Hidden inside

Cactus flowers in an Amsterdam floral shop, March 2007

Cactus flowers in an Amsterdam floral shop, March 2007

“Sometimes what you want is hidden inside what you don’t want.”Ashleigh Brilliant

Just as the prickly cactus produces beautiful blooms, so harsh circumstances can result in positive change and growth.  This does not negate the pain of grief and loss, but it does provide a way through darkness.  Christians believe “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28), a verse that is sometimes misinterpreted to mean “everything that happens is for the best.” Not everything that happens is good, but God promises us that no matter what happens, we can find a way to bring blessings from sorrow.

My husband’s stage IV cancer is a nightmare; we could never see it as being “for the best.”  Yet even with the suffering, we have been blessed with unexpected joys:

The outpouring of love and support from people we are close to, as well as those we had not heard from in years, is a continual encouragement.  And many people we have never met strengthen us daily with their prayers and expressions of concern.

A lot of frustrations or concerns that once held a false sense of importance have been rendered powerless to bother us, seeming minor in comparison to the challenges we face now.  We have a sharply focused picture of what really matters; many truths we understood intellectually before, we now know with our hearts.

And I have spent more time with my husband in recent weeks — despite that time being mostly in medical settings — than we were ever able to spend together before.  As strange as it may sound, I have been so glad to be with him even when the reason we’re spending time together is because of the “worse” part of “for better or worse.”

Whatever trials or challenges you may be facing now, my prayer is that there will be hidden blessings that emerge from the pain.


  1. Dea

    So beautiful! I wish both of you strength! It’s funny how in these situations people tend to say a lot of things but nothing really comes out…One more prayer goes your way.
    Many hugs! xx


    • Thanks so much! Every prayer is important to us and I believe every single one makes a difference. We feel so grateful for the many expressions of support. We appreciate your visiting with us here.

  2. Patricia Salamone

    Dear Julia,
    My prayers for you and your family will continue. Your love and strength at this challanging time will be boosted by the many people who are offering their love and prayers that you may continue to keep your spirt whole. You are an inspiration to all. May God Bless you and yours.

    • Thanks Patricia, we are truly being strengthened by all the prayers. I am reminded of a favorite quote from Marge Piercy in her poem “For Strong Women” — “strength is not in her but she enacts it as the wind fills a sail.” All these prayers are like the wind filling a sail, keeping us going. Thanks so much for being here with us.

  3. DeVonna

    I have been enjoying your blog without knowing of your struggles, knowing has made your blog that much more special. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

    • Thanks DeVonna, I’m so glad you like the blog! I started it soon after we found out about my husband’s cancer. You can read about more in the section “About” (there should be a link at the top of the page) – I was determined not to get overwhelmed with all the bad news and found that this helped me focus on something positive each day. I had read that looking at photographs has an anti-depressant effect, and thus far I’ve found that to be true. Thanks for visiting us here and especially for the prayers.

  4. God is so great & so good! His word is powerful-full of great promises for our lives. When he breathed His breath into us it was ALL GOOD! I am so glad that you, Jeff, & Matt continue to harvest the good of God’s word! Thanks for being my friend!

    • Renee, thank YOU for being such a great friend and example!

  5. Ryan

    I love you and I hurt for you.

    • Thank you Ryan. You are very precious to us. I recently came across some photos of you with Jeff and me during the first year we were dating. That first summer Jeff and I spent mostly apart (1978) was hard for me, but you were a continual source of joy and comfort during that time, and here you are 35 years later, still a joy and a comfort. Love you!

  6. Dear Julia, I realize my situation is different from yours, but painful for me. My wonderful husband of 52 years is suffering from dementia. Most of the time he knows me. I, too, enjoy being with him, sitting next to him as he dozes. We are truly blessed.

    • Marjorie, thanks so much for your kind comment. I am sorry to learn of your husband’s dementia but I am happy that you are able to enjoy being with him. It reminded me of a wonderful couple I knew, parents of a dear friend, who were completely devoted to one another. When her dementia reached the point where she had to be cared for in a setting outside their home, he sat by her side all day every day for many years, leaving only when friends came to give him a short break for lunch or nap. I believe he simply preferred to be with her more than with anyone else, regardless of the circumstances. Their love has been an example for us, and I am confident they are now together again and even happier than they were on earth. Thanks so much for visiting us here.

