Today is my birthday. Not the one on my driver’s license, not the one my mom gave birth to me in Ashtabula, Ohio in 1973 (that’s crazy math – don’t do it).

Today is the eighteen-year anniversary of my bone marrow transplant; they call it your “birthday” for it is the day you have new birth.

I literally just woke up. It’s a little after 7am and quiet, and I’m trying to decide whether to make coffee. None of this is new, other than part where I’m writing. Oh, and also the blurry screen part caused by newly diagnosed ocular migraines. Getting used to this stupid medicine they forced me to take so they stop happening has been no joke. It slows me down in the mornings.

So, we’ll see about the coffee thing in a few minutes. I tried gulping three vat-sized cups in defiance on the second day of this nonsense and that almost landed me back in the ER. Here’s the point I promise I’m trying to make: I was reminded in a hurry that everything in this life is a constant choice.

I have a professor who blogs on a site called 300 words a day? I have no idea how anyone can either use or choose only 300 words – ever. That’s like a straight up muzzle to me. But he does. That’s his choice. He also chooses to teach Spiritual Formation, which is a class essentially about growth – choosing to become more mature, more Christ-like, more of who we were meant to be.

Just two short days ago, I was reminded of this during a “discussion” with my husband. Did I mention I don’t like being slowed down in the mornings? It maybe makes me a little difficult to be around. Well, not for me – I don’t mind being around me at all. In a moment when I could have very easily chosen to have the mother of all ocular migraines, I instead, by God’s grace, chose some form of spiritual formation and found my muzzle.

I think it may have taken a minute, because I vaguely remember Ryan mentioning later that “my sweet wife has a serious set of pipes” (I thought he meant biceps – whatever), but that was definitely growth for me. Every day I try to get better. More loving. More understanding. Just…keep moving in a direction that isn’t counterintuitive to the one that’s in my heart.

You know, the day I found out I was sick, Liv was eighteen months old and she and I were by ourselves in Chesterton, Indiana. I was working from home and she was at the Montessori school. I heard the news – and drove myself straight to the Catholic church. I walked in, genuflected, and sat in a pew in the back row, right in front of a statue of Mary. I don’t really remember what I said other than “Please help me, please, please, please,” because I was in shock. And then I drove to pick her up (Liv, not Mary).

That was it. I believed in God before I had cancer and I believed in Him after. I didn’t love Him any more or any less after my diagnosis, and I didn’t believe for a second that He loved me any more or less. People asked me the day I left the hospital if I “was so close to God now” or if I “stopped and smelled the roses.” Like any good cradle Catholic, my answers were no and no (the only roses I like are GN’R) and I have felt guilty ever since.

Until now.

Finally, I am starting to get it. I just had to write a paper for a (enjoy this) Christian Apologetics class (sorry – not “apologizing” anymore), so I chose the topic of miracles. Of course, people also asked if I thought it was a miracle that I didn’t die. As if I had the answer. I used to write people’s English papers in exchange for Science notes. It’s not that I didn’t understand Science, mind you, I have always just been a black and white thinker – that’s why Scripture is easier for me to understand than mysticism; that’s why it’s easier for me to understand God as an “authoritarian” God than a “loving” God.

While we don’t even know it, our life experiences have formed profoundly complex and deeply interwoven beliefs about God and gasp! “religion” that are difficult to come to terms with let alone begin to unravel.

I used to be wracked with guilt and confusion about why a “good and loving” God would “save” me but not the other twelve people on the same cancer ward in Cleveland who were in there at the same time, for the same kind of leukemia, undergoing the same kind of treatment from the same oncologist.

But not anymore. I’ve come to realize it’s ok to not have all the answers and just still believe in a God who does.

It doesn’t mean that it will make the confusion or pain of this life go away, but it does mean we can – if we choose – grow from it in so many beautiful ways.

P.S. Under the heading of “choosing”: you can choose to sign up below to get notified when new posts hit (weekly, if we’re being honest and all lucky here).

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