Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Tag: healing

The Joy of Exhaling

Did you hear about the couple in California back in October that survived one of the wildfires by immersing themselves in their neighbor’s pool? For six hours, John and Jan Pascoe repeatedly submerged themselves to avoid the ash and flames. Luckily, their strategy worked. They walked away relatively unscathed, however their home and both of their vehicles were completely destroyed.

I have a hard time imagining what that experience would be like. I wonder how long they may have had to hold their breath at times, waiting for just the right moment to grab another chestful of air.

My husband, Jason, shared this story with me the same day he received news that his cancer may very well be in remission, and I have to confess that I immediately drew some parallels to our own lives.

Have you ever had a time where you felt like you were figuratively holding your breath? Maybe waiting on news of the results of an interview, final judgments in a competition, willing the pregnancy test to show positive or negative? Waiting can be so hard, and sometimes we are asked to do so for long periods of time.

December 19th, Jason and I made a visit to his oncologist. He’s reached the end of a clinical trial he has been a part of for two years. When his test results came back and one of the doctors told us that his blood work was normal, I felt myself truly exhale for the first time in six years. I’m not exaggerating. It’s like I had been unconsciously holding just part of my breath that entire time.

I think our experience mirrors this couple’s in many ways. For six hours they were up and down waiting and hoping for rescue. They watched things fall apart around them. They were at the mercy of the flames. For six years, we have had to tread the proverbial water. Each visit before the trial as the white cell counts grew we were holding our breath just a little bit more. Then, each visit after the start of the medication it would seep out ever so slightly as the numbers began to go down. We would suck a little more air in when side effects would pop up, or infection reared its ugly head. This sounds way more dramatic than reality, but the feeling is true, nonetheless.

There is so much uncertainty with cancer. Even when operations, treatments, or medications do their job, cancer still steals something from you. Your peace of mind is never the same afterwards. Just as this couple lost treasured possessions, there are things you lose with cancer that cannot be replaced. Peace of mind should not be taken for granted.

Maybe you are familiar with a popular Amy Grant Christmas song called “Breath of Heaven.” It is also known as “Mary’s Song.” Here are some of the lyrics:

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now
Be with me now

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven

The original lyrics were written by English songwriter Chris Eaton. Amy Grant got permission to rework the song to make it into a Christmas tune. Here is what she had to say about it: “It is a prayer that fits a lot of people’s circumstances, because it is a cry of mercy. Some nights on stage I can hardly get through the song for knowing all of the collective, unspoken pain of the lives in front of me. And so the words become my prayer for the listener and the reader, as well as the singer.”

In Job 33:4, we read, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” In Genesis we read that God formed man from the dust of the ground and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” In the book of John, the Bible tells us we must be born of the Spirit. The word Spirit can be translated as a current of air, a breath-blast, a breeze. Not only has God given us physical life, but we have the chance for him to breathe life into our very spirits.

It is for this reason that I cling to my belief in a magnificent Creator. There are times I may not be able to physically breathe, but I have something inside of me that gives me hope nonetheless, that keeps my spirit breathing.

God will not always answer my prayers in the affirmative. Through great research, good doctors, ideal circumstances, and a good physical match between the medication and my husband’s body he was healed this time (at least for now). When the breath of life is taken out of our bodies, or those we love, we can cling to the hope of the breath of heaven that can reside within us.

A few days after our good news I purchased this sign as a gift for Jason. We are looking forward to many more years together.

May you find yourself exhaling soon if life is hard or uncertain right now!


Avoidance at Its Finest


I took my youngest son to the doctor today suspecting an ear infection. Sure enough, such was the case. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic and off we went to the pharmacy.

My youngest and medicine don’t mix well. We’ve had a few battles over the years.

Today was no exception. The medicine sat untouched. After cajoling, threatening, and bribing he took one sip which he proceeded to not spit it out, but throw it up. On me. Fun times.

We went into the bathroom for a “take two.” Eventually he crawled into a corner under the sink and put the step stool on its end in front of him. “This store is closed!” he proclaimed.

I couldn’t help but laugh and proceeded to do what any desperate mama does these days. I went to Google. After giving him several possible options, he chose putting it in yogurt. That did the trick and both mama and son are now happy campers. The promise of a milkshake from McDonald’s didn’t hurt either. I’m sorry, friends, I had reached my wit’s end!

How often do we do the same thing when we know we need to make a change that will be good for us? We curl up in a fetal position, place walls around our heart, and hang out a closed sign. Somehow the thought of the process of the change and the temporary pain it may bring far outweighs the joy that lies within our grasp.

I read a story several years ago that continues to haunt me in a book called Story by Stephen James. There was a king whose brother tried to assassinate him and failed. The king decided to imprison his brother in a room that faced the sea. The room had a window and a door that a normal-sized person could walk through. I’m not sure how they got the brother in the room, because, you see, he was extremely overweight.

The brother could earn his freedom in only one way. Every day the servants set platters of delectable food in the window. The brother simply had to conquer his addiction, lose the weight, and walk out the door freed from captivity. But the man perished in that cell, just as the kind predicted he would.

How many of us say, “I’ll deal with that problem tomorrow.” But tomorrow never comes. We gaze longingly out the window to a future available to us, but instead we wallow in our misery. I’ve been there. I know that feeling and I think that is why this story resonates with me. And also terrifies me that I will once again put myself in a cell constructed by my own hands.

Take just one step towards freedom today. Whether your hang-up is food like in the story, or another addiction, lack of exercise, or a bad habit, make a decision to make one small change. Turn the closed sign over to open and allow the healing to begin. The ultimate gain far surpasses the temporary discomfort.

What is something you have overcome and how does that feel? I’d love to hear your stories.

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