Purpose in All Things

Do you believe everything happens for a purpose? Everything? That is a question my wife and I had to struggle with intensely the dreadful night the doctors told us our six year old son had a tumor in his pelvis and they believed it to be an aggressive soft tissue bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma. I will never forget that moment. I am sure you have life experiences of your own which cause you to wrestle with whether there is a purpose to everything that happens.

This morning I came across an article on a popular Christian site called Desiringgod.org. John Piper wrote an article entitled “10 Resolutions for Mental Health”. Each of the resolutions struck a cord with me, especially number 10: He writes, “Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.”

zachary with anne and the other kids after his surgery
Zachary getting a visit from his siblings after his hemipelvectomy.

As we walked through Zachary’s cancer treatment we had to work hard to see how our theoretical faith played a real life role in giving us comfort in the midst of the most difficult trial of our lives so far. The idea that God is good and loving, even in the midst of difficult life trials, was comforting to us. But it goes further. God is not only good in the midst of our trials, but we are firmly convinced that God is good and loving by giving us our trials.

God loves us so much that he cares about our eternal happiness more than our temporal happiness. The Lord is always working in our trials. He has a purpose. I think of the number of people who were encouraged and touched, the number of people who touched us, the number of people whose lives were changed forever by encountering our sweet, joy-filled, always-smiling, never-complaining son as he endured all the intense pains, difficulties, and struggles that go along with his treatment.

zachary's xray after his surgery
This is the X-ray after Zachary’s surgery on December 9th, 2014. This was taken two days later. You can see the two straps which are drains as well as his staples. They removed portions of his pelvis on his left side where his tumor was. Over time his pelvis grew scar tissue fusing his femur back to his pelvis. However, upon completion of the surgery, his femur was completely detached from his pelvis. The two were fused back together over the next two years naturally. The doctors’ plan worked beautifully.

God is doing things, big things, good things with your trials. This brought us much comfort in the midst of the trial. We could rest knowing that every aspect of that difficulty, no matter how it turned out in the end, had a good purpose. What comfort to know that our God was involving us and our family in His grand plans to pour out His love on others, and in the process was intentionally loving us through the trials He was giving us. One day maybe we will get to see a more clear glimpse of how God used Zachary’s cancer to glorify himself by loving us and the world around us. Until that day, we trust.

The Glory of the Daily Grind

In “Break Free from Our Self-Adorned Chains”, I discussed the need for us to stop limiting ourselves with a focus on our own limitations. I challenged you to identify an area in your life where you have been limiting yourself based on your own false self-limitations. Too often we live our life wishing we could accomplish things we see others accomplishing, but never trying because we falsely believe they are beyond our grasp. However, breaking free from self-inflicted limitations is only the first step of accomplishing your lofty goals. If we are to accomplish much in our short time on this earth, we must not only be inspired but live daily with resolve to work at our goals, even when we don’t feel inspired.

I was sharing with my wife how discouraged I am because at 37 years old, I feel like there is so much I wanted to have accomplished by now. She encouraged me that great accomplishments happen through the mundane daily struggle of daily faithfulness. That is the key! It clicked in my heart at a deeper level than ever before. If I wanted to learn to play the piano, it is not out of my grasp; it is very achievable if I am willing to practice every day. If you want to write a book, it is not just a pipe dream that you should think you will never accomplish, it is very achievable if you are willing to sit down and do the work.

I am currently listening to an audio book by John Maxwell called The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. In Chapter One he tells a riddle that goes something like this: 4 turtles were sitting on a log in the water. Three of them decided to jump into the water. How many were left still on the log? If you think the answer is 1, you are wrong. There were still 4 turtles left on the log. Why? Because 3 of them only decided to jump into the water. If they were going to accomplish it, they still needed to go from deciding in their minds to actually doing.

So as we begin to work on changing our own self-perceptions and beliefs, we still need to take another step–actually begin to do. And that is a very hard step to take. You see it can be easy to motivate ourselves to take the first step towards our goals. (Indeed, you are reading this blog because I made the first step towards executing my decision.) But the real success comes when we commit ourselves to the daily faithfulness of working toward that goal.

