It didn’t seem to bother her until, of course, it did.
My biggest girl, my four-year-old, had seen something that her little imagination twisted and turned into a cause for alarm, and suddenly she carried fear everywhere she went like a little pet. After she saw this scene in a whimsical, silly play I had taken her to, I knew it stood out to her when she crawled onto my lap and snuggled there the rest of the show. But then she didn’t mention it for a day, and then a week, and then an entire month had gone by and I thought we were in the clear.
And then she began having dreams and waking up in the middle of the night and not leaving my side and carrying worries in the day and worries in the night.
I tried everything. Tried drawing pictures of these giants that had taken over her heart. Tried telling stories about them. Tried imagining them as silly looking creatures. Tried promising her I will protect her. Still, the fear stayed.
And then, I just decided to be completely honest with my girl.
“Hey kiddo? Do you think giants are real?”
“Well, you know what? They aren’t! They’re just pretend. They’re something that someone imagined up with their smart and creative brain just like you imagine up worlds for you and Ellie to play in.”
“They’re NOT REAL?” Mind blown.
And so lately we’ve been talking a lot about what is real and what is not real.
Dora the explorer: Not real
Ice cream: Real
Mickey Mouse: Not real
Giants: Not real
Somehow, this pretend/real conversation helps her keep her focus. Anytime I see her start to get worried again I say Baby girl? Remember what’s real. And her whole body relaxes.
A few weeks ago, I went in to a dermatologist to have them look at a lesion I had discovered on the back of my neck. Yesterday, she called me back with the introduction of “Well, Sarah, it’s not good.”
As much as I had prepared myself for this conversation, my heart began to race wildly. She began to tell me that this little itchy patch of skin that had been bothering me did, in fact, come back as melanoma- the most serious type of skin cancer. I don’t remember much of what she said after that.
Hearing the word cancer- even a skin cancer like this that they should be able to completely remove through surgery- is scary. There’s no way around that. I think of how I’m only 32 years old. I think of my three baby girls. I think of my husband across the country. I think of how there is still so very much that I want to do.
And so I have the pretend/real conversation with myself.
Cancer is scary: Real
I need to be afraid: Not real
This was a curveball within a year of curveballs: Real
God is no longer good: Not real
Perfect love drives out fear: Real
This is more than God can handle: Not real
And the longer I let myself hold onto what is real, I feel peace surround me, standing guard, protecting my heart. When I am afraid, I take my eyes off of what is real, I lose my focus, I become unsteady.
See, it is peace that shields us, defends us, shelters us. It is peace that protects us, guides us, comforts us. It is peace that I cling to as I repeat You are good You are good You are good.
And here is what I know to be true about peace: It is when we are grateful that we find peace.
No matter what is going on around us, if we can find something to be grateful for, peace will transform the whole situation and stand as our guard. Look at Philippians 4:6-7… when we pray with thanksgiving the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.
And so yesterday, as I felt a little wobbly, I needed to find my sure footing. I needed the image of a strong and fierce warrior by my side: Peace, guarding me.
And so yesterday, the day I was diagnosed with skin cancer, this is where I found my gratitude and my peace:
Holding my eight-month-old in my arms as she blew raspberries in my face.
Talking this over on the phone with my husband on his lunch break from 2000 miles away. Can I pray for you? he asked. I’m not thrown off by this, he said.
Painting a piece of furniture while the older two painted the driveway with water, oblivious to anything in the world that they should be scared of.
My girlfriends surrounding me with texts and love and prayers like a warm blanket.
Eating leftover birthday cake for an afternoon snack.
Rocking my baby to sleep.
Those moments when I began to worry once again, and reminding myself of Lane’s voice saying Hey babe? I’m not thrown off by this.
Because we don’t find peace in the absence of hard, we find peace in the presence of Jesus.
Some of you might be facing things that are causing you to be a little unsteady today. Words said by politicians, maybe. Family dynamics, maybe. A hard decision, maybe.
Whatever it is, you need to know that the voice of our sweet and present Jesus is standing guard right at our side saying-
Hey kiddo? I’m not thrown off by this. I’m still good. I still have your back. And my peace? You better believe that’s real.