Monday, November 18, 2013


A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from one of my BFFs, Stephanie Claus.  She's made many guest appearances on the John and Carol Show, since we try to get together as families at least once a year - this year we met up with them in San Antonio and did Sea World, which resulted in one of the best vacation pictures ever.  Steph and I roomed together our senior year of college and could often be found playing Boggle in our room when we weren't hanging out with Brian and John or when Steph wasn't studying.  We walked some hard roads that year, since it was the last year of my dad's life and her sister had a recurrence of cancer.  When she asked if she could share this story on the blog, I was thrilled.  It is such a redemptive God story, and Steph (who is a doctor and mother by day) writes so movingly and honestly.

With no more adieu - here it is!  Thanks, Stephanie.

Holy Beauty:
My sister's story and why I haven't given up the faith

I am a doubter. I have a tendency to question, over-analyze and argue myself out of my own convictions. I am naturally empathetic and that empathy more often than not allows me to see quite clearly the validity of another viewpoint. I question why the Old Testament is so full of violent and abusive/oppressive narratives, I question why good people with strong beliefs who happen not to have heard the gospel might not be saved, I question why certain people seem to struggle with so much while others seem to have everything handed to them. In the end I don't really have answers to most of my questions. I have a fair amount of inner struggle and arguing back and forth in my little overwrought head. I have a lot of unresolved questions and a fair amount of doubting my own faith. There have been seasons where the thread holding me to this faith has felt as fragile as a strand of silk, but somehow it has held strong through all my doubts. The one thing that has anchored me through these questions and unresolved issues, the thing that brings me back to a place of peace every time, is story. The story of a God who cares, who risks everything to bring peace and redemption to a people who are difficult to love, the story of a God who is near, who is present, who is all-loving, all-merciful and who can be trusted. The character of God is real and when I hear the stories, whether through a hymn or a Scripture reading or a soul plunging conversation with a friend, my soul is filled with the recognition of Truth. I know that I will always question, always doubt. And in some ways I think it makes my faith stronger, or at least more authentic. But when my faith feels tenuous I look at the beauty of God's story and the stories that He has written, is writing, in my life and others', and my soul finds rest.

The thing about God stories is they're real. They don't have any guaranteed happy endings and you can pretty much count on some messy sin-nature, pain and injustice. But there is a cord that runs through them. A cord of hope, of redemption, of unwarranted joy. And it is that cord that I find myself clinging to even as my doubting mind runs this way and that looking for the logic of faith.  It is a cord of strength, of hope, of holy beauty. So as I have thought through my sister's story over these past several months, I am gripped with awe as I so clearly see my God's loving hand. It brings me to tears every time. It brings me to the heart of God.

Her's is a story of reality at its harshest, of cancer involving the most personal pieces of one's body and soul, cancer not just once as a child but again as an adult. Her's is a story of seasons of depression, oppressive thought patterns and attempted suicide. A story of a womb being lifted out of the belly of a 22 year old virgin with a grapefruit sized tumor clinging to it. Her story is not mine to claim.  Though I walked with her, sometimes closely, I have not walked her road. I have not shed her burning tears. I have not felt the pain and helplessness of looking death in the eye. But in her story there is a cord of hope.  A cord of protection, provision and over all love. And that cord is mine. That is my God. And I cling to that cord because it is my hope and my faith. And because He has written me into His story.


So, ten years later, ten years after that second cancer diagnosis and hysterectomy, I get to see the next chapter of the story. The part that seemed impossible from her hospital room with IV poles and smooth pale head. The part that, if I'm really honest with myself, I did not believe God could do. The joy of family and second chances and miraculous provision. Of twin 8 month old girls received with open hearts of joy last summer. Of watching my sister step gracefully and beautifully into the role of mother. The news of 12 and 14 year old older sisters' stories and lives working their way into my sister and brother-in-law's hearts and their clear conviction that God had opened the door for these too to be their daughters. It has been an incredible story to watch unfold. To see someone beaten down by life in every possible way walk away clothed in joy and peace, without a trace of bitterness or anger. To see your Father respond to every need in a way that so perfectly addresses the intimate details of each void that it leaves you wondering at your own unbelief. To see your sister and dearest friend step up to the courthouse bench, beaming, one daughter in arms and three by her side, stepping into a covenant of love with these four beauties.


But then there was also the part, earlier on in the adoption process, where the CPS worker looked my sister and her husband in the eye and said "are you sure you realize what you're doing? This isn't going to be your fairy tale ending." And they said "yes we do, and we're committed to these girls."  Because they understand that God doesn't commit himself to us only if we don't have baggage, or thinking this is all going to turn out pretty. That's not how a God story works. It is painful, it is unpredictable, it always involves sacrifice and dying to self, and the ending (on this side of eternity) is not guaranteed.

In the end no scientific argument or logic can create the hope that resonates in my soul that I feel when I see God's redemptive story played out in real lives.  There is a hope that can be trusted. My God is here.


Carmen Smith said...

Wow. Beautiful.