It was just before my eleventh birthday when I got the news that changed my life.
I had cancer.
I didn’t understand how this could happen to me… I had always been a healthy, carefree kid. My life consisted of homeschool, church, singing, acting, dancing, and hanging out with our family of 7. None of us could have seen this coming.
It started like this: One day, I noticed a pain in my right leg that seemed to come from nowhere. As the pain increased, I limped from the discomfort and my parents began to seek answers. Doctors told me that what I was experiencing was merely growing pains. But the pain only got worse as the months droned on.
It wasn’t until I finally got an MRI that showed a small mass just below my right knee that I was sent in for surgery where they did a biopsy of the mass. Finally, after excruciating days of waiting in the hospital for results, my family and I were told that I had Ewings Sarcoma. This is a rare bone cancer that usually occurs in children during their growth period.
I was one of those women who motherhood surprised. I had always wanted to have children – but considered it more of a far-out, “someday” thing. I was busy still settling into married life, learning to take care of a home, and working on my ministry. When my husband and I found out we were pregnant, we were shocked. I knew nothing about being a mom and only a little about watching other people’s babies. Not raising one.
I frantically bought every good book I could find about “what to expect”. Could any book even begin to prepare me? I put my writing and speaking aside temporarily to focus whole-heartedly on this new little creature rapidly growing inside of me. I wanted to be ready when they arrived. I wanted to be a good mom.
On May 10th, at 3:29am, my daughter, Scarlett Grace Omartian, made her debut! She was beautiful. She was perfect. I couldn’t believe I was seeing the intricately formed little creation that God had been knitting together inside of me. He did such a great job.
But what now? All I wanted was to go to sleep and recover from my exhausting middle-of-the-night labor so I could then happily coo over my new baby angel. However, hours later, even when the lights were out, I couldn’t take my eyes off the little human swaddled up next to my bed in her rolling cart. New feelings I had never experienced before swept over me.
What if I closed my eyes for a second and she stopped breathing? What if she starts choking while I’m asleep? What if, what if, what if…
I laid there with my wide-eyes glued to her while panic, joy, peace and terror mingled in my soul as though they were familiar with each other. As though they had been meeting for centuries in the hearts of new moms all over the world.
The next few weeks were rough for me. I’d be lying if I tried to candy coat it any other way. Breastfeeding got off to a rough start and required all kinds of tricks and “processes” in order for Scarlett’s feedings to be consistently sufficient. My amazing husband, Chris, was there with me through it all.
Numerous occasions I thought I might be going insane because of how sleep-deprived I was. ALL. I. WANTED. was a few consecutive hours of uninterrupted sleep. That’s it! Was that even possible any more? Would I ever sleep again? How could I live on the brink of delirious insanity? My life flashed before my eyes as I feared it might officially be over.
My friends brought me meals, hugged me, and told me it would get better. But I didn’t believe them. I thought every mom that I had ever known just handled it more gracefully than me. One bewildered trip to Target I’ll never forget openly staring at every single mom I came across in the store. I remember thinking as I saw one mom with three (!!!!!!) kids, “YOU’RE ALIVE!!! And so are your kids!!! And you all look HAPPY! How did you do it?!”
You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. Those were the exact words that came screeching out of my brain.
But my friends and family were right. It did get better. Day by day, week by week. I began to get the hang of this new life a little more, and I began to enjoy it. Of course, Scarlett starting to sleep through the night definitely had something to do with that!
I began to make peace with parts of me that died. Parts of me, frankly, that needed to die. Like my selfishness. I didn’t have a clue how selfish I was until my little girl showed up. Even during the pregnancy, I began to realize that this whole journey was not about me. The sickness, the sacrifices I needed to make to keep her healthy, the carefulness, the pain I’d need to undergo. All of it was for a much greater purpose that I could feel a glimpse of inside, but couldn’t yet see.
What a greater purpose my Scarlett is. And how metaphorical is childbirth to our lives! We go through things that require us to stretch, painfully expand and endure… sometimes leaving scars. But if we surrender to the Lord’s plan for this painful growth, this process births something far more beautiful in our lives than we ever could have dreamed. It’s perfect! It’s sweet. And it grows and grows with a life of it’s own that is so much bigger than we are.
