Category Archives: Health

The Interloper’s Demise ~ Redux

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If you’re new to the blog, this story began last year. You may want to read the earlier parts to catch up with the rest of us. You can find it here … Part OnePart TwoPart Three … Go ahead, we’ll wait.

 

Caution TapeIt was a cold day in February, even for Florida, when the Mastermind ended his onslaught on my house. He put away his tools and took my special bed. He’d done all he could. Was it enough? We’d have to wait three months before we could find out. His photon torpedoes made my house swell obscuring the ability to get an accurate picture of what was inside.

I’d been through this before. I laid in bed every night praying to my Creator that the Intruder was gone for good. Wanting to prove the cutter wrong when he said, “You may have to live with him for the rest of your life.”

Three months later we tested my house and I met with the cutter. The Interloper was still there. To get away from the photons, the trespasser had broken into separate pieces and he was now scattered across the upper floor of my house. But the cutter’s eyes twinkled. “I want you to meet with the Brazilian,” he said. “We think we may have found another course of action.”

Motivated to rid myself of this evil presence, I ran head-long to the Brazilian’s office. I liked him and wondered if he was still eating his daily turkey sandwich. Inside he informed me that there might be another way. Medicines that I would feed my house twice daily. The treatment was working with a woman who had the same Trespasser as I did and he wanted to try it with me. I readily agreed.

Three months downing two types of medication in a specific order. I waited with fingers crossed and prayers sent to my Guardian for the outcome of testing. Had the pills done anything to eradicate the Intruder? Gleefully, the Brazilian brought good news. One spot was gone and the rest of the spots were shrinking or stable. I looked heavenward and praised my God. After so many years chasing this Interloper, I could handle “shrinking or stable.” We decided to continue the treatment for another three months.

Those three months came to a close this past Monday. I’d completed all my testing last week. Anxiously, I waited with my mother in the Brazilian’s office for news. The Brazilian strolled in shaking our hands and chatting pleasantries. I watched his face for any signs. He sat down at his desk and poked on his computer.

“You’re clear.” He stated matter-of-factly as if he was talking about the sky or a background check.

I paused. Not really sure I heard him right but knowing I did. “I’m clear?” I asked. “What do you mean I’m clear?”

“Your chest is clear.” He said as he broke out into a wide smile.

“Clear?” I asked again, not able to comprehend the results. “Completely clear?”

“Clear.” He waited for the news to sink in.

I turned to my mother whose eyes were shining. She had a large smile on her face.

“Look at the CT report,” he said, turning the monitor toward me. “No evidence of cancer.”

I shook my head unable to speak. In shock, I suppose.

“Continue the course of medication for now and in another three months we’ll get a CT Chest and Abdomen to make sure.”

“Am I cancer free?” He looked up at me without saying anything. “In remission?” I offered, wanting to put words to this condition. The Brazilian stopped short of claiming either outcome.

Even though I still have a hard time believing where we are right now and that the Intruder is actually gone. I praise my God. Singing the Doxology with a whisper of hope in my heart.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

Praise Him, all creatures here below.

Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Jesus had always told me that I would be fine. But in our Christian economy, fine could be healthy and living or living with Him in Heaven. I had been prepared for either conclusion for two long years.

So for now the Interloper seems to have been beaten back. Dead again. And me? I’m still stunned. Not really sure how to cope without the beast who’s been intertwined within me for so long; but ready to try!

Living a Life Eternal

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Living a Life Eternal

In Bible Study Fellowship last year, while we were studying the book of John, a comment was made (and I’m unsure if it was made by my teaching leader in lecture or if I read it in the notes) that we, followers of Christ, were to be living the eternal life now.

Living the eternal life now?

I thought the eternal life was reserved for Heaven and beyond.

I’ve been thinking about that comment ever since. What does it mean? What would that look like? Am I the only one confused by that message?

I’m pretty sure I’m not. There’s even a popular song out now with the lyrics “I’m going Home (meaning Heaven) where the streets are golden. Home where my chains are broken.” Screech … Back up the truck. Even I know that our chains are broken the moment we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. Is that what it means to live a life eternal here on Earth? Broken chains?

I asked some OCFG’s (my Outrageously Christ-filled Girlfriends) this question and they thought about it for a while and finally agreed upon, “Being content in everything.” Is that life eternal? Contentedness? I can see that, but surely there is more to it.

Let’s face it. It’s hard to accept that our chains are broken the minute we accept Christ. There are some sins we find we just can’t stop doing no matter how hard we try (keep trying!) and there are some sins we just enjoy holding on to (shake it off!). I say that as much for myself because I’ve been reading a book by Jerry Bridges called Respectable Sins. It’s alarming that there are so many sinful behaviors we turn a blind eye to … our own and others’.

It’s equally as hard to learn to be content in everything. Having cancer has gone a long way to honing my ability to be content. I remind myself that this would not have happened if God didn’t allow it. Knowing that He is refining me through the trial. Knowing that my strengthening and unceasing faith in Christ in spite of the cancer (and all the treatments and side effects) helps bolster the faith of others brings me so much joy and satisfaction that I might not be able to find otherwise.

Hey! This sanctification process is hard! But if it wasn’t difficult and sometimes painful and often exasperating it would be a nice wide path that everyone could walk, wouldn’t it?

I know I have some very smart cookies reading this blog so will you weigh in on this question please … what do you think it looks like to live life eternal here on Earth?

Have a beautiful week!

 

It’s Not Goodbye

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Bob and Paula

Bob and Paula Nilsen

It’s hard to cry for departed Christian friends because I know where they are and am confident I’ll see them again. It’s much easier to weep for those they left behind. We must all await our time to enter the realm of God.

