April 6, 2016. Today I turned 35 years old.
Honestly, turn the clock back to July 9, 2015 at 10am. I was scared I would never see today. What a year this has been. So many ups and downs.. physically, emotionally, spiritually. Each of you have been with me every single step of the way. My village. It absolutely takes a village. This year I have learned more about myself and the true nature of my Jesus than I ever imagined. Last night, I looked back to my blog and on my 34th birthday I wrote about me. The good, the bad, the really bad and the ugly. I was completely transparent in my journey to that date. As I came across the last paragraph, I could barely read the words I wrote…. “But, this year, I want to just be me and embrace what God has in store for me. Lord in my weakness, you are strong. Please use me and my broken past all for your glory. For you, it will all be worth it.” Lord in my weakness, you are strong. I had no idea what weakness truly meant. I just thought I did. For 34 1/3 years, I lived in my own strength. I have no clue what it meant to live completely dependent on the Lord for my every breath. There were moments that I thought I may not live until the next day. That I felt the closest to death that I could have ever imagined. But, His grace was sufficient. He carried me through every single one of those dark moments. I think of all the things I had struggled with over the past few years and it all paled in comparison to the trial that was laid before me over the last year. There are many things I learned over the last year about myself and my relationship with the Lord. The best gift the Lord has given me is perspective. What really matters and what really doesn’t. Over the last year, I have worked through so many lies that I have believed for so long. The Lord has been so gracious to continually show me His truths. He has placed people in my life that continually point me to Him. People that remind me that the lies of the enemy have no weight in my life. Today, a prayer warrior of mine texted me Happy birthday. Her very words stopped me in my tracks. “Happy birthday daughter of God! I know He smiles as He considers your life and trusts you with struggles that could derail others. You are a warrior!“ Trusts me with struggles that could derail others. As I lets these words marinate, I didn’t know what to say. I mean, “Thank you God? Glad to know you can trust me with cancer!” Was there not something else? But then I look back at what I wrote a year ago. Please use me and my broken past for your glory. For you, it will all be worth it. Thank you Lord for giving Tracy those words to share with me. To remind me that I am on the path that you have specifically laid out for me. That all the glory goes to you alone. There is not one thing in the last year that I can take credit for. A few weeks ago, we went to church on Saturday night and the sermon series over the last few months has been on the seven “I Am” statements that Jesus makes in the gospel of John. The whole purpose of this series was to gain more confidence in WHO Jesus is. This particular week Matt Chandler preached on this “I AM” scripture…. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 Jesus tells us He is the true vine and God is the gardener. He is saying “I am what you can’t be”. In John 15:2, Jesus says “He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more fruit.” What is Jesus saying here? He is saying that as Christians we should expect to be pruned. What does prune even mean? Definition of “to prune” is to cut away unwanted parts from something. Doesn’t that sound like something we want to run and sign up for? Most of us, if not all of us, probably feel like being pruned is something we would rather avoid. Instead Jesus is saying to be pruned is to be blessed. Matt said something in the middle of his teaching that hit me right in the gut. Being pruned does not mean you are being punished or that you have done something wrong. Part of me has struggled with the fact that getting cancer was a consequence of something I did wrong or for my lack of faith and trust in God. I am the very person that before cancer said several times to my friends that I was afraid that one day God would give me cancer to teach me how to trust Him. That very statement in itself shows the lie I was believing. I believed that in having cancer I was being punished for my lack of trust. Rather in John 15- Jesus is telling us that being pruned is necessary to promote growth. To bear more fruit. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Self-Control. John 15:4 – Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot bear fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. Most of us try daily to “do good”, to be honest or to do what is right. But, we can never live up to this expectation fully. We can try, but our efforts will always fail. The only way we can make it through this life is with Jesus. To be close to Him. To draw our strength from Him. Otherwise our efforts will always fail. This is one of the biggest lessons I have learned in the last year. Cancer did not happen as a punishment for not being good enough or for not trusting enough. The Lord has been pursuing me from day one. He knows my heart and knows what I am capable of. As my friend said to me today, He trusted me with this struggle. He knew the branches I needed cut off. I had so much dead weight to get rid of. I still do. I still do, but this will be a lifelong process. The best part of this chapter comes in verse 11… ”I have told you this so that you will be filled with my JOY.” I have learned what true joy means. It took enduring the trials of the last year and the pruning of my dead branches to see that my only hope is in the Lord. My joy is not dependent of the ever-changing circumstances of my life, but it is dependent on the never-changing love and sovereignty of my Jesus. Thank goodness. I do not have to run and hide from God when I have taken a wrong turn. I can always come to him just as I am. I belong to Jesus. Nothing can ever change that. Not cancer, not death. I am His and He is mine. So today, I am praising the Lord for the last year. For the ups and downs. For all the ways He showed up and revealed his true nature to me. I am so very thankful for my village… all my family and friends that have walked through this year with me. I am thankful for being introduced to a whole new world. I mean, let’s be honest, I would have never chosen the cancer world. But, wow, what an honor to join a village of warriors. Out of this experience, Team Holly was born. I am so proud of the bags that so many of you have helped donate to in various ways. Although it is something small, I know the Lord is using those bags to bless each woman’s life that receives it. Every bag I put together, I pray over each item. I pray for the woman who will receive it. I pray for her healing, for her strength, for her peace. I pray for her family and friends. Most of all, I pray that she would know the love of Jesus. I pray that she would know that she has been beautifully made by a God that loves her and made her in His precious image. I still feel like there is supposed to be more to Team Holly. I am praying specifically about what that will look like. But join me in praying. I am excited about what the year ahead could potentially hold for Team Holly and women affected by Ovarian Cancer. So…. Stay tuned. Here I stand today, 35 years old. I pray that I never return to the place I was one year ago. I pray I never lose sight of the ways I have seen the Lord’s faithfulness in my life over the last year. I pray I never forget the truths I have learned and that I may continue to apply them to every lie that I am confronted with. I am so thankful for all the dead weight the Lord has cut off of me. Over the last few months, I feel the Lord is showing me lie after lie that I have believed. It has been difficult, yet so freeing. When I named my blog a few years ago, I never imagined how differently that would look in my life. I am learning to walk in freedom. My life is on display for all to see. The Lord has called me to share the good, the bad and the ugly with you. Transparency. My life is not glamorous, but it’s mine. Now more than ever I realize that on this side of heaven I will never be complete. There will always be a piece of my soul that longs for more… that longs to be home. Every one of us have this longing. We try our hardest to find things of this world to fill the hole, but nothing ever can. Jesus is enough for us. I no longer have to try to earn anything from him. My life is messy, it’s broken and quite ugly at times. But, in those places the Lord steps in and redeems my life. As I reflect over the last year and look forward to the upcoming year, I remind myself of all that He has done. I am alive today because of what Jesus has done. I don’t know what tomorrow will hold, but I am standing firm in my faith that God does. That is quite terrifying at times, but in those moments of complete surrender is where I find true joy and contentment. He is enough. He is all that I need. Perspective. Jesus, it’s all for you. Every single day. You are worth it.