Today, my amazing daughter is one years old. And it also happens to be Mother’s Day! I woke up this morning with overwhelming joy and thrill at the miracle God has done in my life over the course of this year. I am so grateful. I am so grateful. I love being a mom. I love my daughter. I love this journey. And as I type this, I am even feeling the flutters of our second baby who is 18 1/2 weeks old kicking around in my stomach! What did I do to get to bear these precious miracles? Nothing. With my life story, they are here against all odds as it is.
Thank You for Your plan for mothers, God. I’m in awe of the role You’ve given us and the amazing journey that You have laid out for each one of us. Thank You for Your strength which has personally carried me through this year. You and I both know I wouldn’t be standing here without You.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you precious women. I am inspired by you and am cheering for you as we march out our lives together!!!
So, we all know that our news feeds have been blown up with this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It has spread like wild-fire and has brought up all kinds of enthusiastic support, concerned opinions, and ethical controversies. But this post is not really about ALS or ice buckets. It’s about something deeper that I’ve observed through watching the phenomenon unfold.
1. People like to help others. YAY. I love that so many people are anxious to rally around something that they believe will help others. One of the blessings of the internet is that we have so much more information about world issues at our fingertips and we are presented with ways to genuinely help. It thrills my heart to see people come together to help others – it is what we were created to do.
2. [In General] It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon… … without knowing where it’s going first! Social media has made it easier than ever to attach our name in support to all kinds of things by casually clicking “like” or “share”. The trouble is, clicking a button is SO easy, that many people (myself included) have at times fallen prey to supporting something they haven’t actually researched themselves. This is not a bash to the ALS Association at all – but I do wonder, how many people actually researched the org before preparing the ice water or committing to donate. Just a thought.
3. “Causes” are trendy. For once, something meaningful is actually trendy. Charities, social justice, causes, helping people – is popular! Awesome. However, I worry about what it actually means for “causes” to be trendy. Are people really donating or wearing that org’s t-shirt because they are passionate about the mission or because they know it’s cool and feel better about themselves when they do? *It’s certainly not for any of us to judge one another.* (ahem, underline-highlight-star) BUT, a good question to ask of ourselves: What is truly my motive?
4. When we all pitch in a little, something MASSIVE is achieved! The latest news says that the ALS Association has raised a little over $100 million. WOW. In about a month, 100 million dollars were raised by ordinary people all over the country chipping in a little. So often it’s easy to look at major world issues all around us and feel helpless and hopeless in solving them because they just seem too big. But look at what can be accomplished when thousands of people come together in unity over something! Not many people can afford to donate a large amount of money… but when each person donates just a little, whatever they can, it all adds up into being something beyond what each of us could do on our own. (I think there’s a bigger picture lesson here…)
5. What if… people were really challenged to do something. This is the bottom line for me. If our hearts are really genuine about wanting to help people, about wanting to end disease, world hunger, and heart-breaking issues all over the world… why don’t we really do something?
What if we took all of the good that we’ve witnessed with the ALS challenge: the great intentions, the creative fun, the unity of community, the “nominations” which are encouraging others to make a difference too, and generosity, and put that towards the calling that God has specifically given you?
Each of us have been given special talents and gifts to use for God’s glory. And as we follow Jesus, He breathes a unique passion into our heart to serve the world in a specific way. Our purpose is to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39) – our mission is how specifically He is calling us to do that.
Perhaps you’re passionate about abolishing sex trafficking. Finding a cure for cancer. Digging wells for people without clean water. Adopting orphans. Mentoring troubled kids. Caring for the elderly. Serving the homeless. Mending broken families. Ministering to prisoners. Whatever. It. Is.
[[I challenge YOU.]] You have 24 hours to pray about this, consider what God is speaking to you, and take the first action step. It doesn’t have to be big, just one step. Then, whenever you’re ready, share your passion with others. “Nominate” (encourage) others to join you and to take up their own challenge in the callings they’ve received.
“… Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9