  7. Mike Bertoglio

    Yes cancer is a nightmare and I have no idea of the nightmare you are living through. Nor would I profess to know so. In recent years I have lost two very dear aunts to this disease.
    One lived with us during her last 6 months.
    This AM on the radio a person from a reality show about pastor’s wives in Atlanta. “Real sisters of Atlanta.”? made a statement that, ” you can’t have a testimony without a test.” Seems oversimplisitc.
    Not sure I totally agree , but I can say your testimony has inspired many. And I like what you said about gaining heart understanding and not just the mind. Could you say more about that sometime?

    • Mike, thanks so much for your kind words. I hope you never have to find out first hand about cancer, but like many other trials, it is made bearable through the blessings and support of others. Thanks for your suggestion about heart vs. mind – two different types of understanding. I will be on the lookout for quotes that speak to this theme.

  8. Carlyle

    Today’s Blog inspired many positive thoughts in your readers. Well said

    • Thanks Daddy. You and Mama taught us these ideas by word and example.

  9. Sheila

    Julia, hubbies…. You have to love them! I’m fixing dinner and have my iPad close by the stove and Bill comes over to see if I’m checking a new recipe. I have shared your blog with him before. He really appreciated my update and so I read to him and we had our moment talking about Jeff and you. We care…..Sheila and Bill

    • Sheila, thanks so much for sharing my blog with your husband. Hope he wasn’t too disappointed it wasn’t a recipe :-). If I had an iPad I wouldn’t be able to keep it near the stove because I’d end up spilling something on it or setting a hot pan on top of it! Thanks for dropping by tonight.

  10. Thank you for your strength and determination to keep a positive spirit. There is indeed “positive” that can be found even in nightmarish situations like yours. You share that with us and we are the better for it.
    Love you dearly.

    • Thanks Carla. You have been a good model for me all these years since you are unquestionably the member of our family with the most medical experience until Matt came along. I keep reminding myself that many people come out of these situations and do better than anyone expected them to. That’s what we are hoping for here. In any case, the prayers are giving us strength to endure right now. Love you.

  11. amen. praying without ceasing with agape LOVE. :+)

    • Thank you Kate!

  12. MaryAnn

    Julia: I love you! Thanks for the update on Jeff, Paul & I can pray even more specifically…

    • Thanks so much, Mary Ann…we really need and appreciate the prayers.

  13. Julia I wish you and your husband all the best. (If he doesn’t mind, could you tell us his name?)
    I heard a woman here in the UK on BBC radio 4s’ program Saturday Live, who is about to celebrate her her 101st birthday.
    She was asked, “What advice she would pass on to young people to help them live a long life?” Her answer was, “Do good whenever you can.”
    When pressed why she thought she had lived so long, she replied, “He decides. It’s up to him.”
    The above are just extracts from her interview, as I recall them,
    You can hear the interview on the BBC Radio 4 website at this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01q7fjl.
    love and blessings. I will pray for you both.
    Kel Mansfield

    • Kel, thanks so much, and it’s wonderful to hear from someone in the UK! Thanks also for the link to the BBC programme, I know I’ll enjoy it. I’m quite an Anglophile and I have several friends who share my enthusiasm for all things British. In fact I am drinking “British Blend” tea as I type this, although it’s probably not as good as the real thing. We truly appreciate your prayers, my husband Jeff and I are able to keep going because of the prayers and good wishes from so many wonderful people. So happy to have you visit us here!

  14. thanks for liking my blog..u write very well 🙂

    • Thank you! So do you. I am so happy you visited here.

  15. u are a very brave woman and have a good heart to support your husband in this tough time…God bless you and your family 🙂 I hope things get better ..we are there for you ..with you 🙂

    • Thank you so much…the prayers and good wishes of others are helping us to survive.

  16. this is such a beautiful post. the quote is especially nice, and your attitude sets an example for all of us.

    • Thank you Lisa, I appreciate your visits here!


  1. Because we are so loved | Defeat Despair
  2. Blessed thought | Defeat Despair
  3. Hidden inside | Defeat Despair

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