Monday morning I went for a run after I got the kids off to school. Per the usual it wasn’t raining when I started and quit almost the moment my foot hit my front step. But for two miles there was a constant stream of water from the heavens. It was hard to look up, my head hid in the grey, cotton hood of my sweatshirt. I stared mostly at my pink, wet shoes as they splashed on the barren country road. When I did look up I was instantly captured by the rain in front of me. I couldn’t help but notice that regardless how gravity tried, it could not make the rain fall straight down. The wind was blowing so hard it made the rain appear to be falling almost sideways.
For the rest of my run I thought about the raindrops and how, in spite of all their aerodynamics, still some times there was too much pushing against them for them to fall straight. As I ran with my head back down, hidden in the security of my hood, my mind wandered back to my own life and the life of my family. I begin to think about how even though we were created to fall so gracefully from the sky, we have found ourselves falling against the wind for as long as I can remember.
Today is Izzy’s ninth birthday. With her in remission and off chemotherapy I often find myself forgetting so much. I find myself living so freely, completely independent of where we have been or where we may ever go. It’s a gift to feel that – to walk in such normalcy, whatever that word is supposed to mean. The problem with walking in moments of normalcy is found when you remember all that is not normal. Like a smack in the face, glimpses of reality come from nowhere reminding me of it all. The pain, the suffering, the fear. The past that should have been, the innocence that was stolen, the days that can never be given back and the peace I know I may never feel again.
The truth is, like every parent, I want time to stop right where we are. Not just because she is growing up but because she is living. She is thriving and I want to experience this forever. She has defied the first set of statistics over the past five years and I celebrate that. I rejoice and stand with thanksgiving – forever grateful for not only what has been but what has not been. But next month. Next month will bring the two year mark since the cancer returned again and we were told the unthinkable. Told the five year survival rate for relapse was less than 1 %. Can you even imagine the weight of walking with that? Can you imagine living with that knowledge and watching your daughter live without it?
Do you remember those paper chains we made as kids right before Christmas? Each night you would tear off a link of crinkled construction paper leaving the chain a little shorter. As a person obsessed with numbers, there is now a permanent paper chain in my mind. It once held one thousand, eight hundred and twenty five rings on it, each representing the days we were told were left for her – best case scenario. Today, on her ninth birthday, I will tear off the seven hundred and thirtieth chain, leaving not even eleven hundred left. Eleven hundred days. These rings feel much heavier to my soul than construction paper. More like rocks, the weight of too many of them becomes unbearable. Over the years I have found a direct correlation to the weight we carry and our ability to find hope. When we walk with more than we were intended to carry, hope seems a permanent fixture in the distance that we will never reach. The weight of our burden prevents us from stretching to the place that hope lies.
The Lord is faithful to give us freedom in exchange for our burdens but he is also faithful to respect our privacy and our will. He will not force our burdens out of our clenched fists. We get to chose what we do with the weight we were never meant to carry. If we hang on to it, we will eventually find hope unattainable and freedom impossible. But if we can set the burdens down we will find hope well within our reach as the gentle breeze of freedom carries us there.
Many years ago our doctor told me that I would have to learn to live knowing that Izzy might not. In that moment I hated him. I hated him because I thought doing so would be quitting. I thought doing so would be a sign of weakness. But as the months and years have passed I have found great truth in his words. I still pray for healing every night. Still lay hands on her belly and speak life into her body. But as I leave her room I have learned to accept that her living isn’t dependent on me. And that means my living can’t be dependent on her either.
In three weeks we will head to Florida for spring break, enjoying a normal, restful week at the beach. The week we return we will head back to Cincinnati for scans to see how she is doing off chemo. I don’t know what the future holds for us today anymore than I did five and a half years ago. Don’t know if she will continue to be a miracle or if the Lord will call her home. But the truth is, its not my choice. The only choice I have in this is whether I will hold tightly to the weight, keeping hope and freedom out of my reach or if I will surrender it. Some days I make the wrong choice but some days I do it right.
For the greater part of nine years we have been falling against the wind and its exhausting. But here’s the thing about rain: the smaller the drops, the easier it is for the wind to move. But the bigger drops cannot be moved off course easily. The bigger drops have enough inertia to overpower the efforts of the wind. Today, I’m thankful to be in this massive storm with the daughter the Lord has given me. The wind is only blowing so hard because she is so hard to move. She is a God given force to be reckoned with.
Blessings on you today and LIFE for Izzy.