mother holding her teenage son

Finding God in the Mess

Life was messy and it was often hard to see God at work through the fog. My adolescent son was battling life-threatening cancer, which also threatened to steal my joy and rattle my faith.

But even amid the mess, I learned to have a heart of gratitude. I was reading Anne Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts as I sat next to my son who was battling cancer. I started to journal as Anne suggested in the book, so I would keep a running tally of blessings I noticed daily. In the hospital, I would look for blessings. Some days I couldn’t find even one, other days I found 20+.

My husband taught us to always remember that the mess we are in is temporary and that our relationship and life in Christ is eternal. So, when we found out that our youngest son had cancer, we adopted the perception that “everything is temporary.” God was already at work preparing my heart for what was to come.

Although this appears to be a story of a terrible battle with a disease, it is a story of our faithful Savior who provided life and peace despite the circumstances.

It’s the testimony of a family determined to live with faith, hope, and love.

The Diagnosis

Jared was only 12 when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a very aggressive bone cancer. It latched onto his hip joint and upper femur and ate his bones until they looked like Swiss cheese. It wasn’t like Jared to quit jumping on the trampoline before his brother was done, so when he limped into the house early and said his leg was hurting, I knew it was time to go to the doctor. Two weeks later he was in surgery for a port to be installed in his chest, and the next day he started chemotherapy. It was my birthday.

Blessings in the Storm

But, again God would reveal to me His many blessings even amid this storm. He provided light and love in the hospital in the form of amazing doctors and nurses. I will never forget one of his wonderful doctors, who was from Australia and had his legs tattooed with bones. Like, the shin bone was literally tattooed onto his shin and he wore shorts so we could see them.

Jared’s favorite nurse had been through Leukemia herself as a child so she could empathize with him and understood that she was probably his best friend.

These individuals are in my journal, definite blessings sent from God during a messy season.

While he battled cancer, Jared loved it when my husband and I would read aloud to him at his bedside. In one of the books, there’s a chapter called, “God is a Verb.” Think about that for a minute. God is love. Love is a verb. An action word. So, God is love in action. On the day when the doctors sat Jared down and told him cancer would take his life, we quietly got in the car, afraid to talk because of this new reality of imminent death. I hopped in the back seat because we would always assume Jared would be nauseous and he would need to sit in the front. I thought I was going to lose it. Jared put the visor down so that he could look at me in the mirror, “Mom, what’s a verb again?” Holding it together I said, “It’s an action word.”

At that moment when my baby was told he was going to die, he chose life. He chose to remember that he would soon be face-to-face with Love.

I wrote that in my journal because God was still at work. As a family, we battled cancer for four years. And now, as a family, we grieve. Jared lost his battle with cancer on March 9, 2016. He was almost 16 years old.

Grief

Grief is horrible and lovely all at once. Grief is loving someone who you can no longer hold or touch or have a conversation with in person. Grief is a hole in your life that is impossible to fill, a longing for connection that won’t ever be relieved. But through this, I have learned that God is also in grief. He can sit with you like no one else can. He can relieve the deepest soul-wrenching pain because He is peace and joy and love. He is a verb. I continue to have a heart of gratitude for all He continues to do.

Hope

Because of God, I have hope for the future and peace for how He wants to use me to impact the world. God clearly directed my steps to start school at Colorado Christian University. I am certain that He wants me to tell the story of His powerful work in our lives. It was my husband who encouraged and challenged me to pursue my degree. I will graduate from CCU in the Spring of ’21 alongside my daughter. We will be joining my husband and son as CCU alumni. It is fair to say that CCU has changed our lives. I have seen God at work, even in our mess. He has provided all I need to move forward. CCU is empowering me to do just that, move forward, and help others through the power of our testimony.

Colorado Christian University and Moms in Prayer International have partnered to help moms like you pursue the next chapter of your story. You can save up to 20% on an undergraduate degree program or 10% on a graduate degree. Learn more by visiting ccu.edu/chepp1020. This offer ends August 16, 2020.

Kristi Mitchell served in full time ministry with her husband for more than 20 years, raising four children, and is now enjoying the empty-nesting life. Kristi is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Communication with Colorado Christian University online so that she can be equipped to effectively share the story of her son, Jared, and her enduring testimony of faith in Jesus Christ.

Comments 7

  1. Beautifully written Kristi. You amaze me. I am so thankful that you are able to help others by sharing your own life so openly. God bless you and your family.

  2. Thanks for sharing your heart and story!!!
    “Praise be to the LORD and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesu Christ from the dead ” 1Peter 1:3.

  3. Thank you Christy for being brave and sharing your story. I had an infant loss in 1997. Our plan then turned to adoption. We added 2 more to our 4 children . One summer ago, the eldest of the two adopted got involved in a drug deal, got shot, and is now paralyzed. He also chose to return to his drug culture. At times I feel like he’s dead. However, there’s hope if they’re on this side of the grave! So we continue our prayers. And so, yes , love is an action. We pray for him. We don’t know if we’ll ever see him again, but we know we instilled seeds of faith in him.

    1. Diane,
      I am so sorry to hear of your heartache and loss. You are experiencing your own grief. I will keep you and your family in prayer as you beg the Lord to bring your son back to Him. Yes, there is always hope, this side of the grave. He may need to come to the end of himself before he recognizes his need for Jesus. My momma heart bleeds for you. Hold onto the truth that God is his creator and only He knows what your son needs that will lead him to the truth. May God hold you close and give you peace.

    2. Thank you for sharing your story and how God has worked in your life. I love the story that God is a verb. AMEN!

  4. Kristi, you and your husband have been such a blessing. I have told others of the strength I have seen in you both. How in the midst of crisis you chose to fold into God rather than turn away. Even in times of horrible pain, your hearts have been open to others.

    Thank you for your openness and willingness to share your heart.

    1. Carrie,
      Thank you so much for your encouragement. May God use this life we live on earth to further His Kingdom.

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