interview. Everything was in my control, just as I had planned. I had worked for everything to get here, I had held fast to everything I knew would get me what I wanted for my life, what I deserved. And in the matter of a few minutes my future as I envisioned it shattered. It was only then that the Lord began to pry my white-knuckled fingers off my grasp of my control and my future and open them to his stunning plan for my life, his will, whatever it held. I wasn’t quite ready for an obedient yes, but I didn’t fear where he would lead, because wherever it was he would be there.
In a twist of events that in hindsight seems more like providence than fate, a yes to a world of unknown and persuasion by Suzanne, I then spent the summer 2012 in a river town in east Africa, not unlike Moses. I flew halfway around the world doing common things like folding laundry and cooking rice and beans for 3 months and then back home again. I packed up all my cute furniture in Auburn, trekked 5 hours home from, got a suave new apartment and enrolled at a college in the city I had always called home just minutes down the street from my high school. How boring.
It wasn’t that way for long, unfortunately. I craved boredom rather than the chaos that became our lives. I barely had time to get my feet under myself and buckle all my pages in their respective binders before my dad called me again; this time stuck in a snowstorm in Vermont, miles away from my mom, who was critically ill in the ER down the street from me in Nashville, his words begging me to be brave and confidently calling out courage that I would need to care for her until he was able to arrive home 4 days later. It was the kind of phone call that you only wake up from in cold sweat after a nightmare. But this time it had crossed over into my reality, again shattering life as I held it.
The story that unfolded in the following weeks was that my mom wasn’t having a stroke, she was having a revelation of symptoms that would be determined as stage four primary brain cancer, a diagnoses that brought a finality to our family as we knew it; it was just a matter of how long we could fight this bully.
I could tell you all the stories of grace and all his mercy, and all our tears. All the joy and memories and pain and heartbreak and pictures and moments and conversations and achievements we experienced, but here, nearly 5 months after walking her up to the threshold of heaven and seeing Jesus with an unveiled face the most remarkable recollection I have is her willingness to pursue the glory of Jesus.
I said yes, because she taught me how to say yes. As unselfish as a woman she was and wanted me to pursue my own dreams, it only became a matter of time until I realized that my dream was to spend as much time as I could possibly grasp from her. Whether it was strapping her wheelchair into the back of a minivan just days after being released from the hospital after a massive saddle pulmonary embolism (blood clot to the lungs) and trucking it off to Panama City Beach in a tragic series of events and tears and grace and gut-wrenching laughter, or staying up until daybreak reading Psalms with her, holding her bruised hand in mine, I was determined to squeeze every minute in I could with my best friend, because she taught me to seek Jesus, to say yes to Jesus. That summer of 2014 became a quiet summer spent beside the hum of an oxygen humidifier and my then-mute mother, just holding her hand and laying her her hospital bed in our living-room-turned-holy. And singing, because singing used the unaffected portion of her brain that the tumor had stolen her speech from us. I became a hermit and introvert, for the first time ever in my life, and Jesus became enough.
It was impossible. It seemed impossible when we were first faced with her diagnoses, it still seems impossible looking back on the tragedy of events and how fast and how slow and how unraveling it all happened, and impossible still every day when I meagerly try to step into the shoes she left and face unanswered questions and decorate our house for Christmas and host family dinners without breaking out the Chinet.
My yes to one BIG step soon became a series of yeses. A habit of yes to love and obey Christ. The first Yes became saying Yes to walking with Christ in suffering, rather than wrestling against him and asking why. My yes became “Yes Lord, how do I magnify and glorify you in my pain and ache and loss.”
It was certainly imperfect, at times. But that was the beautiful thing. It was so very messy, and teary and disorderly that there was no fighting the current, we only had to float on the mercy of Christ. It was a learned yes, and how I am thankful to those who loved, guided, and tenderly cared for myself and my family as we learned how to remain “yes” in Christ, instead of asking why.
It was scary, walking wobbly in what appeared and felt to be the dark. Jesus offered us abundant grace and just enough light for each step of our journey. Fear lurked, but we clung harder to his promises and let him lovingly cradle us in his will and peace. Perhaps if we had initially known in 2012 the nightmare that would ensue, we could have never foreseen or believed or rested in his strength to sustain us. And maybe that’s why Jesus doesn’t give us all the answers we are looking for at the beginning or even this side of heaven, because he wants us to value and trust him, that he is King over all things. Could we start there? Could we say yes there and not question his authority?
He gives us all the light we need for each step, for each yes, for His glory to be magnified. An abundance of grace more than we could ask or imagine, but just enough to keep us constantly remaining in his strength and power. This, is not scary. This is trust. This is learning to walk and live in his light. This is Jesus enough to satisfy and overwhelm our weary souls. This is where impossible is made possible by Christ. This is a resounding yes.
My mother’s yes had a domino effect on everyone around her. Her willingness to help build a medical clinic in Haiti from her hospital bed in lieu of meals & flowers, to plan a surprise party to love her children well, to stubbornly commit to a family vacation and at all costs attending my college graduation, and to thank GOD alone for these gifts. That was her yes. Yes, to whatever time and whatever way the Lord had left to her. Her yes taught me to say yes to whatever may come, may we be singing in the light and life of Christ.
My encouragement to you is to be intentional and real and radiant in Christ wherever you are. Whether it seems fabulous and shiny to the Instagram world, or you sit at home hiding under your covers, covered in spit-up and piles of laundry envying those around you. My mom was a stay at home mom and dug overwhelmingly deep into the lives of those around her-wherever she was! Especially her children. Two women’s lives that she dug into when her own children were gone and she was faced with being an “empty nester” happened to be Gwen & Suzanne. Gwen & Suzanne in turn have braved and remembered some tough days with me. None of them are CEOs, members of the senate, or the first lady, they are simply women who said Yes to Christ. And he has honored and blessed and laughed and cried along with them in all of their journeys.
“For all the promises of God find their ‘Yes!’ in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
Share your #myONEstep story using this hashtag and encourage those around you to overcome impossible.
Want to meet my friends? They’re signing their books at the Lifeway in Cool Springs on January 8 at this event (click link for details); I’ll let you in on a little secret–they love chocolate everything & would probably sign endless amounts of anything in return for chocolate. We may or may not have been known to (definitely) go fork first into chocolate sheet cakes. Just sayin’.
Gwen & Suz I am so endlessly proud of ya’ll and I know a momma up in heaven who is too.