Mayo Clinic Trip: Vignettes Edition


As our little plane reached the canopy of clouds, I thought of Deuteronomy 33:26--

"Who is like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to help you,
 and in His excellency on the clouds?"

 and of Psalm 36:5--
"Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds."

For a long moment, we were engulfed in mist. We could not see before us, behind us, or beside us. And yet we were moving. Sight was unnecessary. Our little plane soldiered on, brave and true, in the direction the pilots ordained.

Here is faith--going where God sends when we cannot see, without knowing where we fit into His scheme. What a portrait of this adventure! Trusting a design I cannot envision is easy because of the Artist who loves His medium.

I will fly through the clouds until You see fit to bring me out into blue. When from Your view I gaze upon the world, I will agree with You. I know I will. For now, I trust--in oceans deep and clouds obscuring, where feet and flight may fail--because Your judgments are a great deep and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds and because You are with me no matter my elevation (Psalm 36:5-6). Neither height nor depth can sever me from Your love (Romans 8:39).


Along the way I've noticed small clouds drifting below us like cotton balls suspended in the air. They are but a puff compared to the mounting cumuli which swallow our plane in a single bite, yet they cast a significant shadow upon the earth--acres wide and quite dark. So many lives fall under its cast though it is nothing at all as I ride above it. 

"Hold on!" I want to admonish all within the shadow. "It will pass in just a moment."

Perspective alters the size of the trial. When we see through the lens of the gospel and eternity, we rest assured "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed" (Romans 8:18). 


"Unless we climb above these clouds, things may get a little bumpy," the pilot yelled over the noise of the engine. "Everyone got their seat belts on?"

Mom and I gave a thumbs up. And we climbed.

Our strawberry-blonde pilot wove his way between pillowy, cotton-bright banks telling lies about their density and ability to upset our craft. We bumped, but not much. We feel the chill of flying so high above the earth. Despite our discomfort, we are safe. 

And dude--it's been bumpy and kind of cold for two years now. The craft hasn't been upset yet.


In my study of Colossians and Jeremiah 17, my mind connects these verses--

"The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron;
With a point of a diamond it is engraved
on the tablet of their heart
and on the horns of your altars." 
Jeremiah 17:1

"And you, being dead in your trespasses
and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
He has made you alive together with Him,
having forgiven you all trespasses, having
wiped out the handwriting of requirements
that was against us, which is contrary to us.
 And He has taken it out of the way,
having nailed it to the cross."
Colossians 2:13-14

The only thing which could overrule a sentence penned in iron is a nail of iron piercing fragile, divine flesh. The only thing strong enough to overcome the guilt inscribed with unyielding diamond upon our souls is blood spilled from unyielding love. This is the power in us when we are raised by Christ--the only hero strong enough to save us, the only judge willing to take our guilt upon Himself. 


On May 4th I wrote, "I feel this trip to Mayo is a dark cloud looming on the horizon." Just before I left, I told Brandon, "In case something goes wrong, know that it hasn't." I did not know what to expect, so I considered every possibility--diagnosis, bad diagnosis, no diagnosis, an unforeseen treatment option, crisis, even death--and made peace with each one. So I was surprised by every good that came to me. Oh, me of little faith.

When I sat in Dr. Park's office on May 27th, I didn't know where the consult was going at first. All tests had returned normal. I was relieved not to have a progressive, malignant disease, but it felt for a moment as if I wasn't going to get an answer at all, which would have been devastating after my desperate pleas from the bathtub two days prior. 

But I felt held. No fear. Those Everlasting Arms had me completely.

And then it came--"Mast Cell Activation Disease," which I had suspected for six months.

Relief. Joy. Gratitude. Praise. All came bursting from my stretch-marked heart. I didn't care at all I had been right. I was just thankful to have a name. Oh, how I needed that name!

Never have I prayed a "do or die" prayer quite like that before. Never have I been so confident I would be answered. Never have I felt so brave. "Perfect love casts out fear," Mom has been reminding me. And it's true. Only God's love is perfect. Only His love makes us bold as lions.

Wings of Hope, Arthur the taxi driver, Dr. Park, Mom, a diagnosis, an unexpected outpouring of anointed writing, everyone "helping together in prayer...that thanks may be given by many persons on [my] behalf" (2 Corinthians 1:11)--much good has come of this trip. A gentle, quiet, obvious kind of good. No fireworks. No drama. Just good. Sweet, humble good.

I love it!

Sometimes we have to apply time and prayer to strong feelings to determine whether or not they come from God for some unpleasant premonitions truly do come from Him. Twice on my difficult Friday, they did. They came with a message--"You will be discouraged, but do not despair." The feelings telling me I was likely to be harmed on this trip were obviously from The Enemy. Oh, how he would have liked to rob me of these joys! But God would not have it. 

"But God"--my favorite pair of words to ever stand side by side!

He supplied the faith I needed to "follow the thread" all the way through (George MacDonald, The Princess and The Goblin).

Truly, my Beloved has put a new song in my mouth--praise to my God! I pray many will hear it and be glad and trust in the Lord (Psalm 40:3)!


