Monday, May 17, 2010

What's Spillin'?

“I have a ten-inch scar on my thigh.” That was the opening line of the pastor’s sermon yesterday at church.

He went on to tell the story of his diagnosis, treatment, and healing of melanoma—skin cancer. I’ve had two good friends who died from that dreaded disease. Melanoma gets started in the skin, which is the largest organ in the body. The cancer takes advantage of that big open road and can move at Autobahn-like speeds, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

The pastor asked the congregation to read with him the first few verses from the New Testament book of James. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. Pure joy? Trials? Are you kiddin’ me?

I’ve read through the entire book of James several times. If you want a real challenge—if you want to be the best you can be—forget about joining the Army. Read the book of James!

The pastor held in his hand an open bottle filled with water, and he shook it. Water immediately began spilling out onto the floor. It wasn’t coffee that splashed out—neither was it tea or juice or champagne. You see, when life shakes us up, what spills out is exactly what’s been poured in.

The diagnosis of cancer shook up the pastor’s life. God, faith, and hope spilled out.

When our oldest son was 18 he was lost in his world of drug addiction. Because he was a legal adult, there was nothing I could do to help him. I could only love him and pray. There were long weeks when I didn’t know if Dallas was alive or dead. I had no idea where he was sleeping or if he was safe. I cried every night.

Then, as if my world wasn’t scary enough, our 16-year old daughter ran away from home. I kept going. I kept working each and every day—teaching, laughing, and dancing. I began my days at 4:30 or 5:00, took a quick shower, made a few phone calls, drove around town putting up “missing” posters, then off to work. After school—more phone calls and more posters, then to my second job. I’d crash around midnight. Everyday it was the same routine.

One day my boss and friend, Dan Pessano, said, “Liz, there’s a storm swirling around you, but you keep smiling. You’re Miss Mary Sunshine, and I appreciate you.”

I didn’t feel like Miss Mary Sunshine, that’s for darn sure! I was spending a lot of time crying, after all! But this was the deal…the people around me knew my life was falling apart, but they were noticing something in me. My life was being shaken and what was in me was spilling out.

I’ve written before about the woman who once told me I was “too weak” to be her friend. I believed her. Until life shook me to my core, that is. People who watched me walk through that fire tell me I’m the strongest woman they know.

Our family troubles did not shake our family alone. Our extended family and friends were shook as well, and what came out of them was not always good stuff. Some of them oozed criticisms, judgmental attacks, anger, confusion, and denial. Most people did nothing at all. Others, in their desperate attempt to help, gave stones when we needed bread.

We were shook, and what was in us came spilling out.

If you haven’t been shaken by life, you will be. The biggest challenges are like a melanoma—if left unchecked it will move quickly and take over the whole body. If it’s dealt with, it will leave a scar, but you’ll learn what you’re really made of.

So, what’s in your cup? Fill it up with the good stuff—God, faith, love, and family.

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