Sunrise Season

Two months have passed since I saw the familiar number appear on my iPhone.  It was a few days earlier than I expected, which I had been told wasn’t a good sign.  Hearing the news early usually means the radiologist saw something glaringly wrong; the oncologist needs to see you quickly.

I heard my voice quiver as I answered.  Myra, my dear chemo nurse delivered the news:  NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE!!

Those four words were the words I’d been longing to hear for the last thirteen long months since I got the OTHER call- the call on April 21 informing me of my disease.

Time marches on; we’re now in summer.  The days stretch out like an endless blanket- hot and sticky, smelling of sunscreen and sounding like children’s laughter.  One of the beautiful gifts of going through such a horrific year, is the hyper-gratitude that blows through my heart for normal, everyday life.

The quiet pockets of these summer days contain priceless treasures.  Time to sit with bible and journal before me, and let the Lord meander me through His Word with no agenda, and whisper His love-song to my soul.

 

His love song sings the song of sunrise.

The sunrise of a new season.

A season of redemption.

 

 

“Who am I, Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” 2 Samuel 7:18

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The Divine Romancer

Everyone loves a great love story.

In October 2003, a great love story began.

A clean cut young man at the office caught the attention of my dad.

At the time, love was the last thing on my mind.  I was living overseas, working on an acquisition integration team of a large corporation.  My weeks were full with work, my weekends full with travel.

In October I came back to the States for a visit, to take a class for work and see family.  It was during this visit that my dad decided to play matchmaker.   An invitation issued and accepted, and I found myself awkwardly introducing myself to a stranger on my parents porch.

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But it wasn’t awkward for long.

As the night progressed, my mind started running away from me.  I mentally put my first name with his last, and thought it sounded right.  Everything just clicked and I felt sure that he was feeling the same way…

Up until the time when we went to say goodbye.  No request for my phone number, or email, or even a hug. All I got was a handshake and a stand-offish “nice to meet you”.

The next day, I returned to Austria, confused.  Surely, I couldn’t have been THAT wrong about my feelings, or his, or how well the first date (a bind date, at my parents house), despite the unique circumstances, felt so right.

A couple of days later, he asked for my email address from my dad at work, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Come to find out, he was cautious about how a relationship would work between a gal living in Europe and a guy living in South Carolina.

I’m so glad this small town guy took a risk on this girl with a touch of wanderlust.

Over the next year, we got to know each other through countless emails and phone calls first, then weekend visits.  Eventually I moved from Austria to Atlanta, then ultimately back to Columbia. Nineteen months after that awkward first encounter, we were married.

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I’m so thankful for the gift of romantic love; for the gift of my husband.  The love we share points us to a Perfect Love from a Perfect Pursuer.

This Perfect Pursuer chased my own heart for years. Many many years before He captured it fully.  Many years I affirmed my love for Him, but it was artificial. Superficial.

 

But God didn’t give up. He kept pursuing.

And finally, in 2006 I surrendered to His pursuit, and fell deep into His oceans of grace.

I was His, and He was mine.

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This morning I was talking with a precious friend at church, and with tears in her eyes she shared how God was moving so much in her life.  It took me back to those early days when I first fully surrendered my life to the Lord.  I saw myself in her and could nearly feel how exciting and overwhelmed she was feeling.

Valentines Day is the perfect opportunity to consider God’s love.

God the Father is constantly pursuing us into a deeper love relationship with Him.

As God pursues our heart, we cannot remain indifferent.  His pursuit requires a response. The response of surrender is “Yes, Lord”.

Have you entered this love relationship with the Father?  Has there ever been a time in your life which you surrendered yourself fully to Him?  If you are unsure, I would love to talk with you or email with you about what this means.

If you sense His loving voice beckoning you to surrender your life, DON’T WAIT!Today can be the day of salvation~ the day you enter into the greatest love story of your life!

If you already have a relationship with the Lord, how is Christ pursuing your heart today?  How are you responding to His pursuit?

Something I’ve been pondering lately is that in everything ~ in the good of life, the hard, the painful, and the joyful~ in ALL things, the Divine Romancer is pursuing our heart.  His ultimate goal is to captivate more and more of our heart as we love him more. Many times he uses the sweetest parts of life to beckon us to Himself.  He also uses the difficult seasons to draw us closer, refine us and rid us from heart idols that rob our affection for Him.

It’s been helpful for me to ask myself this question when I have a difficult circumstance, or a trying time especially “How is the Divine Romancer pursuing me through this?  How can this circumstance serve to draw me nearer to Him?”

