Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Watch & Wait, by M

Did you know that there is an actual treatment protocol for certain cancers called "watch and wait"? I didn’t know this was a real thing until I started spending every working hour talking about cancer. But it is a very real cancer treatment. And by "cancer," I mean full-blown cancer cells… we’re not talking "pre-cancer" or "could-be cancer." There are a group of people who go to the doctor, receive a cancer diagnosis, and they are told that their treatment will not be chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, or any clinical trial. Instead, it will be "watch and wait."

What a terrifying thing, right!? Before I started working at my current job, I had heard a rumor of this and I thought it to be the most ridiculous thing in the universe. I proudly declared that if I was ever in those shoes, I would not tolerate watching and waiting… I’d scour the country to find someone, anyone who would give me an actual treatment. How could watching and waiting be advisable to anyone who has cancer growing inside them?

Well, now I know better.Now, I know patients who are watching and waiting, and I know exactly why they’re doing it. Turns out, it is a better way. Who knew?

The deal with watching and waiting is that it is a defensive posture. At first, that seems silly in the face of such a formidable opponent. Why not go on the offensive? Why not be proactive about things? But, there are good reasons for this choice. There are clear, researched, medically-sound reasons for why watching and waiting is more advisable in certain scenarios than blasting the body with chemotherapy and radiation are. Email me if you want to know specifically (I find it fascinating to talk about, clearly).

So, I say all of this to make a point that "watch and wait" is a very real and advisable treatment for certain people. It is NOT a "non-treatment", as I previously assumed. There are benefits to heading this protocol and great dangers in bypassing it. And, I say all this to communicate something really important… that watching and waiting (in life) is also not to be dismissed. As Ecclesiastes says, there is a "season for every activity under the sun." I am learning that there is certainly a season for watching and waiting. And that season is important.

My life is all about watching and waiting these days. As I mentioned in my previous post, it seems like everyone else is moving full-steam ahead in their lives, while God has written me a prescription for watch and wait. It is totally frustrating at times… I just want to know what is going to happen in the coming months. I want to know where I will live, what I will drive, where I will work, what my community will look like, where my relationship is going, what my financial situation will be. Right now, I have no answers. Well, except a whisper from God… "Monica, watch and wait."

So, I’m learning to find the value in it. You know who else had to watch and wait? Pretty much every one of the Bible's heroes. The story I’m landing on the most, though, is Sarah and Abraham. Man they were waiting a long time! Sarah and Abraham (or should I say Sarai and Abram?) had both lived 75 years childless. At that point, God promised that they would have offspring... tick tock, tick tock... Nothing. We often look at the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael and think to ourselvs "holy cow! Couldn't they have just a little more patience? Didn't they trust God at all!?" Yet, Genesis 16 tells us that Ishmael was born when Abraham was 86 years old. That's 8+ years of waiting. Wouldn't your patience and trust wane? I know mine would.

Moreover, God doesn't speak again on the subject until 15 years after the original promise (that makes Abraham 90 years old). Tick tock, tick tock... nothing. 9 years after that, God tells Abraham again that he will have a son... tick tock, tick tock...  and finally, Sarah bears Isaac at 100 years old. 25 years of waiting. Sarah and Abraham got a big-time command to watch and wait. They tried and failed to trust this "protocol"... they took their future into their own hands and the decendants of Ishmael suffered mightily for it. For them, as for us, there were good reasons for the watching and the waiting.

Thus, I'm trying to trust this. I'm trying to remind myself that watch and wait is not a time out. It doesn't mean that God has forgotten me or forsaken me. Rather, perhaps it means that something greater is awaiting me at another appointed time or, perhaps that taking now what is reserved for my future would result in damage of some sort. Who knows. Either way, I know that I'm in good company here in this holding cell... and I pray that I may be a good steward of this season, until it's my turn to make a move.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Knit Together, by M

Before I get started, I'd like to take a second to recognize that Two by Truth is officially a year old! Thanks to everyone who has read the blog, left encouraging comments, etc. We've really enjoyed working on this, and frankly... I'm pleasantly surprised that we've stuck with it for so long. No project abandonment here!

In thinking about this 1-year anniversary, it has occurred to me that the general premise behind this blog is shifting. This is not because of anything W or I have consciously done, but rather just the currents of our lives changing. Of course, this blog started out as a voice for two twins on decidedly different journeys. Yet, these days it seems our journeys are looking more and more similar. I hope that doesn't bother anyone!

