The Final Word

My breath was short as I walked to pick Audrey up from school on a  warm February day–I choked the words out to my dad as soon as he picked up the phone.  It is leukemia. She has leukemia, I gasped for a breath and waited for my dad’s response. It is hard to remember much of what was said in that brief conversation.  It was short because I needed to pick Audrey up from school and couldn’t be a mess when I walked into her classroom.

I recall my dad prayed with me and also encouraged me to talk to someone who had walked through cancer and come out on the other side.  The next morning, when kids weren’t able to listen in, I called Donna.  She is our administrative assistant at church, and she had just walked through a battle with brain cancer–I remember two things about that conversation that I still carry today.

First, she was filled with compassionate sorrow for our family and for Shannon.  Her own journey had made her so very tender to the difficult journey of others.  Second, as I sputtered on about it hopefully being treatable, and wanting the doctors to formulate a good plan, she stopped me and said, Jennifer, cancer doesn’t get the final word, God does.

God knew I would go back to those words over and over again as I watched my sister battle for her life. When the first round of chemo didn’t bring the counts down as we’d hoped, I clung to those words.  When she lay in a bed in ICU and the doctors told us we had only hours left, I white-knuckled that truth–God has the final word; not leukemia. When she traveled to Texas for treatment, I continued to believe that God would have the final word.  He alone would provide healing.

This past Sunday, we sang,

The cross has the final word
The cross has the final word
Sorrow may come in the darkest night
But the cross has the final word

There’s nothing stronger
Nothing higher
There’s nothing greater than the name of Jesus

Soon, it will have been 5 months since Jesus called Shannon home. I have made it very clear to our daugthers. Leukemia did not win.

Shan did not lose her battle with leukemia.  Cancer did not have the final word in her story.  The cross always has the final word.


Because, Shannon’s story didn’t end on March 3 when leukemia took more than what her earthly body could handle–Shannon’s story simply took a turn Heavenward.

Sorrow may come in the darkest night–But the cross has the final word. 

If I don’t get this truth.  If I don’t understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection speak the final words over our earthly stories, then all hope is lost.

But, because the cross gets the final word in every Christ-follower’s story, we grieve–deeply–but with great hope and expectation. This worship anthem is right, there is nothing stronger than the name of Jesus.  Leukemia is not stronger or higher than God’s ability to heal and restore. He had the final word in Shannon’s earthly story and HALLELUJAH her life continues in her glorious eternal home.

What is it today that you fear will have the final word?  Perhaps it isn’t the final word in a life or death situation, but it might feel that oppressive.  You may be fearful that poverty (or never quite having enough) will have the final word this month, perhaps brokenness and feelings of inadequacy seem to be getting the final word today, or chronic pain (physical or emotional).

Will you be brave enough to say, with me, today, the cross has the final word. And can you trust that the God who didn’t spare His only son from the cross, will speak a good word over you?

If you’d like to read about not asking why in the pain of saying goodbye to Shannon, check this post out, Instead of Asking Why.



Instead of Asking Why

He wouldn’t bring her this far to stop, right? He wouldn’t heal her halfway, would He?

I would ask Mark this question or a version of it so many times as we drove home after having spent time visiting Shan at the hospital. On the phone, as I cleaned out cereal bowls and filled up Beckett’s sippy cup, I would ask my mom.  I’d ask the question in texts to my dear friend late at night.

For those who don’t know our story–in May 2016, medically speaking, Shannon should have died. She had a life-threatening infection, a heart that stopped multiple times, organs that were failing, and leukemia still attacking her body.  But God, raised Shannon out of that bed–doctors were astounded; she was a walking miracle. And this is what made me ask this question about halfway healing so many times.

For every one time I asked a person aloud, there were a hundred more times my spirit asked God. Some mornings, I would feel a boldness in my belly and could declare, by faith, that God would not heal her halfway.  I would echo the words of Psalm 27:13 over my precious sister, “I remain confident of this: I (she) will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” But there were afternoons that my spirit would lack boldness and rather be pleading with God–please, please, please heal her entirely and do it here on earth.  Let her live to tell of your goodness and might.

