I was heartbroken when I learned that my friend, Margaret Feinberg, was diagnosed with cancer. I just couldn’t imagine all she went through in the brutal treatment.
What surprised me most, though, was her response.
In her new book and Bible study (yes, she’s with Lifeway, too), Fight Back With Joy, she shares how at the news of the diagnosis, she chose to fight back with a rather surprising weapon.
We were recently hanging out in Colorado Springs when she shared the backdrop of her new project. I asked her to share a little from her story with you. I hope you’ll be as inspired as I am:
While itching under my arm, I felt a lump. I thought it was my imagination at first. It turned out to be my worst night.
Tests soon revealed I had breast cancer.
Not all breast cancer is the same. In fact, every breast cancer different. Some require a lumpectomy and/or radiation. Others are more severe. My course of treatment involved more than a year of chemotherapy, radiation, and many surgeries.
The gruesome details still bring me to tears.
My life hasn’t turned out like I expected. Maybe yours hasn’t either.
Maybe you believed “I do” meant forever. Until life took an unsuspecting turn.
You picked out the name for the baby who never took its first breath.
Perhaps there’s an empty seat, an empty bedroom, an empty bed of the one who is never coming back.
The future can start to feel flimsy. Our wills become wobbly. Our confidence becomes rickety.
Sometimes the future can look bleak, even completely black.
That’s when God whispers the promise:
“I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” (Isaiah 45:3)
Whenever life doesn’t turn out like we expect, our illusions shatter. The niceties we tell ourselves burst. The false myths we believe are exposed.
This is a painful, horrendous process.
Yet the gift of darkness is that it forces us to squint for God.
And that’s when we find Him. The Ultimate Treasure. The Holy Beautiful One.
Cancer has been the most painful experience of my life. And, to share about it requires some vulnerability. Okay, a lot of vulnerability. And, that’s really, really hard. But I feel like I’m finally ready to share what God has stirred in my heart along the way because although cancer has been the most painful journey—it has also been the most joyful. And no one is more surprised than I am.
Two years before I was diagnosed, I became obsessed with the more than 400 references of joy in Scripture and just before my diagnosis I started the finishing touches on a book on joy. Then I got the phone call that changed my life forever.
I had to scrap the entire project because I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly talk about something as fluffy as joy in the midst of the darkness I felt. Up until that time, I had been searching for joy in the relatively good times of life. But, after cancer, I started to read those scriptures so differently.
I discovered facets of joy that no one ever taught me—more than whimsy, joy is a weapon we can use to fight life’s battles.
The thing is, no one signs up for that discovery project—finding joy in suffering. No one. I’ve never felt so surefooted on my path to a joyful life. I know now that without shadows, joy can feel shallow. But, when we can discover joy while in the fight of our lives—no mater what that is—it is lasting.
Everyone who has faced a challenge, or who knows someone in the midst, needs a to know that suffering doesn’t win. Joy wins.
Today, if your future feels flimsy, know that you are not alone. Even in this you can fight back with joy.
I stand beside you. With you. Committed to peer into the darkness until we discover the treasures God has for us.
Check out the video and grab a copy of this heart wrenching book.
When Lifeway approached me about creating a Bible Study for Freefall to Fly, I was over the moon. This has been a labor of love, and we are so grateful for the result! After eighteen months of teaching in churches around the country, where leaders often created their own “Freefall Group Studies”, we wanted to create a simple way for women to discover their gifting in the context of community.
The question often asked is, “How do we build the kind of rich friendships necessary for these deeper conversations?” The response, “One must lead with vulnerability, and invite others to join in.” I pray this tool will help make that happen…in living rooms, coffee shops, or weekend retreats!
The study offers video content that examines our callings, and how they grow from where our burdens and gifts collide. My favorite part of this discovery is when women speak life over each other, when we are often too close to see our gifts, or too afraid to name our burdens. This affirmation eliminates copying, competing, and comparing when we see the unique beauty of each person. No two sisters look the same! Amen?! May we embody unity in the church, a sisterhood of truth tellers and grace givers that celebrate each other.
Currently we have women joining in 48 states in America and 15 countries. Please note that the ebook is the best format for international participants, as shipping is cost prohibitive. Join us??
Every Thursday, from January 15 through February 26.
Here’s how the online study will work:
We’d love for you to gather a group from your church, your neighborhood, your school, or your workplace to do the study together. We believe that Bible study is more effective (and more fun!) in community. If you cannot find a group in your area, no worries! Join us by offering your responses in the comments each week. We trust you’ll enrich the discussion, and connect with new friends!
I love this time of year. Most years, that is. The energy, the zeal, the screen refresh.
This past advent, however, I found myself hanging onto 2014. It seemed we had unfinished business. Not regret, mind you, but more of a searching to understand. I needed to resolve what was stirring. Apart from speaking on the road, I’d crawled into my virtual shell, hiding out online, steering from blogging, because I couldn’t wrap 600-800 words into a tidy bow. The days weren’t so tidy in 2014. When all your seeking only brings more questions, you tend to just shut up.
The Lord met me in the silence with promises, most mornings like manna in the wilderness. I’d span from lament to exuberance in a single hour. While the noise of social media seemed deafening, there were online truth tellers that kept me going. I found real life conversations with new and old friends asking the same, “What was He up to in this world?” and in the meantime, “How could He possibly love us so deeply?”