It's really bizarre, actually, the similarities in our lives at the moment. But, is that surprising? Probably not. So, I thought I'd compose this post as a little ode to my "twinny" and to the Creator who "determines our steps" (Proverbs 16:9). I feel so blessed that W and I have parallel paths (at the moment at least) and I think He deserves some praise for this blessing!

Growing up as a twin is a very strange thing. Well, at least that's what I've determined in retrospect. At the time, I suppose W and I thought that our experience was the norm, as it was all we knew. From the very beginning we were best friends (save that fateful 8th grade year) and to this day I consider my relationship with W something that is indescribable to the singleton set. How do you describe a relationship that most of the world has absolulely no idea about? There does not exist a word that defines this bond... it's not friend, it's not sister... perhaps "soulmate" is as good as it gets. Yet, even our contemporary ideas of what a "soulmate" is are not good enough for what my twin is. Perhaps, twinship is the perfect definition of "soulmate" where all romantic inclinations of the word inevitably fall short. It is weird and beautiful to think that W and I literally were once one being... I suppose, one soul.

Yet, this has caused some confusion and questioning at various points in my life. For example, I hate that elementary school sentiment that "everyone is like a unique snowflake... no two are alike." Oh okay. Well where does that leave me!? haha Growing up, sometimes I feared that being an identical twin meant that one or both of us weren't "supposed" to exist... like our spontaneous split in utero meant that while everyone else came about because God wanted them and needed exactly them on earth, W or I just came about randomly and now there's two where perhaps there was only meant to be one. I know that is totally dumb and untrue, but as a kid, sometimes that's what I thought in light of others' sentiments about God creating us to be "uniquely you," as they say.

I have always thought of the verse in Psalms where it talks about being "knit together" as talking about us. In reality, David is talking about God knitting just him together, but I absolutely think that W and I were "knit together" as well... both within ourselves (as David was) and with each other. And how cool... take a look at the verse that follows:

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:13-14)

Now I'm more of the mind that W and I are so awesome that one of us just wouldn't do. haha! But really, I take comfort in the fact that God knit us together and He made both of us wonderfully for purposes that perhaps only we could fulfill both individually and collectively.

And now, I'm just in awe of how God is using both of us in similar ways and how He has provided for us emotionally and spiritually in each other on our parallel paths. It's almost like we keep leapfrogging along the same path... one ahead of another and on and on and on. Those of you who know us personally are aware that we have not lived together since high school... we've been separated for 7 years and counting. (That is crazy to me!) But, check out this series of events since we've been "on our own": we both started college as theatre majors in Ohio... then W moved south and set her sights on serving in the non-profit arena. Then I had a brief stint in Teach for America... and W moved back up North. Then I moved south and started in educational programming in non-profit... and W had her brief stint in Teach for America. Then W got married to a nice blond-haired, blue-eyed Chrristian boy...and I started dating a nice blond-haired, blue-eyed Christian boy. Then, W plans to move back to the south and work in educational programming in non-profit... and I just might marry this guy. And all of a sudden our paths are like... the same. It's very strange. Not to mention our journeys of faith being on the same trajectory as well.

I've been reflecting on all of this because, honestly, W and I have not intentionally or consciously tried to make our lives mirror each other. We really haven't. I was convinced for a long time that W would live in Tennessee and work with the blind and I would live in NYC and be a theatre professor. Yet, God had other plans for us and it is in His perfection that He has led us to where we are today. I think that is really cool... because here we are facing our own challenges and trials, and in this "leapfrog" effect, one of us nearly always has a tour guide of sorts in the other. It is an incredible blessing and not one that I think is coincidental or random.

So on this day I just praise God for this blessing! I am well aware that my relationship with W is something that very, very few people get to call their own and, for this, I am so very thankful that God appointed the two of us to share this bond. I also know that perhaps this "leapfrogging" through life won't last forever, so while it does, I will share my wisdom and insight with W earnestly and truthfully and pray that she does the same for me. Our God provides for us individually in the ways in which we need it... and He's funny, sometimes, isn't He?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On the Lord Coming Through

Well folks, there are a lot of changes going on in the W and T household lately! The biggest one being that in a few short weeks, we'll be moving back to the South! I cannot even begin to describe my joy over this development. Nashville, TN has had a hold on my heart for many years now, and I am thrilled to be putting down roots there. Heck, we're even buying a house! Many exciting things to look forward to this summer.

