When you have to tell everyone what God has done (Hint: It's a quick update on Xylon's health)


But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good. O Lord, the Eternal, You keep me safe— I will tell everyone what You have done. Psalm 73:28

Xylon and I have grown so tired of hearing, “It looks like the cancer is back.”

It happens like clockwork every time Xylon has a PET scan. This year was no different. 

He flew to Johannesburg for the scan in July. If called me from the airport with the results in his hand and fear in his voice, “I never should have opened them. They say it looks like the cancer is back.”

Usually, fear takes route in my stomach wrestling with my intestines. This time it didn’t. This time I replied to Xylon immediately, “I don’t think it is. The doctors who wrote that report are only looking at a tiny part of the picture. They are looking at one scan. If you look at the big picture, you are healthy.” 

A week later, we sat in the oncologist’s room while we planned out the next steps. An operation to remove the lymph nodes that had grown followed by a biopsy. 

We scheduled the operation for the middle of August. After Xylon would have completed his big cycling goal for the year: a 230 km mountain bike race. 

With his muscles still tender after the race, I kissed Xylon and watched the porters wheel Xylon into surgery. I still felt peace. Usually, by this stage of the process, I am in knots and wondering what will happen to us if the cancer is back for the fourth time. 

The surgery went well and the surgeon tells us he should have the results in about a week. We’re both still calm. Our mustard seed faith is still carrying us through.

The afternoon, before we are meeting the surgeon for the results, the phone rings while Xylon’s in the shower. I answer it. It is the oncologist’s rooms. They ask if we have the results of the biopsy. This time fear makes my stomach drop as I say, “Not yet.”
The nursing sister asks if I’d like her to share the results with me.
I have a split second debate about whether I should wait for Xylon to get out the shower and then think, ‘Let’s just get this over.’ I reply, “Yes, please.”
She says, “It’s not cancer. The doctor’s very happy.”
I’m sure she said something else but I didn’t hear it. I say goodbye and run through to the bathroom. 
I scream at Xylon who is still showering, “It’s not cancer!”

Later, we go out to celebrate at Xylon’s favourite restaurant.

We celebrate because we know that life is a gift, and growing old is a privilege not everyone has. 

We celebrate because we’re so thankful that God has healed Xylon. We don’t know why he healed him when others cries for healing go unanswered. We wrestle with that a lot. 

My mom sent me Psalm 73 shortly after Xylon opened the scans in the airport. It helps me with some of the why doesn't God heal everyone questions I have, and I hope it will encourage you (I’ve included parts of it below, you can read the entire Psalm here): 
Truly God is good to His people, Israel, to those with pure hearts.
Though I know this is true, I almost lost my footing; yes, my steps were on slippery ground.
You see, there was a time when I envied arrogant men and thought, “The wicked look pretty happy to me.”
For they seem to live carefree lives, free of suffering; their bodies are strong and healthy. They don’t know trouble as we do; they are not plagued with problems as the rest of us are.
But look at this: You are still holding my right hand; You have been all along.
Even though I was angry and hard-hearted, You gave me good advice; when it’s all over, You will receive me into Your glory.
For all my wanting, I don’t have anyone but You in heaven. There is nothing on earth that I desire other than You. I admit how broken I am in body and spirit, but God is my strength, and He will be mine forever.
But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good. O Lord, the Eternal, You keep me safe— I will tell everyone what You have done. 

I know so many of you follow this blog, and Xylon's story, and have prayed for us, so I wanted to tell everyone what God has done (again). 

I hope that it will encourage some of you who are also living through impossible situations that God is still able.

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Dear people of colour in South Africa


Dear people of colour in South Africa

I am sorry. I should have tried harder. For years I have hidden behind, “I was too young to be part of apartheid. I shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of others. I didn’t do anything wrong. How could I? I was 9 years old when apartheid ended.”

For years, I have failed to recognise how I have received privileges just for being white in this country and that my advantage came at your disadvantage.

I believed I lived in a country where colour didn’t matter. But I failed you, my fellow citizens of colour, I failed you because I didn’t see I only had the luxury of believing that lie because I was white.

Of course, colour matters.

Every single day something happens to remind you how colour matters. I apologise for allowing my naïvety to blind me to the racism you experience every single day.

I am sorry for all the times I haven’t called my white friends and family on racism. {Tweet This!}

Just this week I let a racist comment go. We were talking about a movie called “He even has your eyes” about a black couple who adopt a white baby. I thought it was beautiful. I loved that it challenged all my preconceived ideas about race. My friend who is white said, “That would be so shocking! Imagine a white baby in the loxion.”
I didn’t understand what she said so I replied, “What? Where?”
“In the location”.
I shook my head barely believing what I had heard and quickly paid the bill. As I drove home, I kicked myself for not calling her on it. Black people do not only live in locations. And people raise children in locations every day, and despite often lacking access to quality education many go on to become the kind of people we all should be proud to call a son or daughter. 

