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.



Kneeling Before an Idol

I’ve become too efficient.
Not exactly what you expect to hear from a mom of four (one of them only 12 weeks old) is it?
Last week while making homemade graham crackers with my two-year-old, I slowed down long enough to see I had become painfully efficient.  With his grubby little hands wedged next to mine on the handles of the rolling pin, I knew this inefficient, less effective method was one my heart (and his heart) had missed.
I dare say, on more days than I’d care to fess up to, efficiency became an idol over the last several months. The choices I made, how I measured my worth for the day, and the standard I held my people to–at the center was this idol. And, I became agitated with anyone or anything who slowed me down; my words became counted and short with our babies, and I begrudged Mark for slowing down to sit for a few minutes.
You see, we had a season that demanded me to be unrelentingly task-oriented.
Based on a directive from God, many months before, we had made plans to sell our home in March. The pre-selling project list didn’t seem daunting until we had only weeks left to finish it, I was in my third trimester of pregnancy, and Mark unexpectedly was gone for a week. But, we rallied and sold the house. Two weeks before we closed on the house, our Ryker was born–his birth ushered in a short period of “unproductive” days for me since he required a c-section delivery. I had a forced period of several weeks in which I was anything but efficient. And, it was beautiful — my man took the household lead and kept our other three babies fed and bathed, he made sure clean clothes were in our drawers and that I always had a full water bottle and a snack nearby. I mostly soaked in the days of my tasks being: feed Ryker, hold Ryker, read stories to my other people, and sneak in a nap.
But, as I recovered and was able to reinstate my normal role in our home, it was almost as if that idol of efficiency urged me to make up for lost time.  And then, to top it off, it was time to pack our family of six–and I became hyper-efficient.
Packing  our home of 9 years was daunting; trying to fit the task into the slivers of time between feedings for a newborn ushered me into the land centered on efficiency. Screen time for the kids increased dramatically, dinners were the same 3 simple meals on repeat, our floor collected crumbs for days because I wouldn’t pause my packing to sweep. And my quick movements and measured moments invaded the space in my heart that used to have time to listen to my 8-year old’s 10 minute story.
Now, hear me, there are seasons made for relishing and seasons that simply require survival. The two weeks leading up to our move were survival weeks–we were packing the house, attending all of the events that come with the end of the school year for Audrey, feeding a newborn, and my people still kept creating laundry to wash, fold, and put away.  There is no mom guilt allowed when in these short survival seasons you bake the cookies for the last day of school by yourself (or just buy them at the store for goodness sake) and hand your tiny helper an ipad. During these days, I accepted that this was just a short season, and after we moved, I wouldn’t find myself so often telling my people, “I can’t right now. I’m sorry.”
But, you see, though it was exhausting to be efficient all day long, I wasn’t entirely sorry; it also felt marvelous.  I could literally list all that I accomplished in the day; I could see the stacks of boxes and the empty shelves and cupboards and think, Wow! Look at all I did. And this worshipping of efficiency, this centering my choices around getting the most done in the least amount of time invaded my days even after our move.  Of course, there were the first few days that absolutely required devoted time to unpacking so we could find our underwear, forks, and Hot Wheels cars.
But, as I stood at the counter last week rolling out cookie dough with my boy–God reminded me that getting it done the quick way isn’t always the best way. In the moments of squishing dough together and re-rolling because he made a handprint before we could cut the squares, I heard God whisper to my soul that He is not a God who is in a rush. If he isn’t rushing, I can probably slow my roll too. His Word clearly tells me that He orders my steps (Psalm 37:23), and right now He is telling me my steps need to be slower.
I know I’m not the first to write about slowing down to enjoy our people, and I will not be the last.  But hear my warning– a season of required efficiency carved its way into an idol in my heart. When we look at the stories in the Bible of the Israelites literally carving false gods and worshipping them, it is easy to see just how silly and useless the worship of those gods was. But, those literal idols are meant to be pictures for us of the idols we so easily allow to be built up in our hearts–mine wasn’t a golden calf, but that doesn’t make my false god any prettier than theirs.
The relationships we create and foster with our children, open their hearts to the Father; the time I take (or don’t take) to slow down and listen, reflects to young hearts the interest of their Heavenly parent.
So, survive the survival seasons, but don’t carry that survival mentality into the new season God brings for you.

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.