I recently read some writing from a twenty-somthething student at Fuller Seminary.  This stirred my soul~ may it stir yours today  “Seeking God means letting my yearning heart meet His yearning heart. It’s a beautiful interaction between two lovers. I don’t reach out to get His attention or win His affection. I reach out to meet His loving gaze. I don’t seek Him to stir His heart, I seek Him to encounter His passion for me that’s already burning in His heart.”

If you feel stagnant in your pursuit of God, remember back to a time in your Christian walk that you had a greater passion to know Him and love Him more.  Consider this question~ what are the things in life which stir my affections for HIm?  Is it nature? Is it solitude in His Word? Is it writing or music?  Is it spending time sharing with friends who love the Lord? Or maybe it is through serving those in need.

Ask yourself – what are the things in life which stir your affections for him?  He has made each of us perfectly unique, so what stirs your affection for Him is likely different from mine.  Make sure your daily schedule has margin to incorporate the things that stir your affection for the Lord.

Author AW Tozer says in “The Pursuit of God” (one of my favorite books, by the way) “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love”   Ponder that for a bit in the quiet spaces in your afternoon.

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Today  is Valentine’s Day, and whether or not you have a “Valentine” to share this day with, if you have faith in Christ, you have a Divine Valentine.  Jesus is the lover of our soul; a Divine Romancer who pursues you with His love, grace, beauty, mercy, goodness, perfection.

Allow Him to stir your soul, and then, by His grace, actively listen to Him, overflow the truth of the Gospel, and continue to follow Him, wherever He leads.

 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38-39

Let’s continue to journey together…

April 21, 2015

It was a Tuesday.  The day before, I had a mammogram (my very first), then an ultrasound, then a biopsy of three areas of “concern” in my right breast.

Tuesday afternoon, I was in my car when I got “the call”.  I remember the call like it was yesterday.  The kind nurse on the other end of the phone said those words…”It’s cancer”.  She then shared that she had prayed for me before picking up the phone to make that call.  She didn’t have to say that.  As a matter of fact, she could probably get in trouble for saying that.  But she took the time to pray for me, at that time an unknown patient, and then had the guts to TELL me she prayed for me.

It was a kiss from heaven to remind me, as my world was shattering all around me, when life felt out of control, that there was someOne still in control.

I don’t remember much else from the phone call.  In the moments after I put the phone down, all I could think of was my three sweet children and husband.

In those moments, cancer went from a terrible disease that happened to other people, to a world-rocking diagnosis that could possibly leave my children motherless and my husband a single dad of three young children.

My emotions were all over the place in those first few days, but I remember so clearly feeling so called to walk this journey publicly.  I felt so called to write and share what God could do through cancer.  I clung to the promise that He could use it for good (Romans 8:28).

Throughout this entire journey, I’ve clung with all my might to the “story beneath the story”.   It’s the unseen story~ the story of FAITH that God is writing in my life and the lives of those I love.  Cancer is merely one of God’s instruments to write this “story beneath the story” in my life.

Cancer? That’s the seen story. It’s the temporal story. It’s real, but it’s not the most important story that God is writing here.  My God is using this terrible disease in so many amazing ways. Beauty from ashes.  I hope I’m clear in sharing those glimpses of His abounding grace.  The faith story is eternal. It’s what I want to focus  on – not just through cancer but through all of life.  I can so easily forget where to fix my eyes – and as soon as I start looking at my circumstances, I SINK!

By God’s grace, and Lord-willing, it appears that the final stretch of this seen story ~ my cancer journey~ is nearing an end.   Seven weeks of radiation, starting Monday, and every three week herceptin treatments till early May.  Then scans every so often, a daily pill for five years.  And this seen story draws to a close.

Copyright Becky Williamson Photography WEBSITE: www.beckywilliamsonphotography.com EMAIL: beckywilliamsonphotography@gmail.com

But as long as I’m drawing breath, the unseen story – the story of faith continues.  And I want to keep writing and sharing this.  Not to draw attention to ME, or MY story – but to the One who is writing ALL of our stories.

I have a passion to inspire and encourage women in the trenches of life~ whether it’s a woman feeling stretched thin in the grind of life; a friend whose heart is tender and vulnerable in a difficult season or waiting, a mother struggling to find her purpose, or a sister in Christ who is walking her own story of suffering.  I’ve been this woman and I long to listen, and say “yes, me too”.

