Glory Through The Darkness

So here we are again

five years after the first time,

 

cancer has made its ugly appearance

in my body yet again

 

And people wonder how I’m doing…

 

The news felt like a rude sucker punch

mixed with a river of sorrow

 

and yet

I had a feeling that was the diagnosis I would hear

 

Once again my husband and I held one another

and cried

and have stayed close to one another since the news came

 

Our children were told

and they were stunned,

sorrowful,

and older and braver than last time

 

My parents

supported with such love

and tenderness

and words deep

 

My brother and his wife

came right over

with food love

and flowers sweet

and listening ears

 

Phone calls were made

and friends were told

and they offered up unbelievable support and love

endless

 

And people wonder

how am I feeling?

 

I feel

sad

and  I feel thankful

and I feel strong

in my sorrow

 

And I am keenly aware

once again

that all the people care,

 

but my deepest need

is for my Jesus

 

In all of this

I can’t get my mind off of the One

who is my Rock

my Comfort

my Everything

 

And it’s me

and it’s Him

eyes locked on one another

 

My good

and His glory

are

ALWAYS

His intent

 

And I walk forward

taking one day at a time

just like we all do

 

yet

with a sharper focus

on every

little

thing

 

I pray with all my might

that healing would be mine

 

and I know He’s heard every word

 

And the sentiments I penned

one day before diagnosis

are true in the valley of the shadow ~

 

“My relationship

with the Lord of the Universe

is new

freeing

and vibrant”

 

Cancer is ugly

God is my freedom

 

His unchanging character

did not flinch

 

when I was diagnosed with cancer

once again

 

and I can’t imagine

walking this road

without Him

 

My life is still

for HIM,

not for me

 

Not what He does

for me

 

This is such a broken world, friends

 

And you hear and experience bad news

every

single

day

 

The signs are pointing

to the earth groaning

in preparation

for Jesus’ return

 

Be ready

 

And don’t get hung up

on whether God is good or not

when bad things happen

 

tossed and turned in your faith

by bad news

 

God warned us

of trials

and tribulations

and pain

 

and attacks from our circling

and preying

and vicious enemy

 

Stay with God

and do not be swayed by your feelings

about why He lets certain things happen

 

What kind of God would He be

if He claimed to be Love

and claimed to be good

and claimed to be just

and claimed to be ALL the things He claimed to be

 

and then forfeited it all

by allowing trials in a Christ-Follower’s life?

 

It’s not possible

 

He is perfect

and His ways are right

 

And what a patient and amazing God

to reach into our broken world

 

and provide salvation from it?

 

I choose to rest in Him

in this cancer journey

 

And believe what you will,

but I have been singing His praises with joy

since I got up this morning

 

– Susie Stewart

 

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

– Romans 8:22, 23 (NIV)

 

Jesus Christ is [eternally changeless, always] the same yesterday and today and forever.

– Hebrews 13:8 (AMP)

 

But as for me, I will sing about Your power.
    Each morning I will sing with joy about Your unfailing love.
For You have been my refuge,
    a place of safety when I am in distress.

– Psalm 59:16 (NLT)

 

Photo by Susie Stewart

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty

I think it’s interesting that so many who are confronted with extremely difficult circumstances – cancer, loss of a spouse or child, a natural disaster, imprisonment in a railcar – seem to find wonder in the simplest things. And those of us in seasons of comfort and ease seem to have such a hard time seeing the beauty around us.
– Matt Heard

 
When we experience beauty, we feel called. The Beautiful stirs passion and urgency in us and calls us forth from aloneness into the warmth and wonder of an eternal embrace. It unites us again with the neglected and forgotten grandeur of life.
– Elaine Scarry

 
From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines in glorious radiance.
– Psalm 50:2 (NLT)

 
The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display His craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make Him known.
– Psalm 19:1,2 (NIV)

 
Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.
– Luke 12:27 (NLT)

 
… I fight to nourish my mind and heart with beauty. Yes, it’s a fight, because the world is fallen. But it’s still a world that has its Creator’s fingerprints all over it, so I open the eyes of my heart and behold His beauty. And the greatest reward of the journey is growing closer to the Author of all the beauty….My intense hope for you – and me – is that we’ll start uttering, ‘That’s beautiful,’ more often and more deeply than we ever have before. And that we, as men and women created in the image of the Creator Himself, will experience the freedom of using our unique and creative abilities, whether we call ourselves artists or not, to generate more beauty on the canvas of our relationships, our careers, our stories, and our culture.
– Matt Heard

 

 

Photo by Arik Stewart

1 Year Ago Today…

1 year ago today I was diagnosed with cancer.