I am sorry that I failed you in that conversation and that I perpetuated a system that holds down anyone who is not white. I am sorry this is not the only time I have failed to speak up when white people put people of colour down.

I am 34 years old and I have never learnt to speak an African language. I have expected every person of colour to adapt to my culture, the white culture that I benefit from.

I am sorry that I thought I belonged in a "different" group of white people, that I was somehow special and immune from oppressing you.

I am sorry I thought it was okay to say “some” white people when talking about white supremacists and I admit when #BlackLivesMatter started I fought for #AllLivesMatter.
I. Am. Sorry.
I am sorry that when apartheid ended I did not change my actions. I am sorry that I haven’t loved you like Jesus, that I haven’t stood up for your rights like I would stand up for my child.

I realise now, and I hope it is not too late, that our country’s failure to transform is not your problem. It is a white one. White people have apologised for apartheid but never really repented. We have not done enough to right the wrongs of the past. We have not been angry enough about the circumstances we put you in because we are too scared that speaking up for you might mean losing everything for us.

I will never know what it is like to go through life without privilege. I can’t pretend to own or understand your experience. I want to though. I want to listen, to learn, to hear how my privilege has hurt you, is hurting you.

And I want to learn to act.

I do not want to put the burden of correcting the behaviour of white people on your shoulders anymore. You should not have to call us on our racism anymore.

I promise you I will be brave your ally in the face of racism.

(Brave? Really Wendy? Brave is Ernest Cole a black South African photographing apartheid and exposing it. Brave is Nelson Mandela standing in a courtroom and saying he is willing to die for his beliefs. It is not brave to be a good human, to do the right thing. I don’t need to be brave, I just need to be an ally.)  

I will call other white people on their racism. I will speak up for you when I am in a room. I know it is not enough. It will never be enough.

Thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for giving white people more than twenty years since apartheid to realise how we have failed once again. We do not deserve your kindness.

A recovering white racist

P.S. To the white people reading this: I have always wondered who I would have been if I had lived through apartheid. And I’m realising that this is our chance to be the people we hoped we would be. I am scared. I am not sure how to fix this but I know I want to do something. I see white supremacy rising in America and from all I read about it I'm realizing that if they win in America all white people win and I don't want to live in a world where I am an advantaged at the cost of people of colour. Here are a few resources that have gotten me thinking and acting on this issue. I hope you'll find them helpful too.
Novel: Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult (Affiliate link) Set in America. Picoult tackles racism head on from the viewpoint of how white people have benefited from slavery (in a South African context apartheid) and looks at what a white persons response should be to current racial tensions. I can’t recommend this book enough. She has a great article about how to be an ALLY on her website which you can click here to read.
Non-Fiction:  Born a crime - Trevor Noah (Affiliate link) This book isn’t funny. If anything it’s uncomfortable to read. It will challenge you on so many levels about race.
Movie: He even has your eyes. French with English subtitles. You can find this on Netflix. Watch the trailer here. As a white person, what is your first reaction to the idea of black people raising a white child? Yup. This film will challenge all those preconceived ideas and open the door for real conversations about race.
Podcast: The Liturgists Episode 34 - Black and white in America Very American in history but the truth is universal.
Article: Repenting Systemic Racism, Relevant Magazine. Want to know what to do next? This article on the biblical example of Josiah lays a great foundation.

Unfortunately, many of these resources are American. I would love to read more from South Africans on race so if you have any other resources please share them in the comments.

Photo by Dmitri Popov on Unsplash



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A prayer for when you're going through a storm


Lord, it feels silly to pray at a time like this!

It feels like at a time like this prayer should take the form of action, not mere words.

Prayer is opening the doors of my home, making sandwiches for the hungry, holding down the roof on a house so the dust and rain can’t get in.

Right now, all I have is words, so let that be enough, but keep my heart soft and open to any actions I need to live.

Thank you for your promises that when we face stormy seas you will be there with us with endurance and calm; we will not be engulfed in raging rivers.

If it seems like we’re walking through fire with flames licking at our limbs, we can keep going; Because You, the Eternal One, are our God. You are the Holy One of Israel, and You will save us.

I sometimes read your promises (like the one above) and I think, ‘Really God? Tell that to the people who just lost a loved one or whose house just burnt down.’ Help me in my unbelief. Show me your hand in this storm even when all I can see is destruction and suffering.

There are men, women and children affected by the fires and storms raging right now. Lord, I ask that they would know your presence that they can hold on to you while everything else they have is being ripped away.

You know I don’t understand why bad things happen. You know it makes me angry and sad.  