I have a passion to remind my readers that through a relationship with Jesus there is purpose behind the pain, goodness in the grime of life, mission in motherhood, opportunities in the ordinary,  joy in the journey, a Savior in  your suffering.

Many days, I write simply to remind myself.

As the Lord closes the chapter entitled “cancer”, I will continue to write as the Lord continues to teach me, mold me, encourage me and draw me deeper into His loving arms.

My words, I pray, point to THE Word ~ Jesus, the Word made flesh. My words are just an expression of who He is to me….just one imperfect woman seeking to be an extravagant worshipper with my life…one woman, just like you, covered in His abounding grace seeking to Know the Grace-giver, and make Him known.

Will you read along, friends? Let’s continue to journey together.

(From Exodus 15~ portions from my chronological daily reading this morning)..My soul swells in worship to who God is!  He defeats all enemies~ Pharaoh’s army, cancer, and the ultimate enemy- satan!

2The Lord is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
    your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
    you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.

The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
    I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
    I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
    you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.

17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
    the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
    the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

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yes.

A New Song for the Final Stretch

On my 35th birthday, two months before I heard “It’s Cancer”,  I sat on a bed in a Midtown NYC hotel room, bible and journal spread open in front of me.  My husband decided to go workout, and I decided to use that sliver of down time for some quiet time.

Just me and the Lord.

I wrote “Father this is the first day of my new year with You.  Every year of life with You is sweeter than the one before.  Each year is an opportunity to KNOW You more fully and therefore LOVE You more completely.  Father God, I give you this upcoming year of my life, and the days that are ahead of me.  What is ahead for this coming year?”

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Snowed in for my 35th bday

Yesterday I drove once more to Lexington Medical Center. This day as I drove, a cold icy rain was falling from the grey clouds, which reflected my mood.

My heart was heavy. The weariness of this journey is beginning to set in.

It truly does feel like a marathon.

As I made my way down I-77, to I-277, to I-20, to I-26 (yes, four interstates!)  my mind began to wander towards the similarities of the cancer journey and a marathon race.  As I’m nearing the final stretch, discouragement and weariness can easily set in.  In the running world, it’s called “hitting the wall”.

My final stretch of radiation is upcoming, and instead of looking back at the many ways God has proved faithful, I’m tempted to look ahead at this final stretch and just want to quit.  I guess this is called hitting the “cancer wall”

Really, I’m just over it.

My appointment yesterday was a “radiation planning” appointment, where they took pictures, made measurements, and made some lovely blue X markings on me).  As I scurried to my car after the appointment was over, hot tears finally escaped and mixed with the icy rain.

As I drove home, grieving all that cancer has taken from me, I had a little chat with the Lord.

“Abba Daddy, I’m just tired. I’m ready for this race to be over.  I want to stop running. And Lord, how do I know that the race really will be over soon? What if it extends beyond what I’m expecting? God this feels like a marathon I didn’t sign up for! At least marathoners get a chance to train for their long race! No one would sign up for a marathon without training for it.  I feel like you dropped me on the starting line of this cancer race, and the explosion of the gun rang in my ears as I stumbled across the starting line; looking around in this unfamiliar race.”

The fact is, no one signs up for this difficult race.  The fact is, no one would choose to run this course.

As I turned up the worship music, the Lord spoke to me in the most gentle way.

“my daughter, I did prepare you.  You’re right, you didn’t train for this marathon.  I TRAINED YOU.”

In my minds eye, I could picture myself at my dining room table early in the morning over His Word…coffee and journal nearby.  I saw the people He has put in my life to speak words of truth and sharpen me, encourage and correct me.  I saw the bible studies, and conferences, and Sunday services I attended…soaking in His truth and promises.   I could almost see my soul being strengthened as HE did the hard work of training this weak soul for the race that was to come.

I think about that with a smile…that GOD KNEW.  I look back on my journals and it’s so clear He was preparing me for the race.  Only I didn’t know that He has already signed me up for this marathon.

“What is ahead for this coming year?” I wrote as I looked ahead to my 36th year. 

I’m so thankful I didn’t know, because I would have run the other direction, like Jonah did when confronted with his difficult task (and we know how that turned out!).

