Learning From Storms

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After a particularly long winter, our spring has been a stormy one. The weekly forecasts call for rain almost everyday. Six straight days of rain can really impact your mood, especially when you have two little voices begging to go outside and play. It’s enough to make one weary. But I can’t help but think that God is trying to teach me something with all these storms.

Our family is going through our own storm right now. It all started back in January. About a week after our move, my mom came to visit and help us unpack. I could tell when she arrived that something was bothering her. That first night, after the kids were asleep, she broke the news to N and I. My brother had recently had an MRI on his ankle for an injury we anticipated to be a stress fracture at worst. He is a personal trainer and he been teaching some really intense classes. His ankle bothered him after the classes, so my parents thought he should get it looked at. No one could have foreseen the result. The pain my brother was having was not caused by a fracture. He had a tumor growing on his bone. Words like tumor cause hearts to skip beats. We were of course worried and a little scared, but we all resolved to be optimistic until the biopsy results were in.

The next two months were an emotional roller coaster as biopsy results proved inconclusive, specialists from all over the country were consulted, and surgeries were scheduled and postponed. The doctors were fairly sure the tumor was malignant, but couldn’t pinpoint the exact diagnosis. Our hopes were all lifted when a third doctor said he was fairly certain it was a benign tumor and my brother underwent surgery to remove it and complete a more thorough biopsy. Then, on March 28, my father’s 56 birthday, we got the news. Cancer. How do 24 year olds get cancer? Why do 24 year olds get cancer? So many questions with no good answers.

Since that time, we have a definitive diagnosis of the tumor and my brother is currently receiving chemotherapy treatments. We are all optimistic about the outcome and are willing to help in the fight in any way we can. But there are still days I feel worried, sad, or angry. Gloomy days seem to be the worst. But this week, God has placed some truths on my heart that have deepened my faith in this situation and given me some new perspective.

What I am Learning from the Storms

1. Storms Happen

We are not guaranteed an easy life here. In fact, Jesus promises we will have trials and that life won’t be easy (John 16:33). Ironically, the current sermon series at our church is about the storms of life. Our pastor said in the first sermon of the series that we are either coming out of a storm, in the middle of a storm, or going into a storm. Some storms are quick and violent, others are long and tiring. We will face storms, but we don’t have to face them alone. The fact that most of my days I feel peace about the situation I can only attribute to faith. The verse mentioned above has two parts, “In this world you will face trials. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (emphasis mine). God is carrying us through this.

2. Storms Cause Growth

I see this outside my window daily. The rain is causing everything to green. Buds on leaves and flowers are dripping with rain one day, opening in vibrant color the next. Without the rain, nothing in nature would grow. It’s the same with us. You find out who you really are in a storm. It tests your stamina, your will, your faith. At first, you are in shock. I think of the little tomato plants we transplanted to the garden last week. We have had almost 2 inches of rain since they were planted. They look a little weathered. But I know the strong plants will be made stronger from the rain and we will see, feel, and taste the fruits of this growth. We are over our shock, I now see the resilience and strength in my family as we rally around my brother to fight. This storm won’t be short: a 28 week intensive chemo protocol and scans for life. But we will get through it and I think we will emerge stronger as individuals, and a family, for it.

3. Storms Make Us Appreciate the Sun

In the midst of a storm, it’s easy to lose sight of the sun. But blessings remain despite the dark. While under tornado warning this week in one of our spring storms, I calmed the kids by reminding them of our blessings: a safe, sturdy house, a cozy basement to wait in until the storms past, electricity and TV that alerted us to the possible danger.

I am overwhelmed by the blessings in my brother’s situation when I begin to count. The fact that he lives close to home, that my mom works part time and is able to get him to appointments, the fact that my parents decided to keep him on their health insurance one more year, the amazing specialists he has access to at a state of the art cancer center, having a few oncology nurses in the family who help us know what to expect, friends and family who’ve rallied around us with prayers and practical care, finding the cancer early before it spread…the list goes on. I am so encouraged by my brother.  I can’t imagine what he is going through, but he is taking it in stride.  He is stronger than he knows.  It’s a blessing to help him in any way I can and this storm has made me pray for him daily. Counting your blessings surely brings perspective on dark days. People often ask God “why” when these hard things happen. I am sure I did from time to time. But now I am asking two new questions: “where?” and “how?”. Where is God working in this situation? How should I respond in light of His work? It’s impossible for me not to see God’s hand blessing our family even during difficulty.

4. Storms End

This one seems simple enough, but it’s easy to forget when you’re in the storm. Rainy days feel like they run together, nerves still get frazzled when high winds send objects from one end of the yard to the other. But the storms pass. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as the clouds moving on. Other times, there is mess and destruction and you have to adjust to a new way of life. A little over a year ago, N’s uncle’s family lost everything they owned in a horrific tornado. No house, no cars, no clothes. No wedding photos or grainy videos of baby’s taking their first steps. They lost every tangible piece of their former life. When contacting them to see how we could help, Uncle K had the best perspective. He said you learn very quickly what you can live without and it all didn’t matter because he, his wife, their daughter, and grand daughter were safe. Life is still hard, but you can choose to see the good.

I don’t know how our storm will end. But there is a lot of joy on the horizon. In just a few weeks, my brother and his girlfriend will welcome their first child into the world. As a parent, I can’t wait for that moment for them, know how it will change them, and give him a new will to fight and live. Treatments should be over in October, giving our family much to celebrate when we all get together this Christmas. It’s going to be quite the party.

After a crazy deluge this week, our yard was full of puddles. C and J asked to go outside to play. I told them to put on their boots and have fun. A few minutes later, when I went to check on them, my first reaction was shock. They were covered.in.mud. I had never seen my children this dirty. But after watching for a minute, the thing that outshone the mud was joy. Crazy, jumping, squealing joy. I immediately ran for the camera ( you can see the pics below). Seeing this reminded me that one day, all there will be is joy. A promise that every tear will be wiped from every eye. Storms will continue to rage. But even in the storms, I choose joy.

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