I was given a gift to speak in an Interfaith workshop this past Thursday. I shared the workshop with a woman named Sylvia, which I only just recently met. She is such an inspiration to me. She told her cancer story. She has such courage, composure, and faith. I want to ask her permission to post her speech so you can be enriched by it. I included mine below:
Thank you for choosing this workshop. I am guessing that anyone who chooses a workshop on adversity is possibly seeking personal strength for themselves or someone they care for. I hope that our thoughts will be worthwhile for you to hear.
I. Story: Several years ago I was subbing a 1st grade class when a tiny little girl wanted to get my attention to tell me a story as I was explaining the art lesson. I told her I would listen after I was finished. When I finally went to her spot, in a very loud voice she began to tell me this story. “I drew a picture of God. My dad said, ‘you can’t draw a picture of God, no one knows what God looks like!’ But I said, they do now because I’m finished. She waited for a response from me so I said, “How did he look?” She answered. “He looked good!
I have a very simple faith. I believe my God looks good, too! And is good.
II. What is faith? The Webster’s dictionary has two definitions:
- A trust or confidence in a person or thing.
- A Belief without Proof.
I hope to add to Webster’s by my own experience with faith
III. Adversity Stinks! Humans naturally want a life of ease, happiness, and peace. When we don’t get that, it is inconvenient and frustrating.
Norman Vincent Peale states: There is only one group of people that don’t have problems and they are all dead. Problems are a sign of life. So the more problems you have the more alive you are!
Under you chair is a brick. Lift it up on your lap. It is heavy and weighs you down. I would like this brick to represent adversity. Everyone has one, some of us have many. Bricks come in all shapes and sizes. We feel we don’t deserve bricks!
- Sometimes we get bricks because of poor choices and they are the consequences of these decisions. (Like eating that spicy taco late at night and having to eat tums because of indigestion. But those types of adversities are not what we are speaking of, so I will change this to, Like my friend, Kathy who died way too young of gross obesity, due to her eating choices.)
2. Sometimes bricks seem to fall from the sky by surprise and hit us directly in the head! (Like Sylvia and I when we received our cancer diagnosis–complete Shock!)
3. We often wish we could give our brick to someone else, but everyone else has their own. (Like my son when he sprained his ankle going with a girl to the prom he didn’t know just to be kind, which kept him out of a sport he waited all year to play.)
4. Often we deny we have a brick and try to hide it. We plead for it to go away, but it is ours to carry! (As my brothers and sister do since they choose to ignore, possibly the most important information they could know which is that we carry a cancer mutation in our DNA. And they refuse to even acknowledge it or tell their married children.)
5. Sometimes we tantrum and stomp on our bricks and Yell WHY! Why did I get a brick in the first place; I don’t deserve a brick at all. (As my sister did when she was hit by a text-er and will forever be crippled in her left arm and the driver that hit her did not have any injuries and did not have to pay a cent because he was uninsured.) But life, unfortunately is full of unfair bricks like this.
6. And then sometimes we get a brick that is sooo difficult; we wonder how did I get THIS particular brick. This one I cannot carry. This one is too hard! And our pleas and cries seem to stick to the ceiling and go no further.
7. I don’t know why we have to carry bricks in life.
I don’t know why you carry the ones you carry and I carry mine.
I do know that those are natural human emotions
and that adversity always takes TIME to get through them.
IV. But adversities bring us to a choice. How will I live through this brick?
- One choice is to stay bitter and build a lonely wall to sit in.
Here is a quote:
“Bitterness is a poison that snuffs the light out of our souls, hardening us to life’s pleasures and joys by keeping us focused only on what is wrong.”
- Another choice is faith and handing our bricks to God and allowing him to help us through this brick.
But what I have come to know is that faith is a lifelong process.
Sometimes we are good at it, and sometimes we really struggle.
But choosing faith opens our lives to love and light and allows us to change our focus.
