Long before she became my friend, I had the precious opportunity to gather with other women and pray for Carlie back when this part of her story was still unexpectedly unfolding. We prayed that day for a miracle.
About a year later, God brought Carlie back into my life. She sat crossed legged on my living room floor, and a different group of girls prayed . . . for another miracle.
This is her story.
Carlie is the most inviting soul I’ve met in a long, long time. Her words exude peace, and her story instills hope. When we sat down over coffee and strawberries romanoff, we discussed everything from motherhood to the story of Ruth to her cancer diagnosis at the age of twenty-four.
Twenty-eight weeks pregnant with her second child, Carlie received unthinkable news. God’s grace carried her along as everything changed in that cramped doctor’s office room where words became weighty and real.
Thrust immediately into chemotherapy, it wasn’t long before she stood in front of her bathroom mirror and covered her eyes until her husband, Ian, finished shaving off every last strand of her beautiful, long brown hair. Though losing her hair was just the tip of her physical and emotional heartbreak, Carlie gained so much through this daunting diagnosis.
Like a gift straight from heaven, Carlie welcomed a fresh perspective and an acute understanding of true suffering. Along with tangible hope to share with a hurting world, arms full of grace, and a heart full of compassion, God gave her eyes to truly see the broken all around her.
Carlie mentioned the “why me?” question I know I’ve tossed towards heaven a time or two. She quickly followed up with the question all of this has taught her to ask: “Why not me?”
“I don’t deserve to live. None of us do,” she said.
Like gritty sandpaper, her honesty rubbed right up against my entitlement that causes spiritual amnesia from time to time. Uncomfortable on my skin yet nourishing to my heart, her words brought to light the truth that I’ve been redeemed. And I’d be dead without Christ.
Carlie is a girl who’s tasted God’s goodness down in her core. Even when her world turned upside down with not a good thing in sight, there He was. Still present. Still good. Always good.
In so many ways, Carlie’s story reminds me of Ruth’s story recorded on the pages of scripture. Both walked through unimaginable circumstances as young women. Carlie and Ian named their oldest daughter, Rue, after this courageous woman. I asked Carlie how fear played a part in her story, just like I’d love to one day ask Ruth that same question.
Only one verse addresses fear in the entire book of Ruth.
Ruth loses her husband and endures a life-threatening famine. Eventually, she leaves her homeland to travel with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Bethlehem at harvest time. Much stronger than the insurmountable struggle these two girls faced, the common thread that binds Carlie’s story together with Ruth’s is hope.
Ruth—a poor, foreign widow with no children—collects grain left behind in a nearby field. Ruth quickly finds favor with a man named Boaz, the owner of that field. After learning that Boaz is a close relative, Naomi instructs Ruth to boldly request that Boaz act as her kinsmen redeemer. (In their culture, the closest relative could marry a childless widow to provide an heir for the dead husband.)
Ruth doesn’t just ask for Boaz’s assistance; she boldly extends a marriage proposal.
Though Boaz is willing to marry Ruth, he isn’t the closest relative. Anticipation escalates as she waits while Boaz goes to meet this other man. Boaz’s response to Ruth is laced with hope:
“And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.” Ruth 3:11
There is no record of anyone telling Ruth not to be afraid in her grief or loss. Not a word as she leaves her family and home and everything else behind. Though much of her mother-in-law’s advice is recorded, we never once hear her encourage Ruth to be brave as she enters the dangerous and vulnerable place of gleaning grain as a foreign woman all alone. So why here? Why now?
Maybe because fear grips tightest in the waiting.
After all of Carlie’s treatment was complete, fear struck the hardest as she waited for results.
One day, while out running errands, a woman approached Carlie and told her she was praying Nahum 1:9 over her.
Tears of hope instantly soaked Carlie’s cheeks.
Shortly after that encounter, another stranger spoke these same words to her, straight out of scripture:
“Trouble will not come a second time.”
Holding back my own tears as she told this part of her story, I leaned in to hear her say these next words: “I just decided to believe God.”
Carlie’s words have made me think a bunch about fear and courage. I’ve often assumed they were opposites. Want less fear? Have more courage. But the antidote for fear isn’t ever courage.
The antidote for fear is belief.
Boaz’s words to Ruth give the gentle notion that God never rests in the middle of the story. His words echo the heart of Jesus, who is both willing and able to redeem.
Just weeks after a whole new set of vocabulary rocked her everyday mundane, with a PICC line and a freshly shaved scalp, Carlie went into labor. As the nurse prepped her for delivery, her words evoked panic in Carlie’s heart.
“There is a 95% chance your baby will be alright,” the nurse told her. Carlie said that Ian felt confident with those odds, but the reality of that 5% overwhelmed her mother-heart. With fingers and hearts threaded together, they begged God for a four-pound baby.
At just 31 weeks, it was a bold request.
When Mia Beth was born—all four-pound-one-ounce of her—Carlie received God’s message loud and clear. I will do for you all you ask. And then some.
Jesus has promised us so much more than we could ask or imagine. New life. Forgiveness. A marriage celebration at the end of this current age. Living hope for today and tomorrow.
The story of Ruth mirrors this hope. Boaz marries Ruth, and they have a son. But that’s not all. Their son, Obed, becomes the grandfather of Kind David, whose lineage bears the name of Jesus, Hope personified. Our Redeemer who lives.
Hope is alive, because Jesus is alive.
Our hope in Him isn’t based on emotion or circumstance. It’s a clinging and vulnerable hope, an expectant and waiting hope. But more than anything else, Carlie’s story has taught me that hope in Jesus Christ is a believing hope.
If you’d like to read more about Carlie’s journey, check out her blog at: www.themachirtracker.wordpress.com