Over the course of my Mayo adventure, there has been an outpouring of love and support from others. It has been precious to me. Such a gift. But I find it ironic that the attentions and affections I craved so much last autumn,* when I felt so forgotten I might as well have been dead, matter little to me now.
God has done a healing work.

I am so satisfied by His smile, the approval and acceptance of others makes only a small difference to me. The love I have received is sweet and good, but my soul does not need it as it did not so long ago.

I read The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller while in Minnesota, which made me aware of the secret of my healing. Now I can say with Paul--

 "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)

The assurance of God's praise is enough. Jesus earned the praise for me through His death on the cross, and has bequeathed to me the priceless inheritance of God's applause. I am a performer. I have always loved applause. I cannot begin to imagine receiving applause from my Maker! And somehow, it is written and sure.

The thoughts, support, and well-wishes of others are nice, but not ultimate.

I am free! Jubilee has come! Jenny, these sick rags have finally fallen off! Praise God! Yes, yes--"God has been too good to me to play the victim anymore."

He is so, so good. And He is enough.

*I would like to share a very special "thank you" to my friend and GP, Stacy Conville, who last fall helped me remember the Lord had not forgotten me and neither had she. Her thoughtful, Spirit-inspired care package of favorite scripture passages, worship music, and an encouraging letter was just the handhold I needed to climb out of my pit of self-pity and back into the arms of the Savior. It was a small event which sparked a major shift in my trajectory. Without that package, this chapter may have turned out differently. Thank you, Sister, and know I am taking great delight in paying it forward. Love you.

Cracks in the Castle Walls: An Evening Prayer

There are cracks in the castle walls tonight. I am weary of bone and soul, brick and mortar. Draw the bridge and lock the gate! Toss away the key! Grant entry to no one!

But I cannot keep You out--You who will not let me alone. Those wizened eyes pierce through the canopy of dusk-laden clouds into my darkened passages and mourning chambers.

Ah, You want more than to see my filth; You want me to put it on display. So be it. Light the candles! Here it is--festering and newly opened wounds, diseases of body and of mind, all my inadequacies and failures and sin piled in a jumbled heap. 'Tis a vile mess, I know. And it's all too heavy to carry about and hide away, so I leave it here.

You offer a trade--my wounds for binding and the balm of Gilead; my disease for health in all my being; my inadequacy for all sufficiency, my failures for your success, sin for glory. You clean it up and carry it off. In my brokenness and disrepair, You offer more than to patch me up.You invite me to become other--like You.

Thank you for my crumbly bits which send me looking for Real Strength. Thank you for must and mold that I might welcome Fresh Breath and Sunlight. Your offer is both frightening and thrilling, but I will accept, Great Giver. Not because of your open hands but because you are beautiful and perfect in your otherness. I will have You before merciful exchange.

For You I will open the gate though the enemy and his bloodhounds run at your heels. Come in, My King. Grace this citadel with your glorious face. May your fragrance waft through these halls. Both castle and key are yours forevermore.


Let Us Go to the Cherry Tree: A Spring Parable


Come away with me, Darling. Let us go to the cherry tree. She tells a story to anyone who will listen. A love story. Quiet now--she is soft-spoken, barely audible above the drone of delighted, winged insects adorning her head. Look how her nimbus of pink and white locks rustle and curl so elegantly in the spring breeze against a backdrop of azure sky. Admire her with me and listen.

"It was not always so," she says. Only a breath ago, her limbs stood stark and gnarled, as grey as the winter sky--the very picture of death. A blazing Indian summer withered her former glory. The autumn wind tore at her, stealing away what was left until she was a ruin--nothing to look at.

But he looked. More importantly, he saw. Through a haze of ashen mist and a flurry of harsh, winter storms he kept watch. He never forsook her. He was enraged by her loss and grieved by her sadness. He sang to her songs of consolation and bathed her bare shoulders in gentle, yellow kisses. Even in repose she was precious to him.

All the while, he knew what was to come. He knew what he would do. He waited. He made her wait. She knew not his reasons. Was not her mortification complete? She reached for him in desperation, and gathered him into herself.

Unexpectedly, something changed. Congealed blood turned viscous in her veins. Her heart gave a laborious thump. Snow and ice melted, penetrating the hard soil at her feet. The mist above dissolved, and she could see him as he was. Not in part, but his whole! The voice of her lover called out to her in a tone of white light and searing passion--"Come forth!" She leaped at him from her tomb bedecked in lovely hues, smiling rapturously into his glowing face.

She lives! She is his. He is hers. Nothing can touch her now. She does not fret over wind or rain, not even the fiercest tempest. She joyfully offers sustenance and shelter to the tiny ones who need her--the stunning male cardinals who proclaim their grand intentions from her fragrant boughs, the buzzing things which surreptitiously sip the robust wine of one bud and then another until they drift away sleepy and askew.

She tells them all a secret which falls upon my ear--"New! New! I once was dead, but now am living! He has made new!"

There, Beloved. Now count the wounds her story heals.