Love Does

If I’ve learned anything the past few months, it is that there is no way to plan life. This may seem like an obvious conclusion, but I believe to some degree we are all guilty of assuming it is possible. I had done a pretty excellent job believing I could pull off a fully planned early-twenties life until now. I spent two years of undergrad studying for the LSAT, applying to law schools, sifting through acceptances and planing every course of the next ten years of my life. I graduated from Biola University, packed my car and moved across the country to start school.

The plan was to go to law school and after some years of experience, land my dream job at International Justice Mission to fight global human trafficking at a legal level.

Then I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Four days before school started.


For this Type-A, passionate life-planner, the worst part of dealing with cancer has been the inconvenience of it. Life stopped. Lame.

I talked with my professors and doctors about what it would look like to be in school and go through surgery and treatment. I think they were all a little confused as to why I was even considering doing both. To me, however, it was the only option. After all, it was the plan!

One of my favorite “welcome to reality” conversations was over the phone with my ENT after I met with him to talk about surgery. Anyone who has talked to me during this process knows that my ENT is now one of my favorite people. His Indian accent and no-nonsense, yet compassionate spirit makes me happy. He rocks.

He called me and said (in his fantastic accent):

Lydia, my secretary said you scheduled surgery on Friday so you would have the weekend to recover and be back in school on Monday?! Lydia, that is not going to happen. I don’t think you understand how invasive this surgery is. You’re not going to school three days after surgery!

I laughed thinking, “But he doesn’t know me. I’ll be back on my feet in no time!” Looking back at the last three months, I can’t help but laugh at myself. Seriously, Lydia?  The number of appointments, trips to various hospitals, radiation treatment and emotional strain my body has been through, and I seriously thought I could tackle my first year of law school in the midst of this chaos? I’m all for optimism, but that was beyond unrealistic.


One of the things my dad taught me growing up was the importance of commitment and seeing things through to the end. I distinctly remember one time when I was little, and I didn’t want to go to soccer practice. My dad nearly dragged me to practice. He calmly told me:

Lydia, you committed to this team. You gave them your word you’d be there and you’re going to finish this season with them.

While I’m sure there were many other occasions where we had similar conversations, I can vividly remember that moment. There was a moment of clarity and understanding that followed. I grew up to understand and value the importance of following through and committing fully, whether it be activities, projects, school or relationships, I am thankful for my dad’s influence in making commitment a priority.

However, with this mindset, one of the hardest parts of walking through cancer and taking a step back from school is dealing with feeling like a failure. There are days I get sick to my stomach thinking about the fact that I’m not in school. I committed to it, and I struggle justifying not being there. I know this may seem a little bizarre, but it’s true. I haven’t said “no” to anything that I’ve committed myself to, and I don’t back out of things that I’ve carefully chosen to participate in. It’s even more difficult now that I’m done with treatment for now and in the job hunt. Not being in school and not having a job makes me feel like I’ve messed up somewhere. Spending hours upon hours alone has its benefits, but it can also lend itself to some pretty intense internal turmoil. The struggle lately has been mental and emotional.

Changing the plan–Love Does

In my mind, setting into action a ten-year plan was my way of ensuring that I was impacting the world for good the best I knew how. However, I am beginning to think that I undermined the impact of love in action on a daily basis. I’ve been married to the idea of a plan of grandeur and dangit, I was going to see it through to the end. But, what if it’s the little acts of love that create a story of grandeur that impact the world beyond what we could have ever planned for?

Bob Goff said it beautifully in his new book, Love Does:

We need to stop plotting the course and instead just land the plane on our plans to make a difference by getting to the ‘do’ part of faith. That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.

This slight shift in thinking has started to make a dent in my steadfast law school plans. If I had started law school this fall without cancer’s interruption, I would have without a doubt, completed the three years without thinking twice. Again, I committed to it, so in my mind, the only option is to follow through. However, life stopped for a year, and I have nothing but time to reevaluate my aspirations and motives.

Don’t get me wrong, my heart is still very broken by the issue of modern-slavery and my dream is still to work for International Justice Mission one day. However, much to my surprise, I have been slowly digesting the idea that the means to this end might be different than I initially thought.

What if I capitalize on my passion for writing, visual media, marketing, public relations, etc. to make an impact? Would this be less impactful than obtaining a law degree to fight human trafficking on a legal level? What gave me the idea that using the gifts and passions I have already obtained would not make an impact? If I learned to adapt the idea of love does into whatever profession I end up in, how could I fail?

