Cancer Journey · My One Word

Surrendering My Places

When you move, I’ll move*

“For I know the plans [and places] I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (my input added)

In the fall of 2011, when we said, “Yes, we’ll go,” Chris Tomlin’s song “I Will Follow” became my theme song. For months, I had felt the Lord’s tug on my heart. He was calling us to move to Erie, Pennsylvania to begin a ministry there. Fervently seeking clarity, I waited for His direction. When we finally made the decision and announced it publicly, I felt a peace and eager anticipation. But it hasn’t always been that way when responding to God’s call on my life . . .

Where you go, I’ll go

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.”

Proverbs 21:2

As a senior in high school, I had big, exciting decisions to make. Mainly, where would I attend college? Almost right away, I knew that I would not be a student at the big campus just thirty minutes from my home. The Ohio State University was not an option. (It’s funny how I thought I could tell God where He wanted me to go.) When I heard a couple representatives from a nearby Christian university speak, I just knew this is where I should attend. So, I skipped off that fall thinking it would all be just grand. Wrong. I hated it. There wasn’t anything really wrong with the university. It simply wasn’t the place I was meant to be. A couple years later (I only spent one semester there), I walked onto The Ohio State University campus . . . and I fell in love. The classes challenged me and grew my passions in ways I could not have foreseen. I enjoyed opportunities to share the gospel with a confused, and sometimes angry, world.

When my two oldest boys were just babies, I tried to tell God no again, albeit in a much less forceful way. I was reading a book at the time (Sister Freaks by Rebecca St. James) that told of courageous, influential girls and women who were willing to sacrifice everything for the cause of Christ. It was then that I heard a small voice whisper for the first time, but I didn’t want to hear it. Oh Lord, please don’t send me to Erie, I prayed. I was terrified and tried to ignore the quiet whisper. I didn’t know then how I would fall in love with this place and the people here. I couldn’t see ahead to the joy of serving Him or the marvel at the wonders He would do in our lives.

I will follow you

“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there . . .”

Hosea 2:14-15 NLT

In 2008, God once again called me out of my comfort zone. Our growing family left the church where I had grown up and began attending a church on the other side of town. Oh Lord, I love it so much here. Please don’t ever ask me to leave, I pleaded. You would have thought by now I would have learned that His ways are higher than my own (Isaiah 55:9). Instead, I went through a wilderness journey with the Lord. During our last full year there, He removed all my distractions and lured me away. I experienced one of the loneliest times of my life, but God used that time to prune me and prepare me for the places He had for my future and for the future glory He would reveal in all our lives.

All your ways are good

All your ways are sure

I will trust in you alone

“And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.”

Exodus 13:21

Many of us have heard the story of Moses and the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea, but did you ever stop to think that God led them there?! He led them to a place with a wall of deadly water before them and the enemy closing in behind them. “They said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness’” (Exodus 14:11)? Would we have said anything different? Would I?! As I type these words, I am standing in the pre-op room waiting for Austin to be taken back for surgery to have a medical device removed from his chest. This month, I have done a lot of reflecting back on the past year. When we pulled into the hospital parking garage today, I again felt a twinge of that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I know this is one of my places now, but I still have a hard time believing it. And oh, like the children of Israel at the Red Sea, how I rebelled and tried to fight against it at first.

Where you stay, I’ll stay

“And be sure of this: I am with you always . . .”

Matthew 28:20 NLT (spoken by Jesus)

The night before we received Austin’s official diagnosis, I knew what was coming and I hated this place. I still remember where I was standing when I called my best girlfriend and cried angry tears. My head swam and my eyes blurred. I didn’t want to look into the other faces of the hurting or hear their stories. I didn’t want to stay in this place!

Who you love, I’ll love

How you serve, I’ll serve

“It was necessary for Him to go through Samaria.”

John 4:4 AMP (emphasis mine)

Jesus didn’t shy away from the hard places. He went to the broken, the shamed and the dying. He traveled through Samaria, a town most Jewish people avoided, to meet with a woman, outcast by society and drowning in her own pain. He came to touch the places that she kept hidden away and to show her redemptive love. He went to the sick, those that no one dared go near. He came to bring healing and promise of a better future. And Jesus hurt for them (Matthew 9:36, Luke 19:41, John 11:35).

name tag

This place — this hospital with its hallways and waiting rooms, doctors and nurses and child care specialists, patients and families – this is the place I have surrendered to the Lord, and it has become my place. So, I smile at the person behind the desk, laugh with the staff, hug the nurses, grieve with the broken and listen to the stories of the newest families. Like Paul, I have seen glimpses of His glory in the suffering (Romans 8:17). And sometimes, it hurts. There is a weariness in the days lived in hospital rooms and anxious nights spent waiting and wondering. There is pain in death and grief so terrible you forget to breathe. But I don’t want to be numb. Because maybe God has placed me here “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). I love these people in this place, and I don’t want to forget what it felt like to be in their shoes. For as long as these hands are able, let me serve them with a compassion that says, in some way, “I understand.” I don’t want to forget those that work long hours at something that is far more than “just a job.” It is a calling, and they take it home with them. They grieve. They have shared our tears and our laughter (Romans 12:15). I pray, that they will see glimpses of God’s glory shining through us. During our regular check-ups and all the bends and turns in the road, may they be glad to see us because we bring joy to this place. And for those that are suffering, may they see hope in our story – a hope that surpasses anything that this world offers.

Lord, help me to always say “yes” to the places where you lead me. I know Your ways and thoughts are higher than my own. So, in this place, at this time and for Your purpose, I surrender.

“To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”

1 Corinthians 9:22

February 25, 2016

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh

*”I Will Follow” Lyrics by Jason Ingram, Ruben Morgan & Chris Tomlin

2 thoughts on “Surrendering My Places

  1. Marie. — My prayers are with you and your family. I had no idea that Austin was not doing well. This is Austin’s journey. We don’t know why some journeys are so hard. I will continue to pray for your little man. Continue to trust in God and his wisdom.. Miss you guys. Barb Sullivan

    1. Thank you! Although we don’t know what the future holds, Austin is doing much better now! He has finished his treatments and currently showing no signs of cancer (only side effects from the tumor and treatment). God is good all the time and no matter what!

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