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Even When it Hurts

Growing up in the Barlow house you better have a bone sticking out of your arm if you wanted to get out of going church. Even then, we probably would have gone to the ER and made it to church by 9:05. As a teenager, it didn’t matter if you were out until 3 am, your butt had better be in that pew before the first song started. Whenever we went on vacation, we always found a church to go to nearby. It was embedded in my brain even as a small child. Probably not everyone’s experience as a child but I am so grateful this was my story.

My parents didn’t give me a choice about brushing my teeth or going to school, so they definitely weren’t going to give me an option about something that would affect my eternity. They instilled in me from a very young age that church is important. And do you know what happened? It went from my parents making me go, to my own personal desire to worship the living God. It’s not just about being there and going through the motions because you think you have to. Sure, I want to be obedient to God, but it’s so much more than suffering through an hour of church while your mind is on where you are going to eat lunch.

I go to church to hear the word of God preached and to worship the God of the universe collectively with other believers.

Psalm 66 says

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the Earth! Sing out the honor of his name. Make his praise glorious…all the earth shall worship you and bring praise to you, they shall sing praises to your name.

We had Robbyn the previous Sunday and the next Sunday we planned to go to church and then go up to the NICU. Some might think that seems nuts to not go to the NICU all day but to me going to church to praise God that Sunday was everything I needed. God had given me so many blessings over the past week I needed to be in a house of worship and give God my praise. Louie Giglio, a well-known pastor, said this about worship “We are acknowledging Him as the source of all things, gratefully give back to Him what He has already so graciously given to us.”


In the New Testament in Acts 16, Paul and Silas are imprisoned for healing a demon-possessed slave girl. Her master is so mad he has lost his profit from the girl’s divination, he takes Paul and Silas to the officials where they are beaten and thrown in jail. While in shackles, Paul and Silas “were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening to them.” God then sent an earthquake that opened all of the prison doors and unshackled all of the prisoners. The jailer had fallen asleep, and when he awoke, he saw the door open and assumed all of the prisoners had escaped. Paul stops the jailer as he is about to kill himself with his sword for allowing the prisoners to escape by saying, “Do yourself no harm for we are all here.”

Paul and Silas were beaten in front of a mob for healing a poor girl, wrongfully imprisoned and what are the seen doing? Praising God! I love worshipping God, but I am pretty sure I would not be seen doing that here. I would be grumbling about being wrongfully put in jail or nursing my wounds. But they praise God publicly in the middle of their trial. The outcome of such an act is that there is an earthquake and not one of the men in prison try to escape when they had every opportunity to.

They were such a powerful witness to the prisoners in such a short amount of time. It goes on to tell that the jailer and his family also accept Christ because of the impact of Paul and Silas.

If they can have this impact, it makes me what kind of impact, if any, I will have on someone because of how I react in times of great trial. I’m sure Paul and Silas wanted to be beaten and imprisoned about as much as I want to have cancer. But just as God allowed them to be imprisoned, He has allowed me to have cancer. Without them being in jail, the jailer never would have been saved nor would the prisoners have been witnessed too. I feel the platform God has given me to use to share my faith is my cancer diagnosis, so how can I not praise him for giving me this opportunity I otherwise would not have had.

Jesus said in Luke 19:39 if we don’t praise God then even the rocks will cry out. Even creation knows who its creator is and longs to praise him. We are called to praise God, in all circumstances, not just when we feel like it. I love singing praise songs in my car or in my kitchen, but there is nothing better than singing to the God of the universe in thanksgiving with your brothers and sisters in Christ to the one who has given us everything.

Jordan and I have been in our praise band at church for years. We are not professionals by any stretch but we enjoy getting the privilege to lead worship at our church. One of my favorite things in the world is to watch Jordan play the piano. At home and at church. This song is my battle cry for this season of my life. It’s an amazing song called Even when it Hurts by my favorite band, Hillsong United. You should really take a listen to the real song but Jordan and I gave it a go with my trusty iPhone.

https://youtu.be/b8Yho_5dbYA

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In Sickness and in Health

Do you take Kari to be your wife, to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish as long as you both shall live?

On your wedding day, the happiest day of your life, you say your vows to the love of your life. And during those vows, you are probably only thinking of the better, the richer, and the health. No one is thinking of the worse, the poorer, or the sickness. I mean I assumed those times would eventually occur, but I certainly didn’t think we would be staring down the barrel of sickness five years and eleven months into our marriage.

My favorite picture of the two of us and it was candid.