I’m reminded at times like this that you are much bigger than me, much greater than my understanding. You are likened to a consuming fire, a whirlwind. And I need to trust that your ways are not mine and that you can bring beauty out of ashes.

Jesus, we ask that the wind would calm. I think of you standing on a boat in the middle of raging storm and rebuking the wind. Your voice calmed the wind. 

Could you speak to the wind now? Will you calm the storm?

Speak, Lord Jesus, speak.

Open the skies and let the rain fall. 
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
_________

I wrote this prayer this morning specifically with the people of Knysna, South Africa in mind. If you want to follow the story here are some live updates. However, I know that there are storms and fires (real and figurative) that people across the world deal with every day. If you're going through one now I hope that this prayer will help you. 

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How to get up after a hard ending

A note from Wendy:
You might remember Fran from her first guest post on my blog about how to know if it’s time to leave your past behind. I’m happy to have her back again. I also recently signed up for her free simple (but sassy) writing course and have been enjoying working my way through it. 

Life often doesn't go the way we planned, and when it doesn't it can be hard to find our footing again, if you're in that place I hope this devotional from Fran will encourage you. 


devotional for a breakup

Guest devotional by Fran:

Usually, I say “No”.  Usually, when they offer to buy me a drink, compliment my blonde hair, grin at my warm smile, or try a clever joke I shrug in response, “sorry dude- it’s not happening.”

This time something felt different, and I said yes.  

There is no formula, strategy or method what can make sense or account for the connection between two people. The meeting in the bar, the first drink, the moment I said yes- it all felt like I had tumbled, a real world Alice, down a dark tunnel into a whole new world.

I would love to tell you dating has been easy for me and I met someone kind and honest at 22. The typical church love story. I would love to tell you he was into church; he did the right things; he asked me for coffee, sent me goodnight texts with heart in the eye emojis, remembered every anniversary, let me pick the movie, initiated prayer nights, and proposed in less than 6 months.

It’s been nothing like that. My dating life has looked like the games you find kids playing outside shopping centres on the wrong side of town. The ones where you put money in a slot, a rusty metal claw lowers into a mass of round balls with prizes, it grabs something, pulls it up and then, at the very last moment, the ball always drops. Uh-uh. No matter how many times you put money in the slot and watch the claw, the ball always drops.

I recently broke up with the boy I met in the bar. Because I really liked this one, it was worse.

Until you have gone through a break up I don’t think you understand what can be held in the human heart. There’s something about a break up which brings you to your knees, teaches you great lengths of empathy and, even though it will heal, leaves scars.

I write this article because I am sure there are many out there who, like me, find themselves in a place of disappointment, hurt and raw confusion. Maybe it’s a breakup, or maybe it’s something else in a relationship where you feel like you are watching a game play out again and again.

In the midst of the confusion, the desire to rewind time and the “I don’t get it”, I’ve found I have had to remind myself of some rational relationship truths (Or I may loose the plot!):
- Communication and care is not a “nice to have”, it’s a reasonable expectation
- Either you can over-think a situation and let it have your joy, or you can decide to let it go
 - It’s not fair for only one person to fight to make things better
 - An unhealthy relationship is exhaustingTrust the small, still voice inside you which says “No,” and “Be honest.”

It’s times like this where the goodness of God holds me in so many ways. I’ve discovered, when I step back from the questions, an inner strength and peace. I’ve unearthed a maturity and perspective on the situation which doesn’t feel like me. I’ve found my folding emotions have lost their impact when I’ve shared them with friends who love me and make me laugh. My sadness has subsided when I’ve chosen to look forward, look upwards, and see this as a closed door on the long path of my life- many adventures await me.

Romans 15:13
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Things don’t always work out the way you think they are going to, especially when it comes to relationships. I want to encourage everyone because I know what it’s like to put another coin in the machine when you don’t want to. Either we hide away, caught in our last ruined headline or we stand up, shake it off, put on a sequin top (of course!) and get back at it again. I don’t know what boys you’ve met in bars, how many times the balls have been dropped, or what you’ve had to let go, but I believe God has got you (and me), firmly, yet delicately in his big and capable hands.

About Fran Thring, the author of this guest devotional:

Equal parts sassy, kind and fun I tumble my way through life; my brain a constant mishmash of cultures and ideas. I reckon when we are generous, cool things happen. Running, writing and Jesus keep me sane. Some days I eat banana chips for dinner and some days I drink wine with my friends while the Cape Town sunsets. I blog here: franthring.com

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{Get my book}
In my free e-book Life, Life and More Life I share thoughts on how to make every moment count gleaned from my experiences of loving my husband through 18 sessions of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. If you would like a free copy please subscribe below to receive my devotionals.

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photo credit: BuddaBoy Jakes 10th Birthday - Warrington Quasar via photopin (license)