I am certainly not saying I am walking away from law school, but I am also not saying that I will be returning to my “blessed” ten-year plan come next fall. I am saying that I have cancer to thank for forcing me to “land the plane on my plans,” and take a step back. I am looking for a job in the interim (and beyond, depending), and remaining in prayer over this time and my future. The “plan” right now is simply: love does.

Stage of Cancer and Radiation Treatment

Today I learned more specifically the staging of the cancer and how radiation will progress in a couple weeks. I also had a nice conversation with my radiologist about cycling, too :). Anyway, this is what I learned today:

Stage of Cancer:

There are three categories they use to stage in thyroid cancer: (1) thyroid tumors, (2) lymph nodes and (3) metastasis (the spread of the cancer).

They were able to tell me the stage of (1) and (2), but since I only had scans and surgery on my neck, they don’t know how far it has spread to be able to mark a stage of metastasis.

(1) My tumors were papillary carcinoma–> Stage 2
(2) The expanse of the lymph nodes that were affected–> Stage 3
(3) Metastasis–> ?

Therefore, my condition is at least Stage 2 or 3, without the information of the metastasis. Because of this, my radiologist said that I will be receiving two-three times the dose of the average person receiving the same treatment.

Radiation and how it will work:

One function of the thyroid gland is to produce thyroid hormones that meet the body’s needs. In order to do this, the thyroid uses iodine. Essentially, fully functioning, the thyroid is the iodine center for the body. Now that I do not have a thyroid, the goal is to find all remaining thyroid tissue in my body that could have metastasized from the cancer. How? By killing any tissue containing iodine.

I will be doing “radioactive iodine ablation” treatment (RIA)–also called I-131 treatment. As many of you have read, I have been on a strict low-iodine diet for almost a week and will be until radiation. This is to starve my body of iodine so that the treatment is more successful and targets the potential cancerous tissue. I will be taking a pill of radioactive iodine, and the hope is to kill all remaining cancer.

What treatment looks like:

  • October 11: I will get my blood drawn to see if my levels are where they need to be to start treatment.
  • October 17: I will start the radiation. I will go to the hospital, they’ll give me a pill, and I’ll stay there for an hour or so to make sure I don’t have any serious reaction.
  • Then, I will be quarantined for 8 days. During this time I will be confined to a bedroom and bathroom that no one else can use. I have to use separate plates and utensils and wash them separate from other household items.
  • October 21: On the fifth day of being quarantined, I get to start my new thyroid medication and EAT NORMAL FOOD AGAIN! 😀

Follow up:

When I’m out of quarantine, I will get a full body scan to see what thyroid tissue activity is left in my body. Then, in six months, I will have another scan to see if I need a second treatment.

“The house of religious cards ‘that glory built’ collapses when we inevitably encounter unforeseen pain and suffering. When the economy tanks and you lose your job…When the waters rise and the levee breaks…[when you’re diagnosed with cancer]… Suddenly, the mask comes off, and the glory road reaches a dead end. We come to the end of ourselves, in other words, to our ruin, to our knees, to the place where if we are to find any help or comfort, it must come from somewhere outside of us. Much to our surprise, this is the precise place where the good news of the gospel–that God did for you what you couldn’t do for yourself–finally makes sense. It finally sounds good!”

Tullian Tchividjian, Glorious Ruin.

God of every detail.

Read Numbers 27:12–23; Deuteronomy 34:9

I am always amazed to hear how the Lord uses His Word in the lives of His people. I don’t know your circumstances. I don’t know how God intends to use this episode from the life of Moses in your own life.

It may be that these words fall on a very hungry heart. Or perhaps you have been strengthened and encouraged with the thought that you’re very special to God, that none of His children are insignificant. Or maybe you’re engaged in the awesome task of finding a man or a woman for a position that carries a great weight of responsibility, and you’ve been reminded that you are dependent, more than ever, on God to locate His Joshua. Or perhaps you are that Joshua, and you’ve been asked to accept a responsibility broader than you ever dreamed.

Whatever your circumstances, I want to remind you that our heavenly Father cares about areas of your life that would seem insignificant to a distant deity. He’s never too busy to hear your hurts, to wipe away your tears, to whisper words of encouragement, and to put His big shoulder under your load. He’s the God who cares about the details.

As I write these words, I’m praying that our sovereign God might be a very personal comfort to you this week. I pray especially for you who are wrestling with loneliness and discouragement. Even though you’re surrounded by people, deep within there’s an ache. Friend, God can meet your need as only He can, even as He did in the heart of Moses just a few hours before the great man’s death.