When we moved from New York City to Nashville in August, friends kept saying I was entering a season of rest. This is not something a runner wants to hear. It feels like you’ve been benched, or worse, you’ve tripped in your lane while the others go whizzing by. All my life, my worth has been determined by what I do. So I begrudgingly entered the small town of Franklin, drove around aimlessly those early days in my minivan to carpool, to Publix, to gymnastics and wondered what in the world just happened to my “fabulous” life. It is excruciating to admit. I confess.
Right about that time, Trina sent me the book Abiding in Christ, by Andrew Murray. Written in 1895, I like to read books by dead people. They cut through the noise of today. It was a timely love letter on the relationship between the vine and the branch, with each page dog-eared, underlined, circled, highlighted and exclamation pointed! As the fall unfolded, I heard the words loud and clear…
Stop performing for love.
In the season where we begin again with to-do’s and goals and ambitions, the Father asks us to rest assured. He wants us to stop trying so hard to matter. He’s got this. We already matter, from the moment he carefully crafted us in our mothers womb. His love is so powerful, so overwhelming, so great. Yes, be BRAVE. Absolutely. But in order to do so, meditate on His words day and night. He is faithful. He goes before us. He draws us close. As 2015 dawns, these are the words I pray settle into my soul…
* * *
You are my beloved. I ordered this from the beginning. I love you with an everlasting love. Nothing you can do can shake that. You can strive, you can perform, you can impress, but you don’t need to. Please stop. Just fix your eyes on me. I have everything you need. Fall into my arms. I will fill your heart and satisfy your soul.
I am good for it.
I crafted you with such intention, because I have plans and purposes that only you can accomplish. I long for communion with you because I want to reveal these to you. I chose you, from the beginning. You are the one. The one I pursue with a relentless love.
I don’t need your temples, your burnt or sin offerings, Jesus took care of all that. But I do need you. All of you. Every hidden, broken part. Tell me what breaks your heart, because I already know anyway. But your confession reveals you are letting me in. I long to graft you into the vine of Jesus, a union that can never be severed. Then you’ll remain in Him, and He in You. Further, I’ll keep you there. You don’t even need to stress about abiding. I’ll take care of it. This is my will.
In the midst of packing boxes, loading trucks and relocating families across the country since June, the Q team is still busy as bees, with laptops humming on floors, coffee tables, lawn chairs, you name it! Time keeps ticking whether or not we are settled, and today we are THRILLED to launch our newest offering, Q Commons, bringing the experience of the national gathering to cities across the U.S. and around the globe in one evening.
On Thursday evening, October 9th join 10,000+ participants in 60+ cities as we gather to enjoy an evening of vision, learning and engagement. Alongside Tim Keller, Ann Voskamp and Andy Crouch leading off the evening with 3 nationally broadcasted talks, 3 locally curated Q Talks will be presented addressing cultural issues and topics that matter most in your city.
It’s not often we have the opportunity to come together with our neighbors, friends and colleagues to be educated and inspired to advance the common good in our very own community. Check out a city near you and join us!
Grateful for this new season for Q,
Gabe, Rebekah, Lance, Hannah, Rob, Katelyn, Peter, kids, babies, and of course, dogs.
Rwanda has always been near and dear to me. I’ll never forget my first time visiting there, eight years ago when Kennedy was only ten months old. I sat in social services a month prior, nursing her for the last time while I waited to get the yellow fever vaccine, with big ol’ tears streaming down my face. I knew I couldn’t nurse after getting the vaccine, and I also knew Kennedy was my last.
Yet something compelled me to GO. That week changed me, with the breathtaking views in the land of a thousand hills, visiting women entrepreneurs with HIV, loving on orphans in schools, hearing stories of the survivors of the genocide, visiting wells, and even a crazy day of trekking gorillas.
When I met Natalie with Africa New Life over coffee in New York City this past January, the tears started flowing again. This country, these people, stirred something massive in my heart. The grief they bore twenty years ago, and the reconciliation and resolve that has followed suit. I listened to Natalie describe the Esther Home and the women being raised up to lead in that country. These were exceptional young women who demonstrate Christian character, leadership and academic rigor. They are genocide survivors, orphans, and the poorest of the poor. She also explained how a college degree in Rwanda ends the cycle of poverty, but attending college is cost prohibitive. Without scholarships, these young women would not be able to get a college education.
You can imagine how thrilled I was to learn of a tangible way IF:Unleash could participate in supporting the women of Rwanda.
What IF… 1600 of us gave a one-time gift of $30 and impacted these women for a lifetime?
This would provide scholarships for two women in Rwanda to attend a four year college.
They would also live in the the Esther Home, receive leadership training, learn basic finance management, and serve/learn in community together.
Will you join us by July 1 deadline?
Ann Voskamp, Lauren Chandler, Esther Havens and I will travel to the Esther Home in Rwanda this September and meet both of these women and introduce them to our IF:Gathering community via video. We are so excited and grateful to see what God has in store for both of them. Thanks for being a part of something beautiful today, I pray each you are blessed by your generosity and faithfulness!