DustyMark's Journey 9 Comments

First or Last Christmas

It’s the eve of Christmas Eve and I cannot sleep again.  However, its not from pain—I don’t know necessarily why, I just can’t sleep.

My thoughts have been running around the last couple of weeks as Dusty and a team of volunteers have been working feverishly to get us moved to the new house,  The final electrical, plumbing and building inspection all passed after we moved in and it felt like a Christmas miracle.

I’ve felt a little more pressure this year to make this Christmas special.  I love Christmas, I loved starting traditions with my kids and I loved creating activities that I thought would bring a nostalgic Christmas feeling for them.  I really loved my house on the ridge and the Christmas memories we made there.  Two of my kids came to know Christ through the repeated reading of Ruth Graham’s Christmas book “one Wintry Night”.  Moving to a new house while being sick has placed a desire in my heart to make this Christmas special as my kids seemed less enthused about all of this moving business and the additional stress of me being sick has changed some of our activities.  Over the years I tried to create an enthusiasm for Christmas that became more and more difficult. The 12 days of Christmas, which included making cookies, ice skating, skiing, caroling, must see movies, snow hikes, sledding, trips to see Lake Michigan Ice,  Red Robin Burgers shopping trips etc. etc.  It became hard to maintain and not disappoint.  Cora is my most nostalgic/romantic and hated the idea of skipping a previous years activity as a child—“What do you mean we’re not going to make Christmas cookies with the Longs this year Dad!? —Its Christmas!!  If I’m honest, I could empathize with her because I’m a lot like her in that way as well.

This Christmas had begun to feel like a bit of a failure because of my expectations and my inability to do anything.  The Griswold’s family vacation has been playing repeatedly on AMC and I began to notice some unflattering similarities between me and Clark.

Last Christmas

What do I mean by Last Christmas?  After years of entertaining young kids, now having only 3 teenagers left at the house during this Christmas month, acquiring an aggressive cancer,  feeling like I was dying and this could be my last.  I had put an unnecessary and unmeetable pressure on myself that I knew couldn’t be met.  A month ago I seriously thought this would be my last Christmas with my family and I couldn’t do anything to make it great if I wanted to.  The 12 days of Christmas had dwindled down to a few of our traditions, there are fewer fun presents under the tree (young adults are harder to shop for) and then they had to pack, move and take care of Dad.  I think we all struggle to make Christmas exciting year after year.

A few years ago Pastor Chris asked me to preach a sermon at KCBC January series, this was four weeks of messages from a generation to a generation and I was the Generation X preacher.  I prepared a message on the Fear of God, and I remember stating that my generation was one that no longer feared God—and the importance of it.  I remember one of my examples was that we struggle to create excitement and enthusiasm for Christmas and Easter because we don’t fear him.  If we feared God’s wrath and saw our sin for what it is in his eyes, Christmas would be Awesome!  The hard part is communicating that to the people you love and care about.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxG5LFxmE4c)

Pastor Chris has been posting on FB scripture from Isaiah and I have been meditating on them. I really loved that illustration on the size of our world compared to the sun.  I learned the acronym ACTS as a prayer guide back in college and have used it to this day, Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, then Supplication as a framework for time in prayer.  For years I’ve struggled with Adoration,  I would begin to pray and my time of adoration would become more of a time of thanking God for everything he had giving me.  (To be honest, I don’t even like the word “adoration” when being used to think about another man.)  It seemed like a word that should be used toward your lover or babies or something.  For years, I would stop myself and think is my appreciation of God and who he is, his character, based solely on what he gives me?  This last week I decided to change the “A” in the acronym to “Awe” or “Awesome”.  Trying to wrap my head around Pastor Chris and Isaiah’s description in:

Is 40:22 

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,

    and its people are like grasshoppers.

He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,

    and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

If that is who God is, if Isaiah is right, and If the historical figure of Jesus, really existed and really said the things he said (whom we have more historical evidence of his claims and existence then most historical figure of his era)—If all that is true—then I should be AWESTRUCK at the idea of Christmas.  We have a tendency to make him like us in our minds.

Ps 50:21 

When you did these things and I kept silent,

    you thought I was exactly like you.

