In-Between Chapters

Today was extremely busy.

This morning I washed our clothes at the laundromat. I told EJ that he didn’t have to go with me since he had just woke up and his back hurt, but when I got to the laundromat I realized I had forgotten the detergent so I called him and he walked to the laundromat to deliver it to me. Then he walked back home to finish his breakfast.

After I got home and the first load of wet clothes in the dryer, I took out the garbage and then went into the back yard to stack wood. We had had two face cords delivered yesterday. I didn’t tell EJ that I was stacking wood because I wanted him to rest his back. I got more than half the wood stacked before he discovered me, and then he helped me finish.

Back in the house, EJ started cooking lunch while I helped JJ with the forms he has to fill out in preparation for the appointment with the surgeon tomorrow. I also printed out maps for our appointments for the next two days. All are at places we have never been to before.

I looked through the packet of information that we were given at the Chemo Class a few days ago so I would know what foods and items JJ will need when he has Chemo, and which things he needs to avoid. There is a lot to learn and remember. One thing I learned is that if JJ gets any bodily fluids on any clothing, we have to immediately wash them TWICE. I was content to wash my clothes at the laundromat each week, but since it would be unreasonable and exhausting and impossible to immediately run to the laundromat if/whenever JJ vomits, EJ and I decided it was time to buy a new washer and dryer.

Our washer/dryer is in our downstairs bathroom. The space is only big enough for a stackable washer/dryer. A couple of years ago the washer part broke and money has been a bit tight, so we’ve been washing our clothes at the laundromat and bringing them home to dry–either in the dryer part or outside on the clothesline. A few months ago we brainstormed about possibly reconfiguring our bathroom so we could fit in a separate washer and dryer. That way if one broke we’d only have to replace that one and not both. But we don’t have time to reconfigure bathrooms right now so EJ found a stackable at Lowes website and off we went.

We stopped first at our friend RB’s house to borrow his truck because we were planning to bring the washer/dryer home with us. Then we drove on to Lowes. They didn’t have any stackables in stock. Stackables are a special order item and would not be delivered until the day before JJ begins Chemo, which is too late to get it set up. With all the appointments we will be driving to in the next couple weeks, we really needed to buy a stackable today, but it looked like we couldn’t. As soon as we got in the truck, I prayed that God would help us find one. Then I opened my eyes and saw Sears. “Oh! Let’s try Sears!” I urged. So we went into the store. We found washers and dryers that are separate and can be placed side by side or they can be stacked one on top of the other. They are pretty cool. That’s just perfect. They will fit in our bathroom space, but if one breaks, both don’t need to be replaced. They will be delivered on Black Friday, and I think the delivery men will set them up and help hook them up.  Now I won’t have to worry about running to the laundromat during JJ’s Chemo.

On the way home, we stopped at RB’s to drop off his truck and retrieve our car. We ended up visiting with him and his 18-year-old daughter for longer than we expected. We talked a lot about suffering and faith.

RB’s daughter reads this blog [Hi, CB!], and she said that she thinks my blog is written in layers. She said she doesn’t know how to explain it, but in one layer she reads emotions like pain, fear, weariness, and so forth, but in another layer she thinks it’s almost as if we enjoy suffering because I write about how God is working in our lives through everything. I really do not like suffering, of course, and she realizes that, but I have experienced God doing some amazing things in and around me through it.  I think CB pretty much understands.

A few weeks ago I wrote about being in the middle of the story. A related topic that I have been pondering is that I sometimes feel as if some motivational stories are lacking something. I’m probably just very weird because I know that motivational stories can be very inspiring. And I realize, of course, that a lot of times people have limited time to share their stories, and they want to get across the very real truth that they have found God to be faithful in every difficulty. I really do get it.

LOTR
LOTR

But sometimes the stories feel unfinished to me, as if the speaker began with Chapter 1 and then jumped to the last Chapter. I supposed any story could actually be summed up in a sentence or two. Like: “Frodo traveled to Mordor with Sam and threw the One Ring into the fire of Mt. Doom. The End.” But what kind of story is that? All stories describe not just the beginning and the end, but the journey in-between. I think a reader has to follow the heroes through all the chapters of the story, sharing in the dangers, the temptations, the agony, the pain. He has to wonder if the hero will overcome and survive the journey. Only then can he understand the victory at the end.

I believe that our lives are stories, and I love to hear about the journey. When people share only the first and last chapters of their stories (“I encountered a difficulty…God delivered me.) I always wonder what happened in the chapters in-between. I believe that God can give a person supernatural peace and strength to make it through a difficulty. Of course He can. But I also think that our lives are a journey of faith, a process in which we grow through the story, and most people don’t go through life without some in-between chapters. Hearing only the first and last chapters of a person’s story make it sound (to me) as if there was nothing but unwavering faith, unassailable doubt, and joyful songs. But surely in between the beginning of the difficulty and the end of it, there must have been struggle, tears, heartache, at least at some point? So I want to know “What’s the whole story?”

Overwhelming Odds
Overwhelming Odds

I love stories. I love all the chapters of a story, even the scary and sad parts in the middle when all seems lost. For example, my favorite part of Star Wars The Phantom Menace is when everything seems lost: the group storming the palace are captured. Those fighting on the battlefield are defeated by the droids. Little Anakin accidentally hit the autopilot on the plane and is taken to the space station where he is surrounded by the enemy. The odds are overwhelming. Everyone is defeated. Everything is hopeless. I love this part because it sets the stage for the glorious victory later. I can’t understand the victory without understanding the pain. I can’t understand the destination without sharing the journey. If I don’t read the in-between chapters of the story, I can’t understand the ending. At least, that’s what I think.

That’s why I don’t just write about the good, happy, strong days. I also write about the tiring days, and the scary days, and the discouraging days of my journey. Good stories have danger, risk, temptation, weakness, pain, and/or enemies that need to be overcome. In good stories, readers don’t know if the heroes will survive. In good stories, the characters are transformed on the journey.

I love good stories. I love reading them and I love telling them. Our battle with cancer is a story. People reading it should wonder if we will survive the journey? Will we overcome the danger? Will we be transformed? Only boring stories have no danger and predictable endings.

Sometimes when I complain that our own story is getting a bit too scary, EJ says, “You don’t want our life to be a boring story, do you?”

I want to end this post with a YouTube video. I think songs are stories set to music. In this hilarious video, comedian Tim Hawkins shortens some musical stories to one sentence or verse. As you can see, without all the verses,  a lot of the story is lost.

 

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