In November 2019, we received the news for the second time that Timothy’s cancer had returned. In the middle of the 7 days of chemotherapy that followed soon after, we squeezed in a family trip to an empty cinema to see Frozen 2. Like me, I’m sure that you have cried at plenty of Disney or Pixar movies. As I watched this song, tears streamed down my cheeks. It portrays the deep grief that Anna was feeling due to the loss of her sister and best friend (yes, he was a snowman!) but how in spite of this she was going to keep going.
You are lost, hope is gone
But you must go on
And do the next right thing
Before this relapse we had been so hopeful, so excited about Timothy’s apparent wellness and him being able to live life to the full, excited at new plans that we were stepping into as a family to be part of God’s work in our new town and home. I was absolutely gutted that so much of what we were hoping for might now need to be set to the side, gutted for what this meant for Timothy and for us as a family. I’ve always been quite determined though that grief, fear and cancer won’t define us…I knew life was going to change, but the words of the song reassured me that even though we had been thrown back into that place of uncertainty we could still be part of God’s work. It might not be the big plans that we had but in this new reality it would rather be “do the next right thing”.
One of my worst characteristics has in many ways seen me through the difficulties that life has thrown at us and this current pandemic – stubbornness (ask my family, close friends and colleagues all about it)! It’s very hard to persuade me take a different path when I’m convinced that something it right…However this very characteristic has come in helpful throughout these difficult years. If something catches my heart and my imagination I put my mind to it and I keep going no matter what. When bad news has come our way, I have tended to take the time needed to process and then pick myself up, re-imagine what pursuing dreams looks like in light of the new circumstances we find ourselves in and try to live as fully as possible. It has been helpful throughout our journey and helped me to not sink into utter hopelessness.
But a few weeks ago I had a terrible week. The sad news of the death of a former work colleague from cancer brought home the fragility of Timothy’s current wellness. There was also the news of increased restrictions on our lives due to Covid 19, and warnings about the length of time we could expect these to endure. With the reminders of what we’ve lost and continue to lose on a daily basis to both cancer and Covid 19 and the fear of what could be ahead in the next months, I felt like giving up on some of the hopes and dreams that God has placed on my heart, bracing myself for the winter ahead and hibernating to just get through.
Ross and I stayed up late that Friday night to watch a conference that was being broadcast from America. The speaker was addressing where we find ourselves at this stage of the pandemic. We’ve lived through the crisis of the initial lockdown, we tasted the hope of reduced restrictions and declining rates of the virus but now we find virus numbers increasing and restrictions being re-introduced with no hope on the horizon of this being over soon. He said that we can deal with this in two different ways…we can either give up or we can push through and keep going.
The speaker described those who push through and keep going as being “resolute”. I love the concept of being “resolute”.
Just before Timothy got unwell again in May a friend of mine gave me a picture (above). In her words it “demanded to be painted”. We printed it out, put it up in our kitchen and looked and looked at it…I asked a friend to pray over it…it provided hope that God would intervene… it brought tears to our eyes. My friend who prayed over it said , “it’s an encouragement re your faith: she has to reach out and up to knock and she is doing that with a determined peaceful look on her face.” At the time it brought hope that Timothy would come home from hospital well. The light breaking through from the other side of the door speaks to me of the kingdom…the kingdom of God breaking through. The knocking is to do with prayer and persistence! I have found the picture has continued to speak in different ways .
The fact that I’m knocking determinedly on the door ties in with being resolute – of not giving up on seeing the kingdom come…through healing (especially for Timothy), people finding hope and wholeness in Jesus, particularly those people outside of our normal church life, through being part of the work of grace that God already started in people’s lives. I desperately want to stay “resolute” in this season but how when all seems so difficult?!
One of the things that puzzled me for a while was the bag in the picture labelled “the bag of everything”. What was this bag? Was it a weight weighing me down? Did I need to drop things? Give up on things I cared about? When I first received the picture I printed out a copy of it using our printer but could only print in greyscale. I didn’t receive the original of the picture until a few weeks later. The print-out portrayed the side of the door that I was standing on, including the suitcase, as grey but the actual colours were more blue. It was when I received the actual painting I saw the bag in different light and remembered what I had preached about on the last Sunday in church before the March lockdown.
We were looking at the passage from Luke 10 where Jesus sends out the 72 disciples. Jesus instructed the disciples not to take a purse, a bag or sandals…he told them they would find everything they need along the way… he told the disciples to travel light… I shared the story below to illustrate this:
When I was a teenager I used to love packing. I’d write list after list, go shopping for what I needed and wonder at how much I could put into a small suitcase or a rucksack. It was one of the best parts about going on a trip. Fast forward 25 years and I no longer feel the same. At least 25 holidays, 4 children and several house moves later I dread it. I wish I could click my fingers and the packing was done!
In my employment I have had the chance to travel recently. Sometimes this means going to a meeting in a city and only staying for one night. I only need to pack one small overnight bag, no towel and the minimum of toiletries. My work is paper free so all I need is a laptop and a notebook. I get to travel light…
I was reminded during that difficult week that the “bag of everything” is a promise from God that he will give me everything I need if I keep pursuing those things that he has put on my heart (and my God will meet all your needs…).
God, how can I be part of what you’re up to today?
In November 2019 God spoke to me through a Disney song. In May 2020 God gave me a picture that spoke to me about being determined to keep seeking God’s kingdom no matter what, with a promise that he would give me everything I need. A few weeks ago when I felt like giving up God challenged me to be resolute.
I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And, with it done, what comes then?
When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again
Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice
And do the next right thing
The words of this song resonate with me but there’s something that makes my experience very different than Anna’s. While it might feel like it, there is no “stumbling blindly” to it! God has got this! There is story after story in the bible about how the God of mission is already at work in people’s lives, ready for normal people like us to join in. Read the story of the Ethiopian Eunoch and the story of Peter and Cornelius for incredible examples of this.
In this season of difficulty I don’t want to give up! I can’t give up on being resolute about healing for Timothy. I can’t give up on being resolute about seeing the kingdom break through in to lives…but I have no idea what that looks like…The reality is that this is not a time for grand plans, or charting out a mission strategy. I don’t have the energy for that and I simply can’t look too far ahead. I don’t know what each day brings…But what I can do is ask God ” How can I be part of what you’re up to today?” and “do the next right thing”.
And why am I writing this? I’m in better form today but there will be many more days when I feel like giving up – on those days I’ll read this post again!