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Keep On Keeping On

Overextended and Loving Most of It by Lisa Harper 9780849921926

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. — Psalm 34:18

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day my dream of being Anna Price’s mom died. I was sitting on the couch with my laptop, returning e-mails when my cell phone rang and I noticed the caller was my adoption agency in Florida. A lump immediately welled up in my throat when I answered it because I was afraid it was going to be bad news. They’d only called a few times before and it was never good news. So I stood up and began pacing.

Surprisingly the social worker’s voice was light and positive and she told me she was just calling to let me know that everything was in place. She said the baby was due in about two weeks and I needed to go ahead and arrange to be in Florida for the second half of March because barring an unforeseen curveball, I was going to be a mom!

After congratulating me and asking me to e-mail my itinerary, she said goodbye. I plopped back down on the couch with a sigh. And then buckets of tears began streaming down my face. Before I knew it, I was crying so hard I had to put my head in my hands.

Soon the sobs became interspersed with laughter. My shoulders shook and my nose ran and my heart did cartwheels around the living room chanting,

Anna Price is coming home! Anna Price is coming home! Anna Price is coming home!

Relief took on a whole new meaning for me because I’d never experienced it wearing a cheerleading uniform and twirling a baton before. I was so joyfully discombobulated that I started praising the Lord really loud and scared my poor dogs! Then I called my family and closest friends and babbled the great news between more happy-crying spells.

That afternoon I noticed my adoption agency flashing on my cell phone again so I said, “Hello” cheerfully, with no lump. I assumed she’d just forgotten to tell me about a form she needed me to sign and scan back to her or something. But it was immediately apparent by the tone of her voice that something was wrong. Very wrong.

I’m not at liberty to go into detail, but due to circumstances beyond our control the bottom fell out of my dream. I was not going to get to bring Anna Price home to Tennessee. And I wasn’t going to be a mama anytime soon. Friends of mine who’ve experienced both late-term miscarriages and failed adoptions tell me the grief is similar. That each of those losses leaves the same shaped hole in your heart.

All I know is that I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Hard. It felt like the wind had been knocked out of my life. While I was still reeling, the phone rang again.

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This time it was my mom calling on the way home from her surgeon’s office. He had just informed her the tumor in her abdomen was not only malignant, it was Stage Four and the cancer had metastasized to more major organs than he originally thought. He wanted to schedule surgery immediately and his prognosis regarding her future health was sobering.

Early in the evening Dad called. By that point I was so wrung out, so tired of crying, that I didn’t have the energy to tell him what had taken place that day. I thought, I’ll tell him about Anna Price and mom tomorrow but right now I’m just going to ask him a few questions and keep the conversation short. So I asked casually, How ‘ya doin, Dad? He paused for a second or two, then said, I’m not doing very well honey because I went to the doctor this afternoon. I said, What’d he say, Dad?

And he told me the doctor read the results of his latest scan which revealed the cancer they’d operated on twice before had spread to his lungs and liver and there was nothing more they could do surgically. They informed him that he had about two months to live unless he chose to go through another round of radically aggressive chemotherapy. Even then the doctor said he’d probably only gain another few months.

I prayed for Dad over the phone, told him I loved him very much, promised I’d call him the next day after I talked to his doctor myself, and then hung up the phone. I sat on the bed for several minutes afterwards in shock, completely stunned by the devastation of the day. I wasn’t sure what to do or where to turn. My mind felt sluggish and full, as if it couldn’t digest another morsel of sadness.

Eventually I leaned over and robotically set the alarm for 4am because it vaguely occurred to me that I had an early flight the next morning. Then I remembered why.

I was scheduled to speak to a group of ministry leaders in Kansas on the subject of Keep on Keeping On ~ it was supposed to be a message about how we can persevere in our calling as Christ’s ambassadors because of the unwavering goodness of God. Oh good night, I thought. What in the world am I going to say tomorrow when all I want to do is pull the covers over my head and not come out for a long, long time?

All I had the strength to do was lie down and breathe and even then it felt like there was an elephant on my chest. Breathe in God’s peace… exhale anxiety. Breathe in God’s peace… exhale anxiety. Breathe in God’s peace… exhale anxiety. Breathe in God’s peace… exhale anxiety.

After what felt like a week of grieving in the dark, the alarm began to buzz. I got up and walked to the bathroom and prayed. One step followed another after another after another until fifteen hours later I was standing on a stage in downtown Kansas City overlooking a sea of expectant faces.

After taking another deep breath to steady myself, I began talking about the sovereign mercy of God. About how His providence will never take us to a place where His grace is not sufficient. About how our Creator Redeemer is perfectly loving and faithful even when our lives are one hot mess… even when our dreams have been shattered into a million shards. And you know what? I meant every single word I said that night. I meant them because I’ve lived them. It may’ve been the truest testimony I’ve ever shared.

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Your Turn

What is your truest testimony? Have you felt God press in close during a time of brokenheartedness? We would love to hear your story of how you learned to keep on keeping on. Please share your comments on our blog!

Register for the Live Chat with Lisa Harper

If you enjoyed reading this excerpt from Lisa’s new book, Overextended… And Loving Most Of It!, we hope you will join us for a live chat with Lisa on Tuesday, November 26th, where she’ll be answering YOUR questions about the overextended Christian life. Lisa writes in the book, “Real life . . . abundant life . . . godly life is about loving Jesus and the people he allows us to rub shoulders with well—which means some days you’ll be stretched emotionally and physically. You’ll feel overextended. Thankfully God will expand our hearts and calendars to accommodate the calling. He is in the business of supplying us with new mercies every morning . . . new candles to burn, for more lives needing his light.”

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