My daughter is lying sick on my couch at this moment. She is carrying some pretty heavy loads of bricks at the moment. An old teacher of hers, Mr. Smith heard she was ill and came over to visit. She vomited in front of him and he didn’t even flinch. In fact their heads were together and I saw tears from both of them. Then he left. I asked Katie about the visit. She said that Mr. Smith talked to her about a tragedy in his life when his 9 year old daughter died of a fever. It took them 13 years to open her room and go through her personal things!
He told Katie that God answers every prayer because no Father in Heaven would turn away from His children. But what people don’t realize is that sometimes the answer is NO—or NOT YET. Even our Savior Jesus Christ, in the most important prayer ever said, the request was to take this cup from me, but the answer was NO; for a reason far greater than we could understand. He went on to say that God has a much grander perspective than ours and perhaps he trusts and has confidence in us to get through the affliction we will carry. Perhaps to change us, stretch us, or rescue us and then…for us to help someone else.
But it does not mean that he does not love us!
Through my faith in God this has become a reality for me:
When I was a little girl my mother used to speak of her angels.
Her angels surprise her when work gets done when she doesn’t ask. Her angels surprise her when ingredients just show up in the cupboard. Her angels help her when she loses things. And they always came through during frightening or sad moments.
Here are the four main lessons I learned from this:
one: We are always surrounded by angels and that should give us great comfort.
Angels can be family, friends, pets, nature, and spiritual help that you feel. I have been touched by so many angels I can’t even count. As you heard from Sylvia, so has she.
Here is an example:
About 2 weeks after I said a very tearful good-bye to my mother who is taking her last breaths of her life in CA, my daughter and grandson came to live with me. She has hyperemesis gravidarum which is severe nausea during pregnancy and has been hospitalized.
I feel like I am living in a fog and my heart is being pulled in so many different ways. Leaving my mother this past August was very emotional for me and I have been waiting, every time the phone rings, for the dreaded call that she is gone. I am very worried about my daughter, and my little grandson was recently diagnosed with a neurological disorder.
Each afternoon and night, I get to put my grandson to bed. I hold this little baby in my arms and sing to him and rock him. He has a brick to carry, too. One night as I was singing the songs my own mother sang to me, I realized that this little baby was sent to me not only for me to help him and his mommy, but to comfort ME. He is my angel distracting my mind with joy that only a baby can do, and during a tiny moment in my day I get to hold and rock and sooth him during his trial, but at the same time, as I silently mourn, trying to prepare for my own mother to leave this earth—He is soothing me. Angles are real—and they are all around us. NOTICE. God sends them to prove he is real and listening.
two: We can be an angel to someone one else and that will spread joy.
Helping to lift someone else’s brick makes yours lighter too. This is one of God’s gifts. As we heard from Sylvia, even if you cannot physically do something for someone else, You can offer prayers and send love to them which they will feel. Mr. Smith went through a horrible adversity, but by sharing his pain, it created a ripple effect which helped others work through their pain. My daughter was comforted.
This is true!
three: With angels come miracles, tender mercies and recognized blessings. But sometimes they are so subtle, you may miss them. Notice!
The entire time I was going through my cancer and multiple surgeries not one of my family members got sick. Not once. That is a miracle living with 5 boys! It was a tender mercy for me because my white count was very low and it could have been very serious for me.
Two blessings that I have discovered through really tough adversity is that we are given humor to lighten our load, and gifts that we can turn to for comfort. My gifts were the arts, especially music.
four: There is a powerful source to which we can rely that sends angels and miracles. This is a loving God who knows us and loves us.
Everyone has their own bricks to carry. We don’t know why we have the ones we do. What we do with them is our choice. I choose to believe and trust in God. Because…as the little first grader says: He looks Good! He is good.
Here is a quick recipe for adversity from a quote from the book A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich which I have wrapped around your brick to take home. It goes like this:
It takes faith and courage and love and prayer and work and a little singing to keep up your spirits but we’re going to do it!”
God Bless you in your faith…