One of the hardest parts of making the decision to move was knowing that I would have to give up my job here in Chicago. Getting this job was one of the happiest days of my life. This was the dream job, the job that I have thrived in, the job that is the perfect fit of my passions and skills. And 8 months in, we decided to leave. I was crushed.

But the decision had to be made, and it was and is the right decision for our family. Plus there's the whole thing that in just a few years I may have to evaluate what to do about working and/or having kids. Isn't it crazy how early that reality sets in? That's another post for another time I think.

Anyway, I was crushed. I prayed and I looked for other jobs and I networked. I sulked. I tried to pretend that I could get another job that would be as great. It didn't work. I focused on how awesome it was going to be having the summer off to get settled. I thought about how blessed we are that we can afford, as a young married couple, for me to be unemployed for 2 or 3 months. I scanned through all of my ideas for fun places I could travel to and cool places I could visit while not working. And I was still crushed. And rather faithless.

Fast forward a number of weeks, and the Lord has come through in a HUGE way. In an entirely unexpected turn of events (given the current size of their staff and the lack of expected turnover), the Tennessee office of my current organization was able to create a new position and today I was approved to transfer into it. While I don't get to keep my original dream job, I get to stay with my dream organization and start a new chapter in a new area. What a huge, huge blessing. And for three weeks, I even get to be the breadwinner in our family, and I get to tell T what he needs to do while I'm out working to bring home the bacon! For some reason, this is really enticing to me. But again, that's probably for another post.

...For some reason, until today, I was consistently full of doubt that the Lord would come through.

When has the Lord EVER failed me? He hasn't! When have I ever been left to overcome an insurmountable obstacle on my own? I haven't! Even when the answer does not look how I would expect or desire, the Lord has never left me in a place that he hasn't redeemed for His good, and ultimately, that's what is best for me as well.

I am embarrassed, on days like these, of the smallness of my faith and by my lack of patience. I can think through the seasons of my life and clearly trace his influence and path, and yet every time I get to a point where the next step is unclear, I crumble. Days like today remind me that even when I can't see where I'm going, the Lord is actively putting in place the building blocks of whatever will become the next step. And it's a comforting thought.

So today, I revel in the knowledge that my God is for me and not against me, that he has given me hope and a future, that he listens to the desires of my heart and that I matter to him.

And for tomorrow, when I am doubtful again, I will remember today.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Enough, by M

This is my attempt at finally composing the blog that I intended to post sometime last week. My brain is still somewhat foggy and my heart continues to be somewhat heavy… we’ll see how well I do.

A couple of years ago I developed this totally bogus belief that the one thing I needed in life was a husband. Well, God and family and a husband. But I already had the first two, so I figured that there was just one thing left on my list that I needed to check off before I could feel like I had "arrived." I’m confident now that this squarely falls under the sin of idolatry (which violates the 1st of the 10 commandments, lest I think it’s not that big of a deal) but at the time it just seemed to make sense to me.

I carried this belief with me for years… thinking to myself that some picture-perfect existence awaited me on that magical "other side" of adulthood. All I needed was for that one person to choose me. I just wanted someone (definitely male and preferably handsome) to think that I was the best pick out of all the other women in the whole world. Once I had that, I’d be set. I’d be chosen and wanted and loved… what else do you need?

I harbored bitterness and envy towards my friends or acquaintances who had already found what I was looking for. I grew even more upset when I would hear them complain or see melodramatic facebook updates about how difficult their lives were. Again, I thought to myself "you’re married… how bad can it really be?"

Right now, however, I find myself in a funk… and it’s shattering the illusions that I have had about the mystical power of being "chosen." Because here I am… I have a wonderful boyfriend and a fantastic relationship (one that is increasingly headed towards marriage) and I’m still in this funk! I find that my sinful heart now wants to turn my 3-point list into a 4-point list. We get what we want… that thing we think we just desperately need… and something in our hearts says it’s not enough. We want more. Or is that just me? I don’t think so.

Now that I’ve gotten the guy, all of a sudden I’m desperate for "the job." Now, it seems that all my friends are moving on up in career world and getting their dream jobs and I’m just not. I should be celebrating the gift of my relationship and praising God for the infinite blessings He’s poured into my life… and instead I’m already back to bitterness and envy about that which I do not have. This is an ugly part of the human heart, isn’t it?

