On the first night of my stay at Laity Lodge, the High Calling editorial staff met together for a little check-in. Each person in the group was to take some time to talk about how they were doing, what the past year had held, what the next year might hold, or something like that.

Most of the rest of the group had taken their turn before I finally decided to speak. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say; I wasn’t sure if I could talk at all. My emotions were about an inch deep.

What I ended up sharing, and the tears that ended up coming, were exactly what I had hoped to avoid, flowing out of some deep place in me that I wasn’t even aware of.

Basically, I told everyone how surprised I was that I had even come.

Four years ago, when I was first diagnosed with cancer, I quit planning, quit dreaming, and even quit writing. I cancelled all plans for the future — and back then, the future was anything past tomorrow. Somehow, I felt that if I made plans for the future and then got too sick to carry out those plans, I would be a failure. 

Better to not try, than to try and fail.

I know.

So when this cancer diagnosis came again 2 months ago, and I had all of these plans, my instinct was to shrink back, to withdraw again.

But that wasn’t going to work this time. Because if God had taught me anything through cancer, it was that my soul couldn’t survive shrinking back.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,
   “In just a little while,
   he who is coming will come
   and will not delay.”

And,
   “But my righteous one will live by faith.
   And I take no pleasure
   in the one who shrinks back.”

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.- Hebrews 11:36-39

So, I told them that night, and I’m telling you this night: I’m going to stay engaged. I’m going to keep writing. And as best I can, I’m even going to keep planning.

I don’t belong to those who shrink back.

I belong to those who have faith and are saved.

::

One afternoon during the Laity Lodge Writing Retreat, I was sitting down by the Frio, engulfed in the sounds of creation – nature, people, life. I wrote these words as I listened in.

In the Middle
The soft murmur of conversation
skips across the meandering river.
Ripples catch the sunlight,
show me myself,
and slowly die in the ferns
growing off the rocky bank.

The water flowing over the dam
sounds louder down here on
the dock.
“I’ve heard other people say that,”
says the woman in the black bathing suit,
floating in the middle of the river.
She’s not talking to me.

A laugh from the lodge above, 
riding down the contours of the canyon,
falls playfully on the river,
and on the woman,
floating in the middle.
She’s not laughing with me.

I reach my foot down,
slipping a toe into the water.
It’s not as cold as they said 
it would be.

I don’t live here;
I don’t live in 
the canyon with the floating laugh
I don’t live here with 
the woman in the black bathing suit
floating in the middle of the river.