Friday, February 18, 2011

That word that breaks hearts

Cancer. We've almost all been affected in some way or another. Tonight I had the blessing of hearing Debbie Sobeski's testimony of God's faithfulness through her daughter's battle with cancer. The Lord chose to take her daughter, Hannah, home to be with Him in paradise forever. But instead of being filled with anger and grief, Debbie is filled with hope in the Lord and uses Hannah's story to share the gospel with young women. Because at the end of the day, no matter what you are going through; God is still God and God is still good.

I've been thinking about cancer a lot lately. As I listened to Hannah's story, I had to fight the flood of tears. My dad had cancer, which is hard to believe sometimes. It's only by God's miraculous provision of healing that he is here with me today. He was even treated at the same hospital as Hannah. I am so blessed to have him, there aren't enough words. I also follow two women's blogs about cancer. Their stories have touched my heart and their steadfast faith is so encouraging and inspiring.  Probably about 75% of the prayer requests I receive at Chapter are related to cancer. It is just so sickening. Almost everyone has been affected by it in some shape or form.


My Dad's 5th anniversary of being cancer free was recently, February 6th. I guess that is another reason why it's been on my heart lately. His healing is such a wonderful miracle to be celebrated! I absolutely can't believe it was 5 years ago. It all happened so fast. I usually don't think about it much. It feels like a bad dream that didn't actually happen.

I remember getting dropped off in front of my house and wondering aloud to my friend why my grandparents were here, because I didn't know they were planning on visiting. Dad said he had something to tell me. I never in a trillion years dreamed it'd be cancer. I remember Pastor Jody coming over and us all laying hands on Dad and praying over him. I remember the day before his surgery to get the tumor removed, he let Lauren and I take the day off of school so we could go to lunch and a movie with him. I remember him asking me who I'd want to live with if anything went wrong in surgery....what a terrible, terrible question. I remember him dropping me off at school and crying through my classes all day while he flew to Texas. I remember him coming home and being in bed for weeks. It was really hard to see him in so much pain and so disoriented from all the medications.

Most of all I remember our family's tears of joy the first Sunday at church together after Dad's cancer was gone. My entire family kneeled at the altar and we cried together and gave thanks to God for healing him. I am so blessed to have my dad here with me today. I don't know what I would do without him. He has always been there for me. I have so many reasons to give thanks tonight. Talk about putting things in perspective. No matter what the circumstance, God is God and God is good.

For more on Hannah Sobeski's story, check out hannahshopeministries.org. She may have only lived for a short 18 years but her life has brought more glory to God than most people twice her age.

Also, if you're interested in reading more stories of unwaivering faith in the midst of pain, follow the blog "Dont Waste Your Cancer" at libbyryder.blogspot.com. Or "The Shadow Proves the Sun Shines" at perrinthompson.blogspot.com

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"I once was lost, but now I'm found. Was blind, but now I see"


So this is the story of how the Lord held onto me even when I let go of Him. I grew up in a Christian home and went to church on Sundays. I knew the story. I was taught that God sent His son to die on the cross for our sins, so that we could have a relationship with Him, but I never had the relationship part. I was especially blessed with my "Jesus-freak"Aunt and my "crazy Christian" grandmother who I spent my summer's with. Looking back I am so incredibly grateful for their influence in my life and for how deeply they wanted me to know Jesus' love for me. I may not have understood their passion then, but now I am eternally thankful.

Highschool was really rough for me. I kind of put God in a little box and reserved Him for special occasions when I really needed help. I prayed a lot, but the focus wasn't on God, it was on me, my life, my problems. I was very selfish. I had a boyfriend of two years who was my best friend and had been there for me through my dads cancer and other tough situations. When we broke up I really struggled with depression and low self esteem. My friendships also suffered, because no one really wants to be friends with someone who is depressed all the time. I really just didn't like who I was. Senior year things improved a bit, but I just kept hoping that I would be truly happy once I got to college and had the freedom to make my own decisions.

I was so excited to start new at college and build a new reputation as a “happy, popular, fun, intelligent, shes got it all together, sorority girl”. I had only been at college for about two months when I realized that freedom can be deceiving. The "freedom" of making my own decisions and doing whatever I wanted when I wanted, still left me feeling empty and aching with the feeling that something was still missing. I had alcohol, I had boys, I had "fun", I had friends, I had money, people liked me, I had looks, I had the good grades, I was "happy", but I was plagued by the feeling that there had to be something more. I knew that God was still missing, but I felt too far away from Him and didn't know how to bridge that gap. I was just never truly happy, maybe for a while, but it was only temporary. I was constantly searching for something to make me feel alive.  

Around the end of September is when God really started pursuing my heart. I went to Alpha Chi’s Bible study for the first time and I just started crying because God really convicted me of my sinful lifestyle and how empty I felt. These girls just radiated Christ's love and were joyful despite their difficult circumstances. The next week I heard Marian Jordan speak on how the only thing that will ever truly fulfill you is God’s love, and that really struck me to be truth. One night I realized that the happiest people I knew were Christians who truly had a relationship with Jesus. My Aunt and my grandmother were always so joyful, and I had never understood it. I realized that I wanted that relationship with Jesus that Marian Jordan had talked about, I wanted to be fulfilled by God, I wanted to be forgiven. I decided that I had tried everything else, so maybe I should try the God thing. In the weeks following, God began to change my heart. All of a sudden I had a new intense desire to seek Him. I wanted to know everything I could. I had this new crazy longing to go to Bible study, to go to church. A love grew in my heart for Him.

This past year has been a beautiful journey of transformation. I began to surrender every area of my life to the Lord, and He has taken it and made it into something beautiful. He literally replaced my sinful desires with a desire to know Him. Jesus replaced my insecurity with security in His love. He has given me forgiveness from my sins. He has replaced my depression with JOY. In Christ I found true FREEDOM, because I am not enslaved to sin. He has paid the price to set me free & I have never felt more alive! 

How could I not love the One who set me free?! I promise you that He is better than anything this world has to offer. Even my worst days now are a million times better because my hope is in Him. I know that I might fail, but He cannot. We were created by Him and designed for a relationship with Him. He loves us so deeply despite the fact that He is holy and we are sinful. He wants a relationship with every one of us. He sent His son to die on the cross so that our sins would be forgiven, so that we could be blameless in his sight. He allows us to have a relationship with Himself, the God who created the universe! All you have to do is believe that Christ died so you could be forgiven. Just ask and He can give you a new a heart and freedom from all of your emotional baggage and sins. It's the best decision I've ever made. It's so good that I can't keep it to myself.