I can tell you right now that I am not making rapid progress in learning the piano. I only sit down to practice once or twice per week and usually only for 15 minutes at a time. This blog was exhilarating and exciting for me for the first 4 of my posts. (I am actually surprised it lasted that long without my excitement waning). But today was a different story. My goal is to write and post something every day. But when I sat down to write this post, I initially felt uninspired and unmotivated, and did not feel like doing it. Thankfully, I was able to fight through that feeling, and I hope you are the better for having read this far.

We love beauty. We are wired for it. We vacation to places where we can behold the beauty of the majestic creation. We listen to beautiful music. We enjoy watching professional athletes because they manifest an element of beauty as they compete to be the best at their craft. We appreciate beautiful furniture, clothing, cars, homes, etc. But the greatest violinist or the most gifted ballet dancer, or the most beautiful opera singer did not become that way without hours upon hours of hard work in the quiet places and in the early morning and late at night. They did not work at practice and discipline only when they felt inspired and only when they felt refreshed and motivated. They had to commit themselves to discipline and practice on a daily basis. They lived their daily life with inspired resolve. For while it is easy to pursue your goals when you are inspired, you need resolve to pursue them when you can’t find or remember the inspiration that led you to make the goal to begin with.

As you walk with me on my journey of living with inspired resolve, I hope you and I will both commit to growing in the seemingly boring, mundane, grind of daily faithfulness working towards our goals. For it is in that boring world, that we can truly accomplish great things.

 

An Open Letter to Cody Parkey

Dear Cody Parkey,

What a devastating field goal miss last night. Valleys can be so dark when you are in them.

You don’t know me. My name is Brian Carnesecchi. I live in Detroit. I am 37 years old, married with 4 kids, and I’m a lifelong Bears fan.

I just finished watching the Bears’ loss to the Eagles with my family. I know you must be devastated about missing that field goal to lose the game. Even though the loss can be placed on the whole team, I imagine you are haunted with a lot of regret about that miss.

I am writing to thank you. When I put my 10 year old son to bed tonight, I told him how much I would commend you for being out there and trying. I know you gave it your best. It is no small thing to have accomplished being a professional football player.

And you failed in that moment. But I would rather have a son who was out there trying to be great than a son sitting at home criticizing everyone else for their failures. I pray you see how blessed you are to be in this situation.

This loss will hurt for a while. And I would not be surprised if you have nightmares about it for a while. However, after swallowing this bitter pill, I pray that you use it in your life to become a better person. We all have trials and setbacks. What matters is how we respond to them.

You see Cody, my son Zachary, who is now 10 years old, will never have the chance to be in a position like you were in tonight. When Zachary turned 6 years old, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. The doctors found a tumor in his pelvis. After 12 rounds of chemotherapy, he had a massive surgery to remove about 30% of his pelvis on his left side including his left hip socket. Once his body recovered enough, he then had 27 more rounds of chemo. It has been 3.5 years since his last chemo treatment and Zachary is currently doing great.

However, although he has found a new boyhood love for football and for the Bears, he understands that he will never be able to play the sport. It would be too risky for his body and his athletic abilities have been significantly diminished from his surgery. He now runs with a limp and struggles to keep up with his 8 year old brother.

I don’t feel sorry for him or our family though. We know everything happens for a reason. Going through that trial and now living every day always aware his cancer could return has been the hardest thing my wife and I have ever had to go through so far in our life. But it has been such a blessing. It has given us so many opportunities to be an encouragement to others. And it has taught us to measure life with more gratitude and sobriety. Our priorities have been recalibrated according to what matters most.

So although this loss hurts and that field goal miss leaves you with a pit in your stomach, use it to become great–whether ┬áin football or as a human being. Grow from the struggle.

By the way, you can check out a facebook page we used to chronicle Zachary’s cancer story on facebook @ZacharysStory.

-Rooting for you,

Brian Carnesecchi (bscarn@gmail.com)

 

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Zachary about a week after his surgery.

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Zachary is on the right between his sisters. Right before singing at a Christmas choir concert.