As I’ve reflected on how far God has brought me, and how He has always been faithful, my sorrow cannot help but turn to joy.  I’m thankful today that He has drawn me up, once more, out of the pit of destruction (the pit that looks more at my CIRCUMSTANCES than at my GOD).  I’m thankful that His Grace Abounds – to me….as I run this race SO imperfectly.  His Grace Abounds as I stumble, and look to the left and right and envy others’ races.  His Grace Abounds as He reminds me that MY RACE MATTERS.  Its so that many would “see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:3)

In these weary moments, He woos me once more to where it all began – His Word – His precious promises – His steadfast love and faithfulness.  And He puts a new song in my mouth.  He removes the song of weariness, and self-pity, and discouragement, and puts a new song that only He can write.

This is a new song for the last leg of the race.

It’s a song of praise to our God!

These last few miles, it’s this song that will keep me going, though my legs grow weary.

From Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the {WOMAN} who makes
    the Lord {HER} trust…
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.

I have told the glad news of deliverance
    in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
    as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
    I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    from the great congregation.

11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
    your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!
12 For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    Lord, make haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
    who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
    say continually, “Great is the Lord!”

 

 

 

It Matters {why write?}

Every now and then I meet a friend and although I barely know her, I feel like I know her soul.  Ellen Parker is one of those friends.  On her blog a while back, she posted this video and it rocked me like little else I had heard before.  This post from the archives of my writing is dedicated to you, Ellen, as you have shown me that “it matters”.    (Cancer update at the bottom of post)

If video does not appear click this link to see “Why it Matters” by Sara Groves

(written January, 2014)

“Like the statue in the park

Of this war torn town

And it’s protest of the darkness

And the chaos all around

With its beauty, how it matters

How it matters”

-Sara Groves

 

Why write? Why express? What’s the point in taking these jumbled prayers and thoughts and dreams and hopes, and sitting down, and actually putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard until they make sense?

It happens like this: I see a thing of beauty, and it conjures up a thought; an idea…and a connection is made.  A spark of great beauty in the midst of a regular day… even if just for a moment.

A sunrise.  A sunset.  The twinkle in a child’s eye.  An old hymn.  A kindred spirit friend.  The way the sunlight comes through my window and stretches across the hardwood.

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A reality is the spark can be snuffed out as quickly as it comes.  All it takes for it to dim is a back- seat argument, a terse word, a weight of fear.  BUT…what if…what if these tiny little sparks could keep flickering?  They would illuminate my world.

The beauty is there, we just must search for it, and seek it, as if for a lost treasure.  And then, once we find it, we need to express it.  And encourage others to see their little sparks.

It means connecting on a deeper level and not just living in the day to day flesh story, but seeing the deeper meaning and the deeper story that lies just beneath the surface.  It’s God’s story..the story of faith He’s writing in all things.  If we look hard enough we can see sprouts of it in this world.

As Sara Groves puts it – we are living in a war-torn town. No doubt this life is full of pain and hurt and tears, broken relationships, abuse, hate, sadness.  This world has been ravaged by an enemy leaving trails of brokenness behind him.  But there IS beauty, even in wartime. 

This is why it matters.  There is purpose in creating beauty in these savaged streets, because the beauty reminds our soul that THIS war time?  IT’s TEMPORARY.

As we see beauty sprouting through the rubble, hope springs in our hearts. We are reminded of the One who created beauty, and is an expressive God.  In an amazing act of love, God sent His ultimate expression of beauty–Jesus Christ, who came to dwell with us.

Let’s look for the Beauty which continues to dwell with us. On the darkest of days, the beauty is a beacon reminding us of the bigger story.

This is why I write.  This is why I create. To make sense of these days which turn into years, which ultimately make up my lifetime.

This war- torn town….THIS IS NOT ALL THAT THERE IS.   Seek the beauty and then express it in whatever medium: words, photographs, music, art.  We all need the reminder that this isn’t it.

We need more statues in this war torn town.   It matters.

 

“…Friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. … Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

Philipians 4:8-9 (The Message)

 

Cancer Update (5/22/15):

I have felt the best today that I’ve felt in over a week.  HALLELUJAH!  I have been eating and, although still fatigued, at least I’ve been able to eat. I’m regaining my strength day by day!  So many glimmers of grace, including my friend Amanda coming over today to give me a pedicure, and take me to Target to pick up some medicine. I stayed in the car while she went to get the meds, and my friend Laurie was in the parking lot walking back to her car with her daughter Caroline (sweet high schooler in my discipleship group) and they came over to speak and hug.  SO great to see them.  It was a great day :)  God is good.  Thank you for your prayers!!!

His grace abounds,

Brooke