This being who exists outside the universe and placed our minuscule planet in the exact spot necessary for a human being to survive—the number of variables that have to be met for our existence is mind blowing, we are fragile beings!  This being made himself become a human being and purposely experienced everything we experienced from the fetus to death!  So he could offer a way out, a method of payment for all the wrong.  All so I could cheat death and be in a relationship with him.  He’s nothing like us.

First Christmas

Maybe this is my first Christmas rather than my last.  I don’t know what the future holds—but I know I was tasting death a few months ago.  Cancer was eating my flesh daily.  My bones were rotting away, I had gotten down to 128 lbs and was on pace to be in the 90’s by February.  (My body has recently reversed the trend and I have gained over 10 lbs the past few weeks.) Sometimes you just know, you can feel it, and I did—death was at my doorstep and could be just around the corner for all I know.  

But this Christmas I have been in Awe of what God has done for my soul despite my failing body.  I wish I had the words or skills to communicate it.  Because we are all in the same boat!  Your body is failing just like mine,  maybe slower but still failing,  we scramble to find vaccines and methods to extend and protect our fragile flesh to no avail—death is just around the corner for all of us.  

I love that song by Third Day “Trust in Jesus” (https://genius.com/Third-day-trust-in-jesus-lyrics)


One of these days we all will stand in judgment for

Every single word that we have spoken

One of these days we all will stand before the Lord

Give a reason for everything we’ve done

And what I’ve done is


I trust in Jesus

My great deliverer

My strong defender

The Son of God

I trust in Jesus

Blessed redeemer

My Lord forever

The Holy One

Ephesians 3:10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,

God has honored, protected, and cared for my family through you and I don’t know why.

This week right after we moved into our house Stacie Berenbrock had brought over dinner for my family and was at the house—she said hey we’ve got a surprise for you guys outside—so Dusty and I went out on the porch and were blown away.  It was overwhelming,  seeing my wife’s cousins, brother in-laws, a large group from KCBC, friends from high school, new neighbors, old neighbors, new friends and life long friends.  Our eyes just keep scanning the dark and picking out faces and the emotions just flowed.  My wife doesn’t cry in front of people very often and I heard this sobbing over my shoulder as she took it in.  We returned to the house and read all the Christmas cards and laughed and cried over the outpouring of love we’ve received this Christmas from you. We have felt God’s love through you like never before—It is what keeps us going.   

Thank you,  The Linsley’s

*******I gave you Mark firs this time. Its just me reporting the mundane stuff we deal with.

I’m back at dialysis at home for a couple days and yesterday I was major anxious. I’m glad I can do this for him and we can do it at home…but I don’t want to do it. I don’t want him to have to do it. This morning was better. I got up and walked with Cora in the dark and then got going and I was more awake and alert. We started off with a bunch of alarms but things are running smoothly as we speak.

While he dialyizes I try to get little odds and ends finished up…or clean etc. I can’t leave the house and really shouldn’t go too far at all. I wish I could sleep. Last night was horrible. The kids were up and laughing really late and I’m so glad it was delightful for them but at midnight I had to intervene. They took it down a notch but I could still hear them at 1am. (you can hear everything in this house!) Getting up at 6 was hard. But lets face it…getting up period, is hard! It doesn’t matter if I sleep 3 hours of 10 hours…the morning greets me like a stack of paperwork. I want nothing to do with it.

Yesterday I attempted to do some very last minute Christmas shopping. I have grabbed things online but not been able to go to or walk out of stores with tangible items in cute paper sacks. Mark wanted to go so me Cora and Mark went downtown for about an hour and then he was toast. I got nothing. Well, we got one gift last second. Cora and I then proceeded to Fremond but I’m like mush….I can’t think, I can’t process…they didn’t have what I wanted…and finally I told Cora I just need to leave. So I didn’t come home feeling like I accompished a thing EXCEPT I bought a tiny little espresso maker you use over a flame. Cora and Mark said it was awesome and had espresso at 9pm. And again this morning. So that was a hit!

