For a long time my favorite candy bar was a Take Five. The Take Five came in a red wrapper and was so named because it contained five ingredients: chocolate, pretzels, peanuts, caramel, and peanut butter. About the size of a Reese's Cup, this square shaped candy bar was first sold in early 2005. I had my very first one in March 2005. It came in a goodie basket that I remember opening with my dad and my sisters at the kitchen table. Quickly, it became my favorite candy bar. It's a small thing, but thinking of a Take Five always gives me hope.
12 years later, it represents hope and sweetness in the middle of darkness and uncertainty. It's funny how little things and little moments impact you years later.
My mom turned 54 today. For most people, 54 is an inevitably; for my mom, it wasn't. In fact my mom almost didn't make it past 40. Of all the things that have shaped me into who I am, this fact is one of the biggest factors.
At the age of 10, my mom was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. Stage three, have surgery ASAP or possibly die colon cancer.
My family received the goodie basket with the Take Five when we came from the hospital after my mom had surgery to remove half of her colon. I have no clue who sent the basket, but I know it was someone from our church. It's one of the little things that mean the world when the world is spinning out of control around you.
One of the hardest things in my life was seeing my mom go through this. Seeing her lose her hair and smelling her metallic breath. In fact, I don't like the smell of pennies to this day because it reminds me of my mom being on chemo.
Sometimes thinking about it seems surreal. Like was I really there? Did I really go through that? I wish I could remember what I felt and thought a little more clearly. I know I was scared. I know I was confused and unsure, but I think in situations like that all you can do is take it one day at a time. All you can is fight for the moment you have and live in it. All you can do is enjoy candy bars and fleece blankets the chemo treatment center gives you.
Despite a couple of close calls at chemo sessions, my mom survived.
And I gained a deeper sense of compassion that I didn't become aware of til much later. I learned that sometimes all you need is someone who took the time to call a florist and order a goodie basket, because while you don't need a bag of chips, you do need someone to say "I know this is hard and I'm thinking of you." You need someone who took the time to buy a bag of chips.
I saw simple kindness from relative strangers. My senior year college roommate was a friend I knew because her mother offered to watch us during my mom's treatments despite the fact that she'd known us very little time at all. My sister and I played monopoly and poker with Sarah, my future college roommate, and her little sister, Maggie. Mikayla, my vivacious little sister, taught Maggie and their younger brother John Parker how to climb door frames and hallways using your feet. I'm told there are still footprints on the wall.
That's what keeps you sane during a tragedy. It is the worst time of your life and the time where you can fully experience the kindness and compassion of friends and acquaintances. It's small moments in the middle of an unknowable future.
It's when you focus on a candy bar because everything else is falling apart but the new combination of chocolate, peanut butter, pretzel, peanuts, and caramel is enough hope for one day.
For a while I couldn't hear the word cancer without falling apart. It was the first time life stopped being perfect for me.
I could wrap this up with a bow about it taught me things I would never have gotten on my own or how it was worth it to see the kindness of people. How it's allowed me to become a writer who writes with depth and compassion about hard times. How it taught me to seek out hurt people and lean into hurt rather than running the other way.
But I don't want too. It very possibly could have ended in utter tragedy. It could have been devastating. It could have wrecked my family and killed my mother. I could be remembering a mother who passed away too soon today. And I want to think that despite the bow on the end, there would still be good.
I think it's important to remember Job's words.
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Too often, we get caught up in happiness and living by the standards of the world. I am so thankful the Lord let my mother live. I am so thankful of the good that came of it, but you know what? I hope I would be here saying "Praise the Lord. He is good," today even if my mother had passed away.
I want to be like Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego. I want to step into the fire and say "God will save me BUT if he doesn't he is still God and I praise him regardless."
Right now, I am acclimating to the idea, that life after college is different than I expected. I am learning to say "You are God. You are good and I will serve you and praise you no matter what my circumstances." Paul said it a lot better than I do in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 if you wanna look it up.
Elisabeth Elliott. Corrie ten Boom. Katherine and Jay Wolf from Hope Heals. Kathy Giles.
People who's life didn't go according to plan and yet, followed God relentlessly. Those are my heroes and role models.
Jesus said it best, "In this world you will have troubles, but take heart; I have overcome the world."
Blessed be the name of the Lord who overcame the world. Blessed be the hope we have for life after this earth. Blessed be Jesus. Blessed be a future without cancer and chemo and sin.
Take heart, friends. We have hope in Jesus.