I want to thank God for preserving my life and bringing our family through a difficult year.  As I look back at pictures from the past year I think of it all as a journey of growth, tears, strengthening, and lots of love.  I share some of them here with you to bring my Savior Jesus glory for His goodness, His faithfulness, and His love for me, for my family, and for every person young or old that goes through cancer.

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Right after I was diagnosed, special gifts, texts, calls, emails and FB messages started pouring in. What an encouragement! This fruit bouquet came from Dave & Rebecca, my cousin and his wife.

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Thank you for the love!

Psalm 112:7

“He will have no fear of bad new;  his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”

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Our son Arik headed to college a couple weeks after diagnosis. Such mixed emotions.

Psalm 18:28

“You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning;  my God turns my darkness into light.”

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Our daughter Nicole shared her testimony, which included my recent diagnosis, at Fields of Faith, a teen event, about a week after my lumpectomy surgery.

Psalm 46:1

“God is our Refuge and Strength, an ever-present Help in trouble.”

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Andy took me on a getaway to San Francisco before radiation.

Psalm 55:22

“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you, He will never let the righteous fall.”

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My sweet neighbor Chloe in The Race for the Cure.

John 5:17

“Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at His work, to this very day, and I , too, am working.”

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End of radiation celebration. We didn’t yet know I needed chemo.

John 10:27

“My sheep listen to my voice;  I know them and they follow me.”

Hat & Scarf party put on by my sister-in-law Rayna the day before my head was shaved. What a wonderful show of love and support. I used these hats and scarfs to keep warm all through the winter.

Psalm 94:18,19

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping’, Your love, O Lord, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

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First chemo treatment with daughter Nicole.

Psalm 42:5

“Why so downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your trust in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

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Nicole bravely shaved my head before the hair started really falling out two weeks after chemo started.

Romans 8:28

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Trying to get used to the new norm.

Trying to get used to the new norm.

2 Corinthians 4:8

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;  perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned;  struck down, but not destroyed.”

Wig-wearing began.

Wig-wearing began.

2 Corinthians 4:18

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

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Reading during chemo.

Ephesians 1:3

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

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6 chemo treatments 3 weeks apart.  My special "chemo-sabis" with me each time.

6 chemo treatments 3 weeks apart. My special “chemo-sabis” with me each time.

Psalm 138:8

“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me;  Your love, O Lord, endures forever –  Do not abandon the works of your hands.”

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Time with my friend Don as he was going through chemo too at the same place.

2 Timothy 1:7

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

So very thankful for my faithful husband, so loving and encouraging in sickness and in health.

So very thankful for my faithful husband, so loving and encouraging in sickness and in health.

Psalm 3:3

“But You are a shield around me, O Lord;  You bestow glory on me and lift up my head.”

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Christmas morning holding a beautiful scarf my son brought me from his December missions trip to India.

Psalm 18:1,2

“I love You, O Lord, my Strength.  The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress and my Deliverer, my God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my Shield and the Horn of my Salvation, my Stronghold.”

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Never thought I’d be balder than my sweet dad. 🙂

Isaiah 40:29

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”

End of chemo family celebration!

End of chemo family celebration! I am thankful beyond words for my family’s support!

Hebrews 13:8

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

Starting to grow hair back.

Starting to grow hair back.

Isaiah 49:23

“…then you will know that I am the Lord;  those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

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By God’s grace I was able to go back to Africa in June, feeling good, and co-leading our True Impact Ministries team with my husband Andy! What a gift!

Isaiah 58:9-11

“…If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.  The Lord will guide you always;  He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

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2 Corinthians 5:7

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

One of the blessings of this journey has been meeting other cancer survivors and sharing experiences together.

One of the blessings of this journey has been meeting other cancer survivors and sharing experiences together.

Philippians 1:6

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Spending time alone with the Lord in the beautiful Colorado mountains.

