It’s been a year now. One year since I woke up on a Sunday morning and took the kids to church so Jesse could sleep off a stomach bug. One year since I stepped off of the stage at church and knew I needed to get home as quickly as I could. One year since a doctor spoke words that still drift about in my mind in an otherworldly manner.
It still feels fresh every morning and stings like its a new reality frequently throughout the day. I haven’t slept through the night in months. The kids are in varying degrees of recovery. Daily life is still very much a struggle for Jesse. He has a lot to fight each day.
12 months in, and I will tell you the same thing I wrote in the wee hours of Labor Day last year…God is still on His throne. He is. And I can tell you with even more certainty today than I could then that He is good. Exceptionally, indefinably so. He has not forgotten about Jesse’s seizures or remaining tumor. He has not put our children aside while He deals with other more important things. He has not stolen away His mercy from me. He has not changed. Though, the depths of my understanding of Him has.
We’ve spent the past two weeks traveling as a family, staying wherever we can find a place that will hold all of us in one room as we go. A few days ago, we stood beneath the towering giant redwood trees in Sequoia National Park. It was a childhood dream fulfilled-except I didn’t find a little gnome named Jasper like Disney told me I would via The Gnome Mobile. I’m still disappointed over that one. 😉
Anyway, they are so much bigger and more magnificent than any picture or video you’ve ever seen. Some things are just too big to be contained by the limited view of a camera lens.
We visited the The Giant Forest Museum while we were there. There was a fascinating display about the unique relationship between fire and these trees. Everywhere we’ve been in California, signs have been posted siting the “extreme” fire danger that’s permeating the bulk of the state right now. Yet, forest rangers are excited about one aspect of the recent fires in Yosemite…Redwood trees.
The extremity of a scorching fire breaks open the cones that have been growing for up to two years, fused shut on the outside, filling with around 200 seeds as they grow, and new seedlings appear in huge crops afrterward. Redwood trees grow in several unique layers, each providing them with a different form of protection against insects, fungi, fire, and other natural predators of trees. Even the ones that fell hundreds of years ago are still remarkably intact. It is exceedingly rare for a fire to kill a Giant Sequoia. Experts can date the fires a Giant Sequoia has been through by the ring patterns in its bark. The rapid growth after a fire is visible in those patterns. This happens even even after they are thousands of years old. Can you imagine? None of us were alive when the trees we can see now were born and none of us will be alive by the time the new trees are recognizable as the Giants they are. It takes thousands of years for them to grow to their mammoth sizes. The trees we saw were already ancient when Jesus was born. Just think…
A magnificent, nearly indestructible tree born of the black desolation of a fire. I stood beneath them, walked around them, touched the charred interiors and coconut-like exteriors of some of them, and I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more at home than I did in those moments. Those trees and I, we have things in common. My life in the last year has been burned to chaff. All of the comforts of denial, of living as though I had control, were consumed in a blazing fire of shocking diagnosis. The pretty exterior of my happy family was eaten up by flames and my very soul lit ablaze. Funny thing about Giant Sequoias, though. Burned though they may be, they still stand. And once the fire stops raging all around them, they grow more vigorously, doing what God made them to do…grow out of the ashes. Friends, take a minute and think about the seeming backwardness of trees that live for millennia that are born of fire, trees that grow with more vigor after they are burned. If God can spur an indelible tree to grow out of a raging inferno, just think about what he can do with the things in your life that seem hopelessly broken to you. God is ever in your life, just as He is in mine. You are not forsaken in those moments when your life is nothing but ash. He makes splendid things out of dust, from the very beginning until right now. He does. Your suffering is purposeful if you allow it to be. Your grief and pain and mourning, your joy and hope, your fear, your regret…all of it. Every breath you are granted. Not one moment lacks in purpose. One year living with the persistent uncertainty of brain cancer, and still I urge you to do the same thing I’ve been saying from the very beginning…Surrender. Surrender to the One who makes ashes turn to unqualifiable beauty. Surrender to the One who takes brain cancer and turns it into a beautiful life. Surrender to the King. He is still on His throne, waiting to welcome you into His kingdom. He is still God. He is still good. And He is still bigger.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3