Most of you know our story–but, again, for those of you who do not. God did heal Shannon completely, but He did it by taking her home. Our family rejoices that she is in perfect health and in the presence of her Savior, but she leaves a hole behind here on earth that knocks the wind right out of us.  Once, as a child, eager to try out a new treehouse at a friend’s house, jumped onto the plastic slide before her dad had a chance to tell me he had only propped it there; it wasn’t yet secure.  The slide hit the ground with me on top of it and for a minute I couldn’t catch any breath–the wind was entirely knocked out of my lungs.

It is terribly hard, to not ask God, why.  But, there is no comfort in begging this question–God is one of mystery and sometimes that has to be enough of an answer.

But, I have found some answers to the question, what — what is God doing, still here on earth, as a result of Shannon’s healing being a Heavenly one? On this side of eternity we will never know the number of people touched, powerfully, for the Kingdom because of the way Shannon lived her faith as she was oppressed by leukemia–the stories keep rolling in.

What I see God doing in me right now, is a boldness of faith to speak into other people’s tragedies and fights. I saw mountains moved in that ICU room in May 2016–I saw God do what man could not do. So, when a friend’s has a family member with a scary diagnosis, or another has family members laying in beds in the ICU, I can confidently say, “Our God can move this mountain.” So, what is God doing?  He is allowing my faith to strengthen that of others because of what He allowed me to witness.

Does this make it okay with me that Shannon is no longer on earth? Nope.

Does it make her suffering all feel worth it? Not a bit.

I still want her story to be different. I want the ending to have her whole and healed here on earth.  I want her at Beckett’s third birthday party and Ryker’s dedication.  I want her to meet us tonight for dinner at the beach and to be able to text me back, plan peach picking and sibling camping trips with me.  I want to not have this hole in my heart and this tightness in my chest. But, the enemy would have me stay here, in this list of all that I miss doing with Shan.  And, so, because I refuse for her suffering to be in vain even after it is done, in the missing I will keep asking, what is God doing now, because of Shan?

I am not sure what you’re walking through or what you are mourning–it may be a person, it may be a season that has ended, regardless of the reason you find yourself in tears, I encourage you to ask, what is God doing now because of this and join Him. 


To-do lists and Eternal Lists

Didn’t we already learn this?

I often found myself thinking this in my undergrad years at Hope College. I was training to become a teacher, though I loved my classes and found them wonderfully challenging it took me awhile to realize that repetition was a vital part of the learning process.

Repetition is actually the key mastering something–Papa God knows this well.  I am thankful He is a gracious and patient teacher who is willing to speak the same lessons to my heart over and over.

One of these lessons my heart needs on (almost constant) repeat is guarding myself from busy days that are full but empty of anything of eternal value. Yesterday, as I got Beckett up from his afternoon nap, my pre-dinner to-do list was running through my mind.  But, I was weary (being nearly 30 weeks pregnant can do that to you) and he was awake, but still sleepy.  So, we snuggled for awhile, and as I lay on my bed with him curled up beside me I started to feel guilty thinking of what I should be accomplishing.

And, at that moment, our patient teacher spoke to my heart–make a list.

Make a list?

Make a new list; not a to-do list–let my Spirit show you the list of what you did today that counts for eternity.

So, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I made a list on my phone–and, the things I didn’t accomplish mattered a lot less, and the eternal perspective from yesterday, I pray, will help me today.

Maybe my list will help you see that setting aside the busyness is okay; maybe it will show you that you really accomplished so much this week when you look with the right perspective.

Yesterday’s list: listened (without my phone in my view) to Charlotte tell me about preschool, read books with my littles when asked to, let Beckett walk rather than ride in a cart when we ran errands to Costco & Carters–held his hand, let him move slowly, did Charlotte’s hair this morning how she wanted it styled (not how I wanted it), snuggled with Beckett after naptime, held Audrey’s hand all the way home from school and listened to the stories of her day, made simple meal for my family.

Does the list surprise you?  It might not seem like things of eternal weight, but the Holy Spirit continues to show me that nurturing real, quiet, deep relationships with my children opens their hearts to the parent who they cannot see, Father God.

Mommas, keep at it–let the Holy Spirit show you how beautifully weighty those moments of books, and listening, and holding hands are.