Trials That Change Your Fabric

 

There are trials. And then there are the trials that change your fabric.
The lessons of pain and beauty become so intertwined that they’re forever joined. I wouldn’t say it defines me, but this story is woven in so tightly now that I can’t separate it from who I’ve become.

This is my family, somewhere around 1986. You can tell by my sister’s hair. She was so good at feathering.

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I grew up in a small town in Oregon. My parents were new Christians and we had a sweet childhood. My mom was an especially bright spot, light of the world really.

Right before my 14th birthday my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 40. She was a nurse, the cancer was aggressive, she was aggressive, but it still metastasized. Her lungs, her spine and eventually her brain.

The next 12 years saw 9+ surgeries, 4 seasons of chemotherapy, radiation, a two month hospital stay at The University of Washington Medical Center, a month-long treatment at Loma Linda Medical Center, etc, etc. All the while, trying to work and raise 3 kids with my wonderful (but very heartbroken) dad. God’s hand was working, but pain became very real to us. The rhythms of those years were;

  • Test results
  • Fear and faith taking turns
  • Nausea =baked potatoes for dinner again
  • mom back on the tennis court with dad
  • Off the court and in the hospital again
  • Curious of how mom’s hair would grow back this time
  • Friends bringing meals and sitting with mom while she made them feel better
  • Christmas morning photos with mom in her little turban, thankful for another year together

I was sad a lot and asked God everyday to heal her. I agonized over every opportunity that took me away from her. I cried on her hospital bed when I was 16, scheduled for a missions trip to New Zealand that left the next morning. She had just had a lobe of her lung removed and she begged me to go as planned.

Eventually it was going away to college, summer opportunities, jobs, using my gifts, etc, etc. She pushed me to go.

I saw her suffer. Things I can hardly say out loud without my heart breaking. And I watched my dad suffer. And my sister and my brother. And my 2 best friends that only had her for a mom. And many more who trusted her and were inspired by her.

My mom taught me early to look for the golden threads in our situation. She would say, “We get to see God work in ways others never will.” I didn’t love it when she said that, but looking back now I can see them. Those shiny bright parts woven into us.

  • We celebrated often
  • I lived with an urgency to love well and keep short accounts
  • I became assertive. I listened in meetings with doctors about decisions and asked good questions
  • I didn’t have a strained relationship with my parents like 95% of my friends did with theirs
  • My sister and brother and I clung to each other in ways that still connect us deeply
  • We talked about hard things
  • Petty things seemed petty
  • God felt nearer

12 long years. And then a couple of weeks before I turned 26, on Christmas Eve, she died.

And I found it real hard to find the golden threads. The “good in all of this.” The parts that are “making me better” and “bringing hope to the world.” I still struggle now, 14 years later, to understand why He didn’t let her stay. Why He said “no” to the thousands of prayers for her healing.

Suffering makes us dig deep. Don’t we want deep? Don’t we want real? To know what we’re made of? The chance to witness His redeeming work that brings beauty from ashes?

There are hard realities of living in loss. I need her. I have the complete incredible Jesus, but I want her too. My dad doesn’t get to live the second half of his life by her side. My sister and brother ache for her. She never met my husband.

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Photo courtesy of Chana and Don

(My bridal bouquet with a photo of my mom on her wedding day.)

Now that we have two small kids, boy do I need her. I need her to help me, inspire me and talk me off the ledge. I need her to know them. For them to experience her salt & light, her acceptance and her warmth.

But I can’t bring her back so I’ll accept the depth that has come. I want depth. In my relationships, in my work, in the way I see the world. More than anything I want to see God and frankly that depth often finds its route through our aches and longings. Suffering makes things dark and cloudy, but if we wait long enough and dig deep enough, we’ll find the golden stuff.

Every trial has some golden threads. He weaves them in to remind us that He loves us and that we’re not alone. My very being- the fabric of who I am is shiner now. I’ll never be the same. 

“He is near to the broken-hearted.” Psalm 34:18

Jesus makes a lot of “I am” statements (I am the light, the door, the shepherd, the truth…) and ultimately just says “I am.” Period.

“I am here.”  Not just “I was” or “I will be,” but now, “I AM.” Wherever you’re at, He is sufficient. He lacks nothing. He is complete.

Woven throughout scripture and throughout my life is the truth that He digs deepest. He reminds us, He pursues us.

And when he reaches us, He has what we need.