It creeps on ya every year doesn’t it? But this year was different. There was always multiple things occupying my brain that I couldn’t just think about Christmas. But don’t we put too much effort into it anyways? I mean the commercial side. Fretting about spending money and who to buy for and keeping it equal and parties…and spending money$$$. We Americans get crazy at Christmas. It’s never been appealing to me, but have gotten a bit caught up myself in the past. I got a tree up (check) I do have presents under there (check) we are getting Chinese today (check). We have Mark here looking pretty good as he bulks up, but still not moving like he would like or feeling as awesome as he had hoped. But we are in our house…its practically done and we have so much to be thankful for.

I hope you all take a step back and reflect on what you DO have and put your focus into what you need to concentrate on. It’s not money..or your job really. It’s not that next awesome vacation…or how to acquire a newer car. It’s mending broken relationships….pulling away from toxic ones…serving big or small..using your gifts to brighten up lives and really pouring into people. Its Jesus. We have an awesome Christmas Eve Service each year at Kent City Baptist church. 6pm tonight. Its not the same on TV but if you don’t live here, that can be an option.

Merry Christmas.

Comments 9

  1. Merry Christmas Lindsey’s !
    Thank you for your blog ministry. May God bless you as he blesses others through your faithfulness in a very hard trial. You are loved.

    Mark, your words were such a great reminder. This year, I am going to focus less on making this Christmas memorable and more on focusing on why I remember it…….Jesus, showing his awesome love , came to fulfill a reckless plan where the Savior of the world sacrificed himself to save me. Now that’s worth remembering and fully celebrating.

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  2. Your faithfulness and real honesty through all of this is inspiring. We pray for you both constantly. I am so glad to hear Mark is bulking back up and slowly getting stronger. Merry Christmas to you all and may 2022 be a year of incredible blessing, healing, and strength for you all!
    Your Myers Lake neighbors ♥️

  3. We do have an awesome Savior who loves us unconditionally. So glad He cares so much for all of your family❣
    One day at a time, Jesus loves us this I know❣
    Merry Christmas Linsley family. 🎄

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  4. Merry Christmas to the Linsley family! Mark and Dusty thanks for continuing to share as not a day goes by I don’t pray for guys. Mark your incredible wisdom and reflection on scripture and God’s provision are inspiring. Dusty your incredible showing of what real love looks like – in every task – every worry – every small victory is such an inspiration. I hope all married couples look into the eyes of the one they love and know what a gift every day and every moment is. Your writing makes me pause and stop sweating the small stuff that really doesn’t matter and just enjoy the person!

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  5. I’d like to chime in here. Dusty, we’ve never met, and Mark, I know you a little. We flew together for my CFI renewal. Thanks again! I worked at Jet Electronics in the years when they had the 421, doing pretty much what you did. I really admired you for leaving that, as I could understand why.

    Your story brings back memories for me. My wife Barb, we were married at 23, deeply connected, married for 31 years, 3 kids, 4 grandkids – she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in1992 and died in 2010. If you do the math, that was 18 years of living under the sword – praying, working, doing life. And then she was gone.

    And so, there’s been a lot of reflection. Nancy, my second wife, has actually been a huge blessing in processing all that this has meant. Several insights – God’s ways are not our ways. His vision is perfect and timeless. In my case, all the prayers in the world did not stop what was to be. But I believed with all my heart that he could and would heal her. It’s such a mystery, but in the end I’ve come to accept that His purposes are what I want. His objectives.

    Walking through the valley of the shadow of death is what I did, and what you are doing. It changes us, at our core. When I see people from my earlier life who have had a good life, no real crisis that I’m aware of – I feel like a complete alien. My life is so different, and so changed. It’s as if we have nothing in common. The valley of the shadow. And I wouldn’t go back. This is what God had for me. And it’s good.

    What I hear you both saying is that you are seeing the value of the moment. What you have right now. What a huge lesson and imperative. So many of us blow off minutes and hours and days as if we had an endless supply. You value the moment. Heaven stretches out in front of us, and really in just a few moments, we who follow Jesus will be together there.

    You guys ramble a lot so I feel free to do that too! Just wanted to add a little to the morsels you’ve been putting out there. And I appreciate all that you both have to say about what you are going through.

    God bless you! Keep the faith!


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