Our wedding was perfect. I know most people think that theirs was but ours really was! I had it all planned. The bridesmaids’ dresses cost only $12 a piece, and I found my dress on clearance. (I refuse to buy things at full price) I had the ceremony configured that from the time I walked down the aisle to the time we were pronounced husband and wife was only 14 minutes (Jordan and I neither one are big fans of standing in front of people). For the Grande Finale, we had a s’mores bar; so yeah, it was pretty awesome.

But as perfect as our wedding day was, our marriage has been that amazing and more. I swear Jordan treats me like the queen of England. If I ask for anything, he moves heaven and earth to make it possible. I can probably count on my hand the number of times Jordan has told me no. Granted, there are probably plenty of times he should have told me no and didn’t!

I get all of these brilliant ideas from Pinterest or Joanna Gaines, and I usually get about 1/ 8th of the way through my project before Jordan has to come to bail me out. I have this extraordinary skill; I strip every screw I have ever put in. It’s one of Jordan’s favorite features of mine. He is the one who has to come in and figure out how to finish the project with only stripped screws to work with! Jordan especially likes it when I get the fever to paint, and more paint ends up on the floor and me than on the walls. He just shakes his head at me. But how else am I going to get the farmhouse look?!

He wears matching Halloween costumes with me every year even though he hates it. He makes me laugh: all the time. He once drove 2.5 hours round trip to make sure there wasn’t a burglar outside the house I was housesitting. He always lets me control the remote. He goes to Walmart to buy me a chocolate cake from the deli section when I just can’t fight the craving. He will sit through a hallmark movie and only complain a quarter of the time. He let me pick our first dog (Jordan looked ridiculous taking a teacup chihuahua for a walk)

Jordan and I have been on this cancer journey together, every single step of the way. We have had to make so many major decisions that I never dreamed we would be making at this point in our life. Is our life insurance up to date? Will we have to sell our house to pay medical bills? How should we handle our finances? Which hospital system do we trust with to care for our premature baby? Should I have reconstructive surgery? How much should we tell our children?

Our wedding vows have definitely been put to the test but I think we are passing with flying colors. Our marriage is stronger and more Christ-centered than it has ever been. We have been together since we were 17 and we have grown and matured together spiritually and physically. We have grown through failures and successes. We have tried new things and created traditions. We even took on our own fixer-upper house before the Chip and Joanna were a household name, and I am convinced if you can get through a remodel with your spouse you can get through anything life throws at you.

We have gone to church camp, Christian conferences, retreats, and bible studies together. He is a perfect example of a Spiritual leader for our family. I think it is so important to pray about decisions in your marriage, to worship together, and to study God’s word together. I pray for Jordan daily and I know he prays for me.

He has been the rock of this family; especially recently. I don’t have too many complaints about chemotherapy, but I definitely feel more drained as the day goes on. Jordan is here every day in and day out, after working hard all day, doing everything that needs to be done with our house and kids. He gives baths, plays with them outside, changes so many diapers, fixes our air conditioner, does dishes and anything else that needs to be done without uttering a single complaint about the extra load. If Jordan thought chopping of his arm would help me, I know he would do it in a heartbeat. He is the prime example of loving me like Christ loves the church. The love Jordan has for me is a sacrificial love. I do not doubt that if he could bare this disease for me, he would.

“Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I can’t imagine having to go through all of this without the love and support of my husband. I count it a blessing because I know many people navigating their cancer journeys don’t have the support I have. He has lifted me up mentally, spiritually, and physically over the last few months. But I also know that we would have already crumbled under the weight of this disease if it weren’t for Christ’s love for us and His position in our marriage. Jordan and I are both in agreement that the order of importance for our life is as follows:

1. God

2. Spouse

3. Children

If these get out of order, I believe our life will quickly be in disorder. The Bible is pretty clear about how our life should be prioritized.

Matthew 10:37 says, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

If I put Jordan before my love of God, then I will rely solely on Jordan. He is only human and will fail eventually, just as I will. We both need to depend on God more than each other because God is perfect and will never fail us. God wants us to have him at the center of our lives because when we put him first, everything else will fall into place.

Everything in our life needs to be looked at from an eternal perspective: including our marriage. How is what we are doing as a couple affecting the kingdom of God? Are we being a good example of a Christian marriage? Are we raising our kids in a way that leads them to have a strong love of Christ?

Our marriage should not just be about the two of us. I want our marriage to be a tool that God can use to bring people to him. If we have a good marriage but keep it to ourselves are we really honoring God with what he has given us? We should be doing the work of Christ together. God brought us together for a reason and I don’t want to get to the end of my life and see missed opportunities.

“For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48

Jordan and I have been given so much which means we have so much we need to give back by praying for others, offering support, serving together in and out of the church, raising godly children, being examples for a Christ-centered marriage.

Sure, Joanna Gaines has Chip, but I have Jordan Justice.