It's amazing how things can change within hours.
On Thursday night, Chad and I (and, because of a babysitting snafu, the kids too) headed to Rochester so Chad could speak at a Young Life Fundraising banquet. For those of you who don't know, it was through Young Life that I started on my faith journey. I was 15 years old and, because some cute older boy had invited me, I went to my first Tuesday night YL Club - a crazy, fun, and still after all these years hard to describe, night in which high school kids are packed into somebody's living room or basement and do crazy skits, sing songs and get the opportunity to learn about God, Christ and what that all might mean for them.
Each Tuesday at the end of Club, Mike O'Leary would stand up, open his Bible and share an account from the life of Christ. He did it in such a way that made the Bible come alive - which, to be honest, was a shocker to me because I had always thought the Bible was some boring, old, and not-at-all-applicable-to-my-life book that sat on coffee tables or bookshelves in people's homes. I sit here with a little smile on my face when I think about how I used to view the Bible because, twenty-three years later, it still comes alive for me. It's never meant to gather dust. It's never meant to be showpiece on a coffee table that gets picked up only when tidying the house or if you need a flat surface to write on.
So, as you can imagine, going to a YL banquet and seeing the current high school kids share both the fun/funny side of YL and the serious, change-your-life-forever side of YL, means something to me. It's like coming home in a way. It makes me remember both what it was like to navigate the challenges of high school and it helps me to see how faithful God has been to me over the past twenty-three years, since the moment when I looked up into the starry night's sky on a warm summer night in the Adirondack Mountains and told God that I needed Him and that I would commit my life to following Him.
It also reminds me of Laura and the way that God started a friendship between us that has now lasted almost 30 years. I called her on our drive back to Buffalo. In part to see how she was feeling as she had had some stomach pain a few days prior, but really more so to hear about the now-funny-but-not-at-that-time-funny story of how her 8-year old, Sarah, threw up at the nail salon that afternoon. I laughed as she said to me, "You don't really realize how small those little cotton ball trash cans that sit on the manicurist's table are until you try to have your daughter throw up in one." As we hung up, I told her that I'd call her after she and John returned from the wedding they were attending over the weekend in Indianapolis.
Instead, at 10:30 AM the next morning, John called from Laura's cell phone. Laura was in the Emergency Department with severe abdominal pains. He said he'd call back as soon as they knew more. He called a couple of hours later and I packed my suitcase, hopped in the car, and drove back to Rochester praying that I would get there before they wheeled her into surgery to remove the tumors that were causing her so much pain. The conversation between God and me during that drive was brutally honest. As I drove I poured out my heart to Him, prayed fervently for my friend, told Him my fears, asked Him hard questions, praised His name, and sat quietly and listened. I even sang worship songs so loudly that I probably violated the noise disturbance laws had I not been flying down the Thruway.
From this point, it's hard to know what to tell you. I could tell you that it was incredibly challenging to see her in so much pain. I could also tell you that it was incredibly surprising the amount of laughter took place while we all waited for her to go in to surgery as well as while we waited for the surgeon to come out and tell us how the operation went. And, of course, I could tell you, play-by-play, all that occurred from the time I got there in the early afternoon until when I left to go to my parents' house to sleep in the wee hours of the morning.
But other than telling you that, thankfully, Laura's tumors were able to be removed without complications (don't tell her that I said that; after all, she's the girl with the 10" incision running down her belly!) and she's doing pretty well, I guess the main reason that I want to share all this with you is because of this:
You know what Laura and I did for about an hour in her hospital room on Saturday morning? We had Bible Study. Just two girls: one who looks sick and one who doesn't, but is. Just two girls: one who was dressed in jeans and a sweater and one who was wearing lovely hospital gowns with tubes running in all different directions. Just two girls: one who has three children who need their Mama and one who has two kiddos who need their Mommy. What did we do the first time we had any time alone with each other? She picked up her iPad. I went "old school" and opened an actual Bible and we took a look at two different passages in Scripture.
We talked about 1 Samuel 1 &2 and what it was like to be Hannah, the barren woman who wanted desperately to see her dream of being a mom come to fruition. A woman who lays her heart bare before Her God and tells Him her burden. A woman who makes a costly vow: If You give me a baby, I'll give him back to You so he can serve You wholeheartedly his entire life. A woman who prays joyfully, not on the day that she conceived and then gave birth to that baby boy, but rather on the day she fulfills her end of her vow and gives her son to live out the plan God intends for him - a plan that doesn't include Hannah being by his side every day to care for him and love on him.
We talked about John 9 and the man born blind and how Jesus spit on dirt and placed mud on his eyes and told him to "Go and wash it in the Pool of Siloam so that you'll be able to see." And the man did. What was that like for him? He didn't even know who Jesus was. All he knew at the point was that Jesus was a man. But he obeyed this Man's command and did something that seemed unbelievably foolish to those around him. Wash mud off your eyes in a pool and then you'll see? Really. That's ridiculous. At the command of some guy? You mean to tell me that you're placing your hopes of being able to be healed on this crazy suggestion? Yes. He did. And, guess what? He was. Only later, through the course of time, did he come to a more complete understanding of Jesus - that He didn't come only to give this man sight, but He came to give him life. We talked about how we have incomplete understanding of things, but we're still called to be obedient to what we know. Even if it seems crazy to those around us.
We sat across from one another - in some ways, like we've done time and time again over the years and, in other ways, unlike any other time in our long history together - and we read Scripture, shared what hit us, and marveled at the work of Our Lord...both back in the times that those words were originally written and in the freshness of today when those words were needed to encourage us and teach us and minister to us.
Does that surprise you?
It kinda surprised me. I would have thought we would have done a lot more crying, a lot more "I don't understand", a lot more "oh my goodness, what lies ahead for us." We didn't. And it wasn't because we thought we shouldn't. No, rather, it was because we were overwhelmed by the goodness of God: His timing (one day later and she would have been on a plane or in a far away city dealing with this); the way He directed her to stop chemo last week (if she had had her treatment as planned, her cell counts would have been dangerously low to weather such an invasive surgery); His great love that is poured out from those who know Him; the changes that we're seeing in people we love.
Sitting in Room 2857 at Rochester General Hospital on a sunny Saturday morning and we were overwhelmed by the goodness of God. Impossible, but true.
Needless to say, I am so thankful for 20 plus years ago...for a cute boy's willingness to invite me, for Mike O'Leary and his lovely wife Carol's willingness to invest in me, for a best friend's willingness to stick by me, for a Savior's willingness to die on a Cross for me.
Good stuff, my friends. Good stuff.
Now....it's time for bed for this tired girl. A peaceful evening to you all,