Saturday, February 14, 2015

That There Is Joy...

There have been a lot of surprises encountered on the journey we set out on one year ago. I can not believe that in the month of the anniversary we received the worst news of our lives, we are celebrating unending joy at the report that Ava's little body does not show any evidence of disease. I have been waiting for the status of MRD negative for, what seems like, years now.  Although we've only battled for one year, this disease had the potential of stealing away years of life, love, joy, and hope. Yet, I am sitting here in a beautiful apartment on Mercer Island with my newborn son in the next room and my girls and my husband nearby. I am celebrating "ValenTIME's Day," as Ava pronounces it, with a full heart and all my loves with me.

God, what unexpected joy in the midst of this weary trial.

But when I look back across the past months, although they were stained with tears, I am seeing how the presence of joy was always there. Sometimes the joy was blanketed in a quiet whisper from God, and, at other times, it presented as a huge virtual hug from a complete stranger through an email.

I recently stumbled upon a blog posting written by Pastor Peter Chin, an old acquaintance, about his own life journey as his wife battled cancer while pregnant with their third child. He wrote that "deep pain and deep joy can coexist." And then he beautifully summed up a truth that can be so easily overlooked especially in a season of unceasing suffering and fear. He writes, "This is life: blessing and suffering, joy and sadness, the mulberry and the wisteria. Learning to accept this comingling is to learn how to live fully. It is to find that you are in a painful place, but that small but precious blessings are still to be found, even in a wasteland." 

There were a lot of things I anticipated from the Lord as I packed our bags to move to Seattle. I relied on Him for guidance, faith, healing, provision...but, joy? No, that wasn't anywhere on my list of priorities. But God is not bound by my priorities and expectations. He is our Father and I know firsthand that a father takes delight in the joy of his children. 

What welcome wisdom this was for me to read. And the more I looked for it, the more I realized I had experienced this mystery countless times here in Seattle. How could I not ponder it more, allow it to wash over me and settle deep into the crevices of my heart so that I might sing in the midst of the unknowns we have yet to face?

We have been the recipients of countless blessings from the moment we landed in this state. Really, there are actually too many to count. The prayers, the cards, the emails, the gifts, the visits, the food, the new friends--these have all brought smiles of joy to our faces while we were in the hospital and beyond that time as well. 

One such tremendous blessing was the generous hospitality of our hosts on Mercer Island. We haven't had the chance to mention them yet but through their gift of hospitality, Rob and Keri, gave us a place to call home during the very particular time of my pregnancy when my need to "nest" was in full drive. And what a home this is! We have been able to enjoy a VERY comfortable bed, the cool things that Mercer Island has to offer, and a great location where we are able to get to Ava's clinic appointments in record time. The hospital I delivered at was only a 10 minute drive away as well!

Another unexpected blessing was the chance to have Mike, selfishly all to ourselves, for the past few months. Through this time, I have witnessed what a tender, faithful, and loving father he is. He has taken on the majority of responsibility for Ava's care which means early mornings to give her medications and late nights to unhook her from her IV fluids and give even more medications. He has loved our family faithfully, without a moment of grumbling, and it has been a joy to see his expressions of love toward us. 

And, there was last night when we went over to Rob and Keri's for dinner. Keri had planned a scavenger hunt for the girls that had them running all around the house looking for fun clues. One of the clues led them to the basement and as Ava struggled back upstairs, I saw her leaning heavily on one leg and pushing up on that leg as she hobbled up each stair. 

The steroids have taken a toll on her, changing her petite frame into one that causes her great pain and discomfort. She had begun to lose interest in playing and instead spent countless hours trying to sleep away her time. She often told me how difficult this season was for her, how lonely she felt walking this road. 

But that night, as her swollen body teetered on her stick thin legs, her face beamed with the most glorious smile to light up her face. My heart could almost burst at the juxtaposition of this child struggling from physical pain but experiencing so much incredible joy at being able to play with abandon for the first time in a long while. That night, Ava whispered that it was the most fun she remembered having. And I wept at the incredible grace we were given that in the middle of this great trial, she could experience joy.

As I sit and type, I see how an eternity could be spent praising God for His good works in our lives and those around us. But our deepest joy comes as a result of the searing pain that Jesus endured on the cross so that we might have direct access to God, and that by His death we would not know death. Our greatest joy is that this life, mixed with its sufferings and its glimpses of heaven, is a temporary one that will, one day, be exchanged for a permanent existence of joy with our Father. 

That there is a fountain to refresh us in our trek through the desert, that there are squeals of laughter from my girls among the groans of pain, that there is newborn Jude cooing at cancer-ravaged Ava, that there is life in the face of death...that there is joy, endless joy.

We lift up our hands to heaven and tilt our faces expectantly up to Him-the mysterious and magnificent One-who grants us joy in the midst of suffering.

"Boundless love, unending joy,
this is my life, it’s what I know.
I can’t believe that he selected me
Jesus, My Lord, it’s you I owe." -Farrell and Farrell

*Pastor Peter Chin's book, Blindsided By God: Disappointment, Suffering, and The Untamable Goodness of God, was just released this month! I have only read some excerpts from the book but have been so blessed by his experience and his words. 


Carla Mahdik said...

God is great! xoxo to all of you. Ava is amazing! You and your entire family are amazing! We are so happy for you! Love you guys!

Anonymous said...

From the deepness you are, I got a feeling of how painful you were. You're in my prayer. God bless you and your family!

Anonymous said...

Your faith in God and in each other has not wavered! Your strength continues to amaze me! The kids look great! Jude looks like he is all boy.