This week’s “Bright Spot”- Mom’s Legendary Cheesecake

This cheesecake made me love cheesecake. I’m not a big fan of typical cheesecake, but this one…it might change your life. My mom made it most years at Christmas and eventually it was what I requested every year on my birthday. I now make it every chance I get and this cheesecake is legendary. I have been asked for this recipe more than any other thing I’ve made. The secret is that it has two layers; one with cream cheese and one with sour cream. Creamy, a little tangy and altogether perfect.

1 ¼ cups crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter

Combine above ingredients with fork until blended. Cover sides and bottom of a springform pan with mixture using the back of spoon.
Put in refrigerator to set.

Layer #1
1 lb. cream cheese (softened)
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs at room temp
¾ tsp vanilla

Separate eggs and beat whites until stiff. Combine all other ingredients in separate bowl and then fold in egg whites. Mix together until smooth.
Pour over chilled crust and bake at 375° for 20 min. Let cool for 15 min.

Layer #2
1 pint sour cream
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all together and spoon over cooled cake. Bake at 475° for 10 min
Chill in refrigerator until served

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28 thoughts on “Trials That Change Your Fabric

  1. Beautifully written Stephanie. Your mama’s spirit most certainly lives on in you, as you continually apply the things she taught you to your life and the lives of those around you. Love you girl.

  2. Steph,
    Your post touched me in a way I did not expect (aka I cried my eyes out) thank you for sharing these trials with us. You’re such an amazing woman, and I cherish our friendship – you’re still one of my all-time favorite bosses, ever. I will try to look for the “golden threads” in every dark patch.

  3. Steph. Tears are streaming down my face, my nose is running… This was absolutely beautiful and full of truth. You are an incredible woman and I can only imagine (through your stories) how wonderful your mom was. Thank you for writing this!! Today is the 4month mark of losing my grandma and my heart so needed this. I love you! XO

  4. Sitting here with the sting of tears welling up that I choose too often to hold back. Thank you for sharing this story of finding joy in the depths of pain. I needed to read this today. Thank you!

  5. Having just had a complete emotional breakdown about the loss of my dad, I am so grateful to have read this post tonight. Thank you Steph, God is using you in ways you don’t even know.

  6. Steph, my daughter is Joy Posey White. My mother, who would have been her marvelous grandmother, lived to see only the first of her 10 grandchildren. I have wept copious tears over the fact that they never got to know this precious woman, so greatly loved by her family and church community.
    Joy sent this to me last night with apologies, knowing it would be difficult to read. Here is my reply to her:
    “Thank you for sending, Joy. Steph and I could spend an evening deep in conversation, relating our different yet all-too-similar struggles. One thing it made me realize is…I have never written one word–not even journaled–about Mother’s long battle…a battle each one of us was an active soldier in–Jennie, the caregiver; me, the activist/researcher. Why would a writer never scribble a single word about the most heart-wrenching, years-long season of her life? Because the pain and loss were/are still so deep I was and am too cowardly to touch it. But I realized I should–there are so many touching and interesting aspects of that season…facts and vignettes you, Carey and Michael should know, for they are important to your history and heritage. So I realized tonight that before long I must visit this and leave that story for you to read. Her 10 grandchildren should know that part of her story and their heritage. Thank you once again.
    And thank you, Steph, for sharing this.

  7. We had no idea what you went thru. Beautifully written and so true of life itself. Losing a Dad at a very early age gives me somewhat of an insight but a Mom is the glue to everything.

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  9. Here I am after a fun night with your family nursing Paige and crying. Tears of hope and tears of sadness. Tears of trusting God and asking why. Thank you for sharing your heart and reminding me that He is close to the broken hearted. What an amazing mom God blessed you with. You are carrying her legacy in Harper and Sawyer’s life. Love you and all that makes you you.

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  12. Stephanie, my heart aches that you were left without a mother so very young. My mom also died after a long bout with breast cancer, but I had her until I was 59. Never does a day go by without me asking her silently how to handle this challenge or that challenge. The beauty is that I truly believe we will be reunited in that great beyond we call “Heaven” — that I haven’t lost her, she is simply waiting for me in a more glorious place with God. Hugs to you this day and always. – Fawn

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  15. Reblogged this on My Journey and commented:
    Today I came across this beautifully written, very touching, but also most encouraging, blog post written by a young woman who was almost 14 years old when her Mum was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer cancer. Her Mum subsequently died 12 years later, after many surgeries and hospitalisations.

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  19. Psalm 34:18, just what I needed at 4am! Golden threads can become tiring to search for, so thank you for this encouraging ‘re-post!’

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