If you’re God’s Joshua, you don’t need to worry that you’ll be forgotten. You don’t need to worry that the shadow of your predecessor will eclipse you and your ministry in the years to come. In fact, you don’t need to worry about anything. If you’re God’s Joshua, you’re right where you ought to be. Remind yourself that He is sovereign. He has everything under His control. He will have His way in His time, for His glory, which includes your life, your position, and your future. Worrying over any of that is a waste. He’s got every detail covered—every one.

Think of it this way: there’s no such thing as God’s being almost sovereign.

by Charles R. Swindoll

Seek a Freshness of Vision.

“One of the tragedies of growing up is that we get used to things. It has its good side of course, since irritations may cease to be irritations.

But there is immense loss when we get used to the redness of the rising sun, and the roundness of the moon, and the whiteness of the snow, the wetness of rain, the blueness of the sky, the buzzing of bumble bees, the stitching of crickets, the invisibility of wind, the unconscious constancy of heart and diaphragm, the weirdness of noses and ears, the number of the grains of sand on the thousand beaches, the never-ceasing crash crash crash of countless waves, and ten million kingly-clad flowers flourishing and withering in woods and mountain valleys where no one sees but God.

I invite you to seek a ‘freshness of vision,’ to look as though it were the first time, not at the empty product of accumulated millenia of aimless evolutionary accidents (which no child ever dreamed of), but at the personal handiwork of an infinitely strong, creative, and exuberant Artist who made the earth and the sea and everything in them.”

–John Piper

Through it all.

I need to let go, and let God. I am continued to be humbled and put in a very vulnerable place.  I know that I will not make it through these next two weeks, if I do not come to the point of surrender.

I struggle with trying to control every detail of my life, and just when I think I can, Christ brings me to my knees and reminds me that His strength is so much greater than mine.  It surprises me that I continue to have this battle of control even though He has proven Himself more than worthy of guiding my life. What am I waiting for? Let go, and let God.  Come on Lydia, let go, and let God.

Read this devotional that met me where I am this morning:

Read Exodus 2:16–25

You’d better believe that Moses, though tucked away in a corner of that wasteland, heard the latest news from the travelers in caravans making their way up from Egypt through the Midian desert. When Moses learned the Hebrews were crying out, his heart must have turned over within him. But unlike before, he rested and relied upon God. He didn’t try to organize a rescue party. He didn’t slip back into Egypt as an assassin or saboteur. Not him! He’d learned that lesson.

Do you know who it is who keeps erecting all those unrealistic standards in your life? Do you know who keeps raising the bar beyond all hope of clearing it?

It’s you. You do. And so do I. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t. The psalmist tells us, “He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust.” We think we’re finished because of our failures, but God says, “No, you’re just getting started. Press on!”

Our problem isn’t that we’ve failed. Our problem is that we haven’t failed enough. We haven’t been brought low enough to learn what God wants us to learn. We’re still trying to redeem Egypt single-handedly.

So what are you trying to prove? Who are you trying to impress? Why don’t you step off that treadmill and just be yourself? Plead with the Spirit of God to prepare you, then use you, however He pleases, dark side and all. You’ll be amazed how that takes the pressure off.

This very moment, you and I are the recipients of a gift from One who loves us just the way we are: warts, cracks, failures, and all. Since it is a gift, you might as well open your hands and receive it. Look, there—that’s your name on the tag, just underneath the ribbon.

The gift is called grace.

By: Chuck Swindoll

We get one story, you and I.

I’ll tell you how the sun rose,

A ribbon at a time…

It’s a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn’t matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly, and soon the credits will roll and all your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were . . . and feel a kind of sickness at the idea you never again will be.

So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

-Donald Miller, ‘Through Painted Deserts’

Time, Seasons, Change.

“I could not have known then that everybody, every person, has to leave, has to change like seasons; they have to or they die. The seasons remind me that I must keep changing, and I want to change because it is God’s way. All my life I have been changing. I changed from a baby to a child, from soft toys to play daggers. I changed into a teenager to drive a car, into a worker to spend some money. I will change into a husband to love a woman, into a father to love a child, change houses so we are near water, and again so we are near mountains, and again so we are near friends, keep changing with my wife, getting our love so it dies and gets born again and again, like a garden, fed by four seasons, a cycle of change. Everybody has to change, or they expire. Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.

“I want to keep my soul fertile for the changes, so things keep getting born in me, so things keep dying when it is time for things to die. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.

“Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning. And the closest thing I can liken life to is a book, the way it stretches out on paper, page after page, as if to trick the mind into thinking it isn’t all happening at once.

“Time has pressed you and me into a book, too, this tiny chapter we share together, this vapor of a scene, pulling our seconds into minutes and minutes into hours. Everything we were is no more, and what we will become, will become what was.”

Donald Miller