Monday, June 08, 2015

Learning to Trust

I want to tell you a story.  Not just any story, it's one of the most important lessons I've learned in my life and it's affected the way I live and how I think about the future.  This is about the realization that it's okay to have unanswered questions.  This might not sound profound, but as an information seeker, this has changed me and left me with a great sense of peace.

I grew up the oldest of five girls.  I spent most of my time exploring the forest in our backyard or in the house reading one series after another.  From an early age I was quite inquisitive and my parents did a great job answering my questions or guiding me to discover answers for myself.  I loved learning. I loved school.  I would come home from kindergarten and teach my sister everything that I learned so that when it was time for her to go to school, she skipped right to grade one.

In grade nine I fell in love...with science.  When I first learned, in detail, about the digestive system, I was in awe.  On summer road trips,  I taught my sisters everything I had learned and they all were assigned an area of expertise so I could quiz them on peristalsis, the duodenum or the gluteus maximus.  Yes, my poor sisters.  I loved that there was so much information to be learned and that by reading books, or asking experts, there was no end to what knowledge you could acquire. I should probably note that two of my sisters are now nurses--ahem, you're welcome, sisters.

I grew up in a Christian home.  I attended church weekly and went to a Christian school from kindergarten to grade twelve.  I believed in God but did not actually have a relationship with Him.  I felt like he was The Boss and you weren't supposed to question anything.  We prayed, but it felt more like a requirement before eating than a conversation. He made everything. He loved me. He sent His son to die for my sins.  He wants me to love others.  That's it.  Did I look any deeper? Not really.

I graduated high school and went to U.B.C. to study biology.  I loved being in an academic environment with a high dose of social, uh, activities. Up until this point, my life was pretty easy and straightforward with failing my driving test being one of my life's greatest disappointments.  I didn't spend a lot of time contemplating life and it's purpose; I just enjoyed being at school surrounded by my friends.  Sure, there were break ups and a class or two that I barely passed (yahoo--made it through calculus and organic chemistry!), but nothing too difficult.

Fast forward a couple of years and I had graduated with a biology and teaching degree.  I started teaching and was loving the fact that I was now sharing the intricacies of the human body in my biology classes.  Just one month into teaching, my parents invited all of us girls over for dinner. Sitting around the table, chatting away like always, my mom said she had to share something. She tried but couldn't get the words out.  She started crying.  I was so confused and alarmed; I had never seen my mom cry.  My dad started tearing up, too.

That was the moment we found out that my mom had breast cancer.

My world was rocked.  The `C word' had entered our lives.  My immediate thoughts were; Will she die? Why did she get it? What are the risk factors? What is the recovery rate? What stage was it? What will the treatment be?  Why is God letting this happen?

I started reading. A lot.  Titles like Where is God When It Hurts? and Disappointment with God.  My mom did not have a lot of risk factors.  She ate healthy food, was petite, exercised regularly, didn't drink alcohol, and lived a pretty low-stress lifestyle.  There was some history in her family; could that be it?  Why was this happening?  There had to be an answer for why she got sick and what I was supposed to learn from this.  For months I poured over these questions trying to make sense of it all.

One day I read something that changed me.  It was one paragraph and I can't remember the book (even google hasn't helped me figure out what book it was!) It was a metaphor involving one of my favourite single-celled organisms: the amoeba (okay, let's be honest, it falls behind Volvox and Paramecium.)  Amoebas are animal-like protists that live in ponds.  They move and eat using pseudopods or `false feet' and I had seen them many times under the microscope.   Amoebas know how to move, get food, get rid of waste, and reproduce.  They know their pond -- their world.  They have no concept of computers or fridges or anything outside their realm.  Amoebas can only comprehend and learn so much.  We are amoebas in a pond.  We can only understand our world as much as our brain and experiences allow.  We don't see the whole picture; we only see the pond.  No matter how much reading I did, I would never understand why one person gets sick and another doesn't.   I would never know why my mom got cancer.  I would never come to understand why God allowed these things to happen.

{Image from}

I felt peace.  It didn't mean that I was okay with my mom being sick, but I felt the weight of the `WHY?' coming off.  I could forget trying to figure it out, and instead, focus my energy on loving my mom and grieving this alongside her.  Mom never asked `Why me?', instead she said, `Why not me?'