Spending time alone with the Lord in the beautiful Colorado mountains.

Isaiah 26:3,4

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trust in you.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.”

– Susie Stewart

Lyla

“We as a family are saddened, but also at peace knowing that God is in control.”

I read over those words in a message from my cousin Scott today.  His mother, my Aunt Lyla, was just diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic and liver cancer.  My heart is heavy because I love Lyla.  She shines Jesus.

As I thought about writing something about this very difficult news on my mom’s side of the family, the word from this sentence of Scott’s message that has stayed in my head, amazingly,  is “but”.  This tiny, little three letter word.

It is the word that seemingly connects heaven and earth right now.

We as a family are saddened, BUT…

Not everyone says this little word when there is a cancer diagnosis.  Only God makes this word possible.  Only God.

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There is sorrow and there is suffering here.  
 But.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair…”  2 Corinthians 4:8
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Our hearts and minds grow faint with grief.  
But.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33
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Life is hard here.
But.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body….”  Philippians 3:20
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Bad news will come.
But.
“They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”  Psalm 112:7
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Life doesn’t always go the way we planned.
But.
“‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord…”  Jeremiah 29:11
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Life seems to have kicked me down.
But.
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  2 Corinthians 2:14
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My Aunt Lyla.  “She’s an amazing example of God’s peace and comfort. She’s confident in her faith and knows life doesn’t end here,” Scott says of his mother.  That’s because she knows she is a victor, no matter what!
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:57
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And here is why…….  “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son…”  Galatians 4:4
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Heaven and earth connected.  
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I love you, Aunt Lyla.  You are an example of Christ to me and countless people who love you.  You may have been given a diagnosis, but you are a victor, conqueror, dearly loved by God, redeemed, precious.  You are in the palm of His hand, just as you have always been.
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– Susie Stewart
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.
– Hebrews 3:1
Back Row:  Jay, David, Jerry.  Middle Row:  Marti, Ruth, Mary.  Front Row:  Sam & Lyla

Back Row: Jay, David, Jerry. Middle Row: Marti, Ruth, Mary. Front Row: Sam & Lyla

Photos taken by Scott Knutson

Exile

 

Are you on an island?

Has life caused you to be isolated?

Is there an aloneness that is tangible in your heart?

Pain and suffering, change, betrayal, loss….

John was on an island.  He was exiled to the island of Patmos.  Christians were going through a time of persecution and those who held that Christ, not Caesar, was Lord, were facing hostility.  John was sent to Patmos as punishment for his faith.

In his exile, God showed up.

His eyes were opened to the realm of the supernatural, of things to come.  Imprisoned on an island, away from the people and places that he loved, the Lord of the future overwhelmingly revealed Himself and His plan to John.

The book of Revelation is so stunning that it takes my breath away at times!  The things written in this book, so distinct and curious, are a taste of the judgment and the wonder to come.  John was overcome.  He says, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead.  Then He placed His right hand on me and said:  ‘Do not be afraid.  I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One;  I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!'”

There was a point in my chemo journey when I realized that I was an exile like John.  On a much smaller scale, mind you, but I felt it nonetheless.  Because of the winter season, wanting to stay away from germs, and because of feeling bad physically, I was home most of the time over the course of a few months.  I was home, and I was bald.  While I was grateful for a warm home, it felt like the walls were closing in on me at times.

God opened my eyes to my island.

What I did with my time came into sharper focus and I longed to be closer to God.

I determined that I didn’t want to waste my exile.

Sowing aloneness can reap growth.  Sowing aloneness can also reap self-pity, discouragement, resentment….

What I set my mind and heart on determines what I sow.  I know because I have sown both.

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on this earth,” God’s Word says in Colossians 3:2.

I have found that in exile, determination to follow truth and to follow hard after God take discipline.  It takes a “setting” of the mind.  Your mind and heart will be pulled away if you don’t.

“So let us come near to God with an honest and true heart. Let us come near with a faith that is sure and strong….”  Hebrews 10:22

My prayer for you is that you will draw near to God in your exile, and there He will share with you His amazing love and His undeniable truth.

– Susie Stewart

 

(photo of the island of Patmos courtesy of bibleplaces.com)