Friday, March 22, 2013

Joy Comes

(I haven’t written for a while. But now I’m back and this Joyvotion is a very personal one. Hope our Lord loves on you through my scribbling and my sister’s strength.)

Karen has been my sister for fifty years. Half a century of squabbling, talking, laughing, and crying. We haven’t always been friends, but we’ve never been enemies. But after our mother died, Karen and I entered a realm of deep friendship. She lives in Ohio and I in Colorado but we talk every week. She’s my prayer warrior and best girl friend.

Out of the 18,057 days I’ve known Karen, (I did the math) none are more precious to me than the twelve I recently spent with her in Columbus.

Why? Well, it wasn’t the laughter, the movies, the clubbing at a grocery store, the meeting her workmates and friends or spending time with her family and dog.

It was simply the blessing of watching. 

When I got on the plane to go see her, I expected to be a nursemaid to a sister with cancer, a cheerleader for someone terrified, and a comedienne for my friend’s tears. I wasn’t. Not really.

Instead, I was an observer to the supernatural grace and strength that God gives to His kids when they need it. When they enter times of desperation or difficulty. Karen amazed me.

When I sat with her through chemotherapy, she suggested we watch Pride and Prejudice. The old one, the real one, with Colin Firth. He floats both of our boats. I took my portable DVD player and we sat together, holding hands unashamedly, and we watched a masterpiece of God’s creativity. Colin Firth, that is, not the movie. We laughed at our girlish twitterpation. At one point a nurse came over and said, “You two are having a ball over here.”

And yes we were. Even as poison was filling up my sister’s body. Why? Because my sister chose to be silly with me, instead of sitting in despair. I looked around the large room, marked by easy boy loungers lining the walls, filled with folks in all shades of emotion. I remarked, “This room has angels in it, Karen.”

 “Oh yes,” she said. “Lots and lots. But there are also demons. It’s a battlefield.”

I looked at her and she smiled. Such strength I got to watch.

When I went with her to have her head shaved, she set the tone. “Let’s have fun, Robbie. This is going to be difficult, but I don’t want to just sit there and cry.” God heard her request. As difficult as it was for her to go bald, she asked the hairdresser to cut her hair in different ways so she could see the styles. First a bowl haircut that looked like a young Chinese girl. Karen laughed, “Um, no. Keep going!” Then the hairdresser gave her a pixie hair cut. I liked it, but Karen didn’t want to look like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. And finally, a Mohawk. My sister looked like a rock and roller and she laughed and put her hands up in peace signs as I took a picture. The final moment we laughed about later was when another hairdresser offered to help her fit her new wig. He was from New York and had worked with wigs for prostitutes and the Rockettes. Now that’s a wig man!

After the shock and awe of being bald died away, (it took about 24 hours) the joy and freedom of no hair led Karen into playing dress up. She said she’s always been a closet hat lover and now, well, now she can play and play. And she did. What a hoot we had hat shopping.

When I went to her church with her, I asked if she wouldn’t mind if I sat in the back. Her church is charismatic and I wanted to enjoy it but not be a distraction to her. So I sat in the back and watched the liveliness of everyone with glee. We all experience the Spirit differently and her church, well, they let it all hang out. I loved it. The church has two white prayer chairs on either side of the sanctuary for folks who want prayer during worship. Karen sat near one of the white chairs. As she got up slowly and moved to the chair, I watched from the back. The prayer team gathered round her, laid hands on her and prayed. And I watched and prayed with them. When they finished, my sister’s smile of strength burst forth as she thanked each of the prayer warriors. I cried. She is so beautiful.

On my last day, I took Karen to Cracker Barrel to have breakfast. I love this restaurant. As we sat, we chatted easily as we had the entire visit. But this time I asked Karen, “Do you know how strong you are? Do you know that joy emanates from you?”

She responded, “Rob, I didn’t know how I’d be in this situation. But now that I’m in it, I keep thinking of a night after Josh (her 14 year old) was born. We brought him to the house that first night and he had an oxygen tube and an apnea machine hooked up to him. So we put his crib by the fire place and I sat up with him and slept in a chair while Paul slept in a bed in the next room. I remember watching him, so grateful for my son. I felt it was getting cold, so I put an extra layer on him and myself and drifted off. Paul woke up in the middle of the night and came in and remarked how freezing it was. He checked and the furnace had quit. It was January and really cold. He called a guy to come fix it and I took Josh next door to wait until it was running. That night was so, so long. I kept thinking that when the sun rose, it would be better and warmer. And this worship song came to mind and I kept singing it called Joy Comes in the Morning.”

That song is inspired by Psalm 30:5:

For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.

“Rob, as I sang that song, I knew that joy would come in the morning, right along with the sun. And as I sang it, that hope turned into joy. The same thing is happening right now.  Joy will come in the morning and as I hang onto that, the hope turns into joy right now.”


I got to watch my Lord’s grace and strength overflow in my sister. And as it poured out of her, it splashed onto me. My sister is doing well in her battle. I went to one of her doctor’s appointments with her and he said, “We’re going for a cure.” He didn’t even use the term remission. Karen is beating this and on the other end of all this treatment, she will come through like the morning sun, smiling God’s strength. Joy will come. And miraculously it is already here. 


Sarah said...

What a beautiful post! Sounds like it was a time of blessings and unexpected joy. So happy that you two have each other and have such a special relationship.

Robbie Iobst said...

Thank you Sarah! And thank you so much for your prayers! :)

Elizabeth Sparks said...

I laughed and cried as I read this, Robbie.... And I finished it stronger than when I started!!! Thank you, Floyd sisters!
Liz Sparks

Robbie Iobst said...

Love you Liz and miss you. :)Thank you, friend.

Cheryl Barker said...

Robbie, love how you pointed out "the supernatural grace and strength that God gives to His kids when they need it." So very true. I'm glad you got to enjoy this time with your sister. I pray that she'll be well soon!

Cheryl Barker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.