And yet, I’m reminded that our desire for more is the result of our design for more. Our Creator made us with longings that will be fulfilled… but only through Him and in the fullness of His presence. He has set eternity in the human heart… as such, can we ever be fully satisfied by only what this world can offer? I don’t think so.

So, I’m working on an attitude re-adjustment currently. I want to have a posture of praise for the blessings I’m aware of and the blessings I’m unaware of (as Job so eloquently puts it those "things too wonderful for me to know.") I’m working on recognizing my longing for more as God-given, and shifting my view of what will be "enough" away from my newest idol and towards our eternal home. Of course we want more… of course this life will never be enough for us. It is not where we belong.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Father's Love, by M

To be totally honest, I've been in somewhat of a funk for the last week or two. I had planned to write a blog post here about why I think that is and what I should be doing about it... as you may have noticed, that post has yet to be composed or published. Oops?

Instead, I think I'll save that for another time (or, perhaps my mood will change and render such a post unnecessary?) We'll see! In the meantime, I thought I'd share with you something that lifted my spirits today.

Below is a piece titled Father's Love Letter, and it's a beautiful composition of truths about our God and how He loves His people. I came across this (well, a slightly different version but same idea) nearly two years ago when I was going through a counseling ministry at my church. Sometimes it's just good to hear the truth, isn't it?

I hope that you can read the following and truly know that God is for you, that He loves you, that He desires good for you, and that you are His precious child. Sometimes, we just need a reminder!

You may not know me, 
but I know everything about you. 
Psalm 139:1
I know when you sit down and when you rise up. 
Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all your ways. 
Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered. 
Matthew 10:29-31
For you were made in my image. 
Genesis 1:27
In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28
For you are my offspring. 
Acts 17:28
I knew you even before you were conceived. 
Jeremiah 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation. 
Ephesians 1:11-12
You were not a mistake, 
for all your days are written in my book. 

Psalm 139:15-16
I determined the exact time of your birth 
and where you would live. 

Acts 17:26
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Psalm 139:14
I knit you together in your mother's womb. 
Psalm 139:13
And brought you forth on the day you were born. 
Psalm 71:6
I have been misrepresented 
by those who don't know me.

John 8:41-44
I am not distant and angry, 
but am the complete expression of love. 

1 John 4:16
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you. 
1 John 3:1
Simply because you are my child 
and I am your Father. 

1 John 3:1
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could. 
Matthew 7:11
For I am the perfect father. 
Matthew 5:48
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand. 
James 1:17
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs. 
Matthew 6:31-33
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope. 
Jeremiah 29:11
Because I love you with an everlasting love. 
Jeremiah 31:3
My thoughts toward you are countless 
as the sand on the seashore.

Psalms 139:17-18
And I rejoice over you with singing. 
Zephaniah 3:17
I will never stop doing good to you. 
Jeremiah 32:40
For you are my treasured possession. 
Exodus 19:5
I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul. 

Jeremiah 32:41
And I want to show you great and marvelous things. 
Jeremiah 33:3
If you seek me with all your heart, 
you will find me. 

Deuteronomy 4:29
Delight in me and I will give you 
the desires of your heart. 

Psalm 37:4
For it is I who gave you those desires. 
Philippians 2:13
I am able to do more for you 
than you could possibly imagine. 

Ephesians 3:20
For I am your greatest encourager. 
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
I am also the Father who comforts you 
in all your troubles. 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you are brokenhearted, 
I am close to you. 

Psalm 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb, 
I have carried you close to my heart. 

Isaiah 40:11
One day I will wipe away 
every tear from your eyes. 

Revelation 21:3-4
And I'll take away all the pain 
you have suffered on this earth.

Revelation 21:3-4
I am your Father, and I love you 
even as I love my son, Jesus.

John 17:23
For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed. 
John 17:26
He is the exact representation of my being. 
Hebrews 1:3
He came to demonstrate that I am for you, 
not against you. 

Romans 8:31
And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled. 
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
His death was the ultimate expression 
of my love for you. 

1 John 4:10
I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love. 

Romans 8:31-32
If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, 
you receive me. 

1 John 2:23
And nothing will ever separate you 
from my love again.

Romans 8:38-39
Come home and I'll throw the biggest party 
heaven has ever seen.

Luke 15:7
I have always been Father, 
and will always be Father.

Ephesians 3:14-15
My question is…
Will you be my child? 

John 1:12-13
I am waiting for you. 
Luke 15:11-32