Now I could leave it to God to deal with the how and why.  I would focus on the here and now.

{Last family photo just a month before she died.}

My mom passed away from breast cancer, which had metastasized into her bones, five years after she was first diagnosed.  I am thankful for those five extra years with her.  I learned that life is unpredictable and that it doesn't help worrying about what will happen; you can only control so much.  I learned that God grieves with us and desires a real relationship with us.  I learned that even with all of it's idiosyncrasies, family is one of the most important things in our lives and we need to put our differences aside because life is short. I learned that it doesn't help to focus on what we are missing--we need to be thankful for what we do have.  I learned that there is peace in death with the promise of heaven.  I learned the power of a community praying over you; I felt it.

My life verse comes from Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight." Did you get that part about leaning not on our own understanding? Life changing.

My encouragement and challenge to you would be this: If you have ever wondered about God and wanted to learn more, please don't wait any longer.  Ask me.  Ask a friend. Ask a pastor. Read a book. Read the Bible. Pray. Go to a church. Any of these or all of these.  Nothing has shaped who I am more than my faith.  I don't have all the answers and that's okay; I trust His plan.

Thank you for reading my story.



  1. What a well thought out, God honouring, and beautifully written life story with such meaningful photos to accompany it. Another example of why your blog is my favourite blog to follow!

    1. Thank you, Carol. It's interesting how just one comment, sentence, paragraph, or moment can alter your view, right? Thanks for your faithful commenting (and reading!).

  2. I really connect with this post today Louise. I have often seen things in my life that wouldn't have happened if my sister Julie had not died. And I think that there is a whole big, crazy intertwined plan with parts that we're not privy to... this comforts me and also drives me quite mad sometimes. I also question why not me, but in a little bit different way. Julie died of a genetic disease that could have just as easily been mine to own as well. But for some reason (or a multitude of reasons) it skipped over me. Thank you for this vulnerability.

    1. Oh Sarah, your story is so....hard. I'm sorry. I know what you mean about it being comforting that there is this big plan and yet frustrating because we don't get it. It's hard when we learn lessons through loss because you don't want to think `Oh, that's the good that comes of it' because overall, it just sucks and although we can see some positives, I don't want to have to feel like that's the reason it happened-to have learned a lesson. Okay, that doesn't make sense but maybe you get what I'm trying to say? Thank you for reading. And commenting. And sharing.

  3. This was great Louise, made me tear up a bit. It's so great that you're able to share your life and experiences with so many readers. I'm still on my own journey of learning to trust in God and put my faith in Him. I'm so thankful that you write from your heart and that you're honest, it's really encouraging and helps me stay positive.

    1. Thanks, B. I am so thankful that people take time to read what I write. I know that I learn so much from other people sharing their thoughts and stories. I think there's always things in our lives that make us think `Uh, what's He doing here?' but I hope that I (and you!) will continue to trust Him. You're awesome.

  4. Anonymous4:07 PM

    From James Dobson's 'When God Doesn't Make Sense'

    Clearly, the Scripture tells us that we lack the capacity to grasp
    God’s infinite mind or the way He intervenes in our lives.
    How arrogant of us to think otherwise! Trying to analyze His
    omnipotence is like an amoeba attempting to comprehend
    the behavior of man. Romans 11:33 (KJV) indicates that God’s
    judgments are “unsearchable” and his ways “past finding out.”
    Similar language is found in 1 Corinthians 2:16: “For who has
    known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” Clearly,
    unless the Lord chooses to explain Himself to us, which often He
    does not, His motivation and purposes are beyond the reach of
    mortal man. What this means in practical terms is that many of
    our questions‑especially those that begin with the word why‑will
    have to remain unanswered for the time being.

    1. I haven't read that before and it's so interesting that several authors use amoebas as their examples (I know Yancey does, too). It's pretty much just what I was saying although I don't know that I'd call myself `arrogant' for trying to find answers before just accepting I have to trust. Thanks for that, anonymous! Perfect summary!

  5. i haven't experienced loss the way you have and so I don't know what it's like to wrestle through those feelings and emotions, but sharing your story helps me understand a little bit, the difficulty of it, and the beauty of how God has helped you. thanks for sharing.