Saturday, April 22, 2017

My Scarlet Letter

 "In a moment, however, wisely judging that one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another, she took the baby on her arm, and, with a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbors. On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A." - The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
I have spent hours pouring over how I would write this post and what I would say. I will start with the news... 

In just a few months, Lord willing, a beautiful baby boy will be making his debut in this world. He will be a precious gift to his father and I, and the countless others that are looking forward to meeting him. 

My hands shake as I type these words. I know many will be shocked and disappointed. I had always anticipated announcing my first pregnancy in some fun fashion. But then, I never thought this would be my situation. I have known and heard of Christian young women who got pregnant before they were married, but I never imagined that could be me. I was so committed to the Lord, and I knew exactly where I was going in life. 

Or so I thought. 

I have never been so humbled...

The last eight months have easily been the most 'life-filled' months of my life thus far. I have experienced some of my deepest lows, as well as some of my greatest highs. All I can say is I am so thankful that in the valleys, Christ did not forsake me. Even as I sinned against Him, He was tenderly drawing me back to Himself. 

However, unlike some sins, mine is one that can not be easily brushed away and forgotten. I am to carry a 'token of my shame', a 'scarlet letter' as it were. My scarlet letter is not a 'B' for the baby, but an 'A' for the adultery against God before the consecration of marriage was present. 

Yet, by the grace of God, that scarlet letter has been overcome by the blood of Christ, who has the power to cleanse any sin. Our little boy will be born, unmarred by the sin in which he was conceived, and my darling son will not be a cause of shame or guilt for me. He will be a dear blessing, and I am so, so excited to meet him. I can't wait to hold our baby, and tell him how much we love him. Our prayer is that he will grow up to be a courageous young man with a passionate heart for Christ, and that we can share with him the depths of God's grace we have experienced.

So, as I make this announcement, I am sad for the context I must make it in, but I'm free from the burden of the shame, knowing Christ has covered it. I can't wait for the journey ahead. 

The stigma gone, Hester heaved a long, deep sigh, in which the burden of shame and anguish departed from her spirit. O exquisite relief! She had not known the weight, until she felt the freedom!  -The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Precious In The Sight Of The Lord

Eighteen months.

That's how long I had with her.

Eighteen beautiful, joy-filled, wonderful months...

People have told me you can't make true friends online, but I wholeheartedly reject that idea. My friendship with Karina was one of the truest I've ever had, and it was nearly all online. We met on Facebook through a mutual friend that started an online-mafia-game group, and bonding over strategizing genius plans, we struck up a nice little friendship within a matter of weeks. But if you'd told me then that this 15-year-old girl would soon become one of my best friends, I would have laughed in your face. We met online, she lived in Washington, I lived in Southern California, and the chances of us ever meeting in person were practically zero. But... I soon learned that God's ways are much higher than our ways, and He can accomplish anything in His perfect will.

I immediately found in Karina a kindred spirit - we had the same sense of humor, several common interests and passions... but most of all - we shared a deep love for the Lord. It was the kind of friendship I had long been praying for. As Karina and I messaged back and forth almost daily, for months, I remained completely unconscious of the immense battle Karina was facing. Until someone finally told me the news that left me shocked and devastated...

"Karina has cancer."

I didn't know what to think... millions of emotions and thoughts swarmed through my head... And ashamedly I must confess that when she explained it to me, for a brief moment, I hesitated. Did I really want to continue pursuing a friendship with this young woman who I could lose at any time? Did I really want to make myself vulnerable to that kind of pain? But, almost as soon as the thought crossed my mind, it was pushed out. Her companionship was a blessing beyond compare, and completely worth all potential pain. Completely...

Karina and I continued to grow closer, and before I really knew it, she had become one of my best friends, and eventually an adopted "sister". We shared our fears, insecurities, and struggles with one another with the knowledge that the other would encourage and point us to Christ. We shared our joys, fun stories, and exciting news with one another with the knowledge that the other would rejoice along with us. And, oh, the wonderful times we had. Whether it was pranking other members of our mafia group, naming our laptops, planning up entrepreneurial escapades, or moderating a Hunger Games themed mafia game, she was my partner-in-crime and right-hand girl.

And, perhaps the greatest birthday present I've ever had was when she came down to visit for my 16th birthday, and we got to spend one lovely day together. The only time I ever had with Kare in person...

The truly remarkable thing about her, though, is that even when she was constantly in discomfort and pain, she pushed on with a joyful spirit. She never complained to her friends about the battle she was fighting, and only expressed the pain when she was asking for prayer. In the times she was discouraged, she'd turn to God. And she was one of the most cheerful people I knew. She never lost sight of Christ, and she was a witness for Him through the abounding love and care she showed to people when she was the one who needed care the most. She was surely a bright light if I ever knew one. She stored up countless treasures in heaven through the abounding love she showed, the incredible courage she fought with, and the amazing faith she displayed.

Even though at ten years old Karina was diagnosed with cancer, and the doctors told her she probably only had six months to live, she fought the monster inside her for seven years! And on May 9th of 2014, Karina was finally released from that battle, the monster lost power over it's victim, and she was received into glory with a "well done, my faithful servant."

I only had eighteen precious months with Karina, and I do so wish I could have had longer. There are so many conversations unhad, so many memories unmade... She won't get to be the maid-of-honor in my wedding, or hold my daughter whom I will name after her (if God gives me one). But I can rest assured that I will see her again. I will get to spend eternity with her! And I can't wait. It's the most overwhelmingly beautiful thought to me.

But for now, it hurts. So very much. Every morning I wake up, and I have to say goodbye all over again. I hear a story or lesson that I want to share with her, only to be hit with the wave of grief that rushes over me when I'm reminded that she's not here to share it with. There's a pit in my stomach, and a looming cloud that I can't seem to escape from. But I don't regret it. Not for a second. The pain of missing her is nothing compared to the joy when I had her here, and the joy with her that is awaiting me after my life here is over.

The beauty that Karina brought to my life is indescribable. The lessons that I learned from her are countless. And the friendship we had is invaluable.

So... for those of you who may have wondered why I've not quite been myself for the past month - now you know. I lost one of the best friends I've ever had, a dear sister, and kindred spirit. And I don't say all this to elicit your pity or sympathy or comfort - I say this to remind you that life is short. Make the most of the time you have with the people you love, because you never know when they'll be gone. It may be cliche, but it's true. And perhaps most importantly, I hope you'll read Karina's story, and be inspired by this seventeen-year-old girl who trusted God in the face of a mighty trial, who loved freely despite the pain she was going through, and lived fully despite how short her life was.

Those eighteen months were some of the best, Karina, thank you for allowing me the pleasure of your friendship. I can't wait to see you again.