Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Hope of Christmas

Last week was a difficult one for me, but it was also difficult for several of my friends. I have two good friends going through similar cancer situations- one with metastatic breast cancer and a one year old and another with a rare/aggressive form of ovarian cancer with two small children. Both received difficult news last week and continue to have tough times controlling the cancers, being in the hospital with infections/flu, and other random-not-so-helpful stuff like breaking a foot and another getting in a car accident. Please pray for those two families. Also last week, my best friend of a million years and the main person I go to for support outside of my family, lost a baby on her third IVF cycle. Please be in prayer for that sister.

It feels like there is so much hurt in the world. Maybe sad stories attract other sad stories. Brad says our situation has made him so much more sensitive to the needs and hurts of others during prayer request time at church; whereas we would always pray well-intentioned yet clinically detached prayers for people in pain, lately we have both been deeply moved by other's stories of strained relationships, lost babies, and sickness.  Maybe the increased sensitivity is a result of God drawing close to us through our own trial.

I don't know how I went the first thirty years of my life so oblivious to the extreme pain that exists out in the world. It is a symptom of how broken this world really is and how it was never meant to be our forever home. Even a non-religious person will tell you a young pregnant mother should never receive the cancer diagnosis I received last summer. Something deep inside us rails against it - a sensibility God installed in everyone that says, "This doesn't make sense. Something is not right."  Despite the certainty of death as the conclusion of life, so few people are prepared for it, equipped to face it, or are even okay thinking about it.  Could it be that we rail against the inevitability of death because we were initially designed not to die?

We live in a fallen world - a world fundamentally fractured from close to the very beginning by man's sin, or disobedience to God. But God in his mercy and love provided a way to overcome all the wrong, all the hurt, all the sin that keeps us apart from Him.  A way to reconcile with us, who He loves, despite all the things we've done that disappoint and offend Him.  That answer is Jesus. He is the only person that can make the wrong of this world right.

When he came to earth two thousand years ago, He came in the form of a little baby. He was God in the flesh, yet fully human so he could sympathize with all the things we struggle with.  He was sent to earth to right the wrongs of every human that ever existed or would ever exist. When he was sent to die on a cross, He bore the sins of you and me and took away the penalty of death we all deserve for our disobedience, our rebellion. And not the kind of death I'm facing right now- one where your physical body dies but your soul lives on. I'm talking about an eternal spiritual death that we deserve because of our sins - one where we die here on earth, but then also spend an eternity separated from Christ in Hell (talk about no bueno, that is way worse than cancer).

The good news is that this earth, so full of pain - babies not making it full-term, a young mother dying of cancer, bad things happening to good people - is not all there is:

"For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." (James 4:14)

I have hope. Not just for the one in a million chance that I beat cancer, but I hope for my forever home, Heaven. Where

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." (Revelation 21:4)

I hope for Heaven. I hope for a time when there is no more pain and no more sorrow. Where all the fundamentally broken parts of this world, fractured by sin - from hurricanes to stillbirths to cancer - are made right, as God intended it to be in the beginning. Where anxiety and death are no more.

Are you hoping for Heaven? Do you ever think about the fact that we are all going to die someday, and somehow that includes you and it includes me (this is often still tough for me to wrap my head around)? Do you know what happens after we breathe our last breath and close our eyes for the final time in this world?

Because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and have given him control of my life, and because I believe he died on a cross two thousand years ago to pay the penalty for my sins, I know that when I breathe my last breath, I will be in the presence of the Almighty God- the Creator of the Universe.

I challenge you this Christmas season to think beyond the presents and the pretty lights, and think about the baby in the manger and what that means for you personally. You may have grown up in a church but haven't gone since you were a kid. You may be logically opposed to the "crutch" of Christianity for any of a dozen rational reasons.  You may have been turned away from a religious system in which you have seen hypocrisy and corruption. Or you may be seeking for someone to take away the pain and anxiety you feel in your life this season.  No matter where you are, Jesus wants to meet you there today and allow you to have a new life starting here on earth, before we even get to our forever home.

This is how I am able to have joy in the midst of seemingly insurmountable odds. This is how I'm able to have hope for tomorrow and peace for today despite my, let's admit it, pretty horrible situation. It isn't hope in doctors, or medical advancements, or leaning on my husband for support, or "the power of prayer" - it is because the same God who created both distant galaxies and my beating heart cares for me, talks to me, loves me, and supports me through this.  It isn't because I'm some superwoman Pollyanna- it is because I have new life in Jesus Christ.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I'm quickly learning that since I have cancer, I can pretty much do whatever I want (in fact I wore a workout jacket as a top to church last Sunday...that's when you know you've given up just a little bit). So in that vein, since I don't know how much longer I have, I want to directly address all my dear friends that think of me as their "slightly fanatical Christian friend": I want to tell you that I want you to be there with me when I die and I go to Heaven. I want to save you a seat. I want to have an eternity of hanging out and ab-splitting laughter with you. Please don't let another day go by without figuring out exactly what you believe about these issues of eternal significance. Just because I got the heads-up of a cancer diagnosis - a reminder of mortality before actually having to face death - doesn't mean everyone else will. Think about eternity. It is hard. It is weighty. Sometimes it kinda sucks to wrestle with. But it is worth it. 

I love y'all. Thanks for letting me go off on my religious-nut-job tangent. Now back to the regularly-scheduled cancer updates. <3


  1. Very moving & right on the money. It's all about Jesus.

  2. Thank you and God bless you, as you bless people you don't even know. You are an amazing woman!

  3. "He is the only person that can make the wrong of this world right."

    Yes, yes,yes. Amen.
    Great words, Ashleigh. Your words are inspiring and the Holy Spirit is changing lives through you and your story. We've never met, but I am praying for you NON STOP for God to continue to show you great JOY in knowing and trusting in Him.
    Big prayers for a big life.

  4. My dear Ashleigh! AND family! Many warm and heartfelt prayers for a complete and expedious healing!
    God has given you the most amazing ability to touch others through your experience in such a wonderful and positive way. I can hear and feel your joy despite the struggle, pain and unknown (afterall, God gives us a lamp unto our feet, not headlights! So we have to trust him step by step, and you're doing just that!)
    When I lost my two grandbabies, and almost my daughter, it was hard to understand why He let this happen to us. Then God reminded me that we can't see what He sees or know the joy He has in store. And I discovered so many nurses were touched by our situation and blessed by Jakob and Elly even for their short time on earth. God can accomplish much in 7 days! :-)
    THANK YOU for inspiring me to bring God into my life in a greater way and focus more on the purpose He intended for me to fulfill while I have days left on this earth!
    Bunches of Blessings and Strength!
    Karen Hughes

  5. Sweet Ashleigh, you are a very brave, faithful, woman. God is with you. It's hard to find God sometimes when you are surrounded by pain and suffering. Those times, it's all you can due to just deal with the pain and suffering. So now I pray for you: "Heavenly Father, help Ashleigh to always feel your presence even when times are tough. Give her strength that passes understanding. By the power of the Holy Spirit, help her hear your soothing words. Give her family the strength to help her during these crazy times. Finally, thank you dear, Lord, for your promised Savior, Jesus Christ, who took on the worse suffering and death, so that Ashleigh and all of us can enjoy eternity with you. Thank you for bringing all the blessings you have to Ashleigh and now give her peace and comfort and if it is your will, healing and a return to health. In Jesus Name, I pray. AMEN.

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