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.
This letter is living proof that you do, indeed, survive High School. I know sometimes it feels like you won’t, but I promise, you do. I know the struggles that you’re facing deep within your heart right now, and I want to share ten things that I think will help you navigate this better. Being you, about a decade later, I know what you need to know. At least, some of what you need to know. I’m still learning a lot and have a long way to go…
You may not like everything I have to say. Just hear me out.
1. It won’t be this way forever. I know you feel trapped. Stuck in classes and schedules that often don’t feel like they will benefit your dreams. To be honest, many of the things on your tests won’t benefit you in the future. But the discipline you’re learning and the character you’re building from working hard to achieve something are essential tools that will be invaluable to you for the rest of your life. I know you want to jump out of your skin sometimes because you’re dying to fast-forward to the life-changing things you want to do. But let me tell you… the way you spend your days right now is currently shaping your future life. So be careful and wise. And know this season is truly short.
2. Protect your heart just as much as your body. I know you’re all focused on protecting your body right now from sexual promiscuity and THAT’S A GOOD THING!!! Keep it up!! But your focus on solely protecting your body in relationships is causing you to more freely give away your heart. Your words can create ties to another person’s heart that you’ll have to undo later when you realize they weren’t the person you were going to marry. If you focus on guarding your heart first, above all else, you will find it even easier to guard your body too. It’s not meant to be a legalistic thing. God is trying to protect, preserve you and keep you whole. It will be so worth it when you marry the amazing man God has for you… I would know!!! “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23
3. The opinions of people you are trying to impress now won’t matter AT ALL later. I cannot stress this enough. You know the “cool” kids who you want to think you’re cool? You never see them again. And… I may or may not have noticed, the cool kids don’t always end up being cool later…
4. Don’t be a flirt. I know you fervently believe you’re not a flirt, but… you are. You secretly want every guy to like you – or at least, to think you’re pretty. Calm down! Keep reading. I know in your heart you don’t want to be this way. But there’s a difference between not wanting to be that way, and still actually being that way. You are a people pleaser, butyou do not need everyone to like you. Your desire for this is not in line with God’s Word and you are unknowingly toying with other people. Some guys will think just because you’re nice to them that you like them – this is not your fault. Just make every effort not to lead guys on in order to maintain a pure heart and to not hurt others.
5. What you do now DOES matter. Be strong. In your heart you know this, and you have deeply strong convictions. But there’s that little voice that keeps whispering in your ear at very unhelpful moments telling you the teenage lie… “You’re young. Live it up! You don’t have to be such a good girl. You’ll have plenty of time to get it together later.” This is a lie. Stand firm in your convictions! You will not regret this later! You will only regret when you didn’t. Every small choice you make now walks you into your future… the one where I stand.
6. Not all the authority in your life is right. But you still need to respect it. Not everything you’re being told by authority is true. In fact, you’ll go through some painful seasons in the future working to undo the damaging affect that some of it had on you. Regardless, graciously respect everyone in authority over you. (You know that’s what God wants.) But, also know that God wants to be your ultimate source of Truth and authority. Test the things you’re told against His Word in the Bible. His truth is unchanging and will never lead you the wrong way or build up things that you’ll have to tear down later.
7. Your guy heartbreaks are actually God protecting you. I know many times you’ve felt like you were “too much” or “not enough” for someone. Just know that the relationships that haven’t worked out are God’s grace in your life! They were never meant to be your husband! Those guys are good people – but if you could see from where I stand now, you would see so clearly how your lives have gone in completely different directions. You were not meant to be with them. As you seek God’s guidance in who to marry, know that He doesn’t just match up people, He matches up callings and destinies. They are meant to fit together in the most intricate way, that only He can set up. Trust that He knows what He’s doing and stop beating yourself up about how “you could have been better”, or “more” or “less”. Paige, you are enough. In fact you are just right for that very specific man that you one day meet.
8. ENJOY the freedom and fun of this season in your life. Yes, I just said freedom. I know you feel like there are tons of boundaries around you, but you have so much more freedom than you realize. You have TIME! Once you are married and have kids, you’ll look back with green envy on all the free time you used to have. Use this time to hardcore pursue those gifts and God-given passions. It will pay off later… trust me! And most of all, spend time with Jesus.
9. Pay more attention in history class. It’s the one class that you wish you could remember more from.
10. It gets good. Really good. You actually get to do most of the things that are currently written on your “dreams list”. Not even a decade later! So dream bigger. I’m not gonna tell you that it’s all “happily ever after”, because the truth is, it’s been quite a rollercoaster. Incredible ups and excruciating downs. But it’s okay, because you learn a lot from it and keep going. God never lets you down. In fact, all the things that you thought you lost, God actually gives back to you in a greater portion. He restores more than you ever lost. So relax, dear girl. You worry too much. It really is all going to be okay.
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36
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