My friend Paula left us last month. Paula is a vivacious, generous, and gentle soul who God pulled into my life and became my friend just before I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. (If you missed it, here are easy links to part one and part two.)

I originally assumed God had brought us together for me to help her with her cancer diagnosis; but in a short matter of time we could see that we were meant to lean on each other through the suffering of this disease. Two Christian women fighting shoulder to shoulder with the big C.

God’s plan in our friendship really became evident when Paula’s disease metastasized to bone and brain and her faith began to falter. (You can read that here with links to part one and part two.) It scared me because she was one of the most solid women I knew. If her faith could crumble so easily … could mine?

What I didn’t know until later was that her doctors had told her she was incurable from day one.

Incurable.

It’s a hideous word that should not have found its way into our lexicon. I wondered how having that word spoken over you could damage your psyche. Now I could really appreciate just how tough and resilient she was. She’d lasted almost two years with that label slapped on her and her faith had just now had begun to slip. I counted my blessings that no doctor has ever used that word or, the alternate, “terminal” with me. Of course we are all terminal in one way or another.

Determined to restore her faith, we embarked on a 28-day bible study by Kay and David Arthur called Lord, I Need Answers. I’m not sure if it was the weekly camaraderie or God working through the study itself (or both!), but we were equally refreshed and stronger by the time we completed that study. I cheered as Paula was able to say with confidence the ultimate statement, “I know I’m going to Heaven when I die.” Faith reestablished! Hallelujah!

It wasn’t long though before Paula’s body began to ignore her directives. Since the disease had begun ravishing her body, she slipped into hospice care and friend after friend came by to sit with her, offering their love and support, and praying over her and with her.

It was very tough to witness this vital, faithful, loving woman fade away and I was with her on what was to become her last day. That afternoon I prayed a couple of Psalms over her (something she liked me to do when I’d come over) but found it very difficult to get through Psalm 91, one of our favorites. I dissolved into tears as I prayed God’s undying love over her. I couldn’t be sure she had heard me at all but had her hand in mine and as I was saying goodbye with a promise of returning the next day, she squeezed. I reported it to her nurse as I burst into a fresh round of tears.

Her husband, Bob, let us all know that she passed into Jesus’ arms at about 10pm that evening. I can’t say enough about Bob. He’s a good, godly man and a verifiable rock. There’s no wonder that God brought Bob into Paula’s life for a time such as this. It’s never easy for a man to lose his wife, but really God? They just celebrated their third wedding anniversary in March.

I’m beyond grateful that God brought Paula and I together two years ago. I’m overjoyed that He was able to use her in my life and me in hers right until the end. I’m thankful she heard a few chapters of my book and never once laughed!

Farewell, my friend, I love you.

Three Amigos 2

Me, Paula, and another friend at church.

Three Amigos 1

Three Amigos

“Don’t be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”

~ Richard Bach (Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah)

My Ebenezer

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Ebenezer Branded

Since we were talking about Ebenezers last week, I wanted to show you the one I’ve been building since I got to Florida.

You know that God gave me the plan for my immediate future in 2010, while I was in Arizona.  During the third year that I was in Florida I received Joshua 1:5.

No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.

I needed that verse in the early years of my life in Florida because I often believed that I was in some kind of wasteland.  Even though His plan for me was falling into place exactly as He’d promised.  I hadn’t been able to find a job since I’d lost mine in 2008 (and it was now 2013), I was still living in my parent’s house, and I still had doubts that I should be in Florida at all.  I mean … maybe what I thought was “God’s Plan” was just something my brain cooked up and not from Him at all.

Getting this scripture brought me to my knees.  It is, essentially, three promises in one glorious verse.  This ‘gift’ from God came at a time when the devil had been bullying me with severe oppression over my inability to find a job. Furthermore, I wasn’t really hearing from God the way I had in Arizona and thought He had deserted me.  The Holy Spirit put me quickly and firmly on the right track with this verse.

All three promises were important.  The first No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live.” gave me greater strength to thwart Satan’s lies.  The third, I will not leave you or forsake you.” reminded me that I wasn’t in a desert and far away from God.  But the second part … oh the second part!  I will be with you, just as I was with Moses.”  Man, that’s amazing.  Do you remember how God was with Moses throughout the early books of the Bible?  I can just imagine Joshua hearing this.  Since he, too, was with Moses and knew how God interacted with him, did he fall over in awe?  I certainly did.  God hasn’t disappointed.  He has made good on these promises and I knew I needed a stone to remember that He had helped me thus far.

The top stone is the verse God gave me after I’d been diagnosed with cancer and was crying one night to Him about everything in the Plan I’d hadn’t done.  It was the last part in the plan and I’d dragged my feet and hemmed and hawed and had started – but had not finished the last phase.

My remorseful plea that lonely night was, “Am I going to die without finishing what you said I would do?” Tears flooding my pillow.  That was followed by “I’m sorry, Lord.” And then came a fresh round of tears.  I was sorry I hadn’t acted faster and now I might not have time to do what He called me to do.

It was the next morning that the Holy Spirit impressed Numbers 23:19 onto my heart:

God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind. Does He speak and then not act, or promise and not fulfill?

Upon reading this verse I dissolved into a mass of tears again.  But this time they weren’t tears of sorrow.  Joy flooded my heart to almost bursting.  What relief!

This scripture told me I wasn’t going to die – at least not before I finished His plan for me.  It also promised that I would finish it, because God doesn’t lie, change His mind, or not honor His promises.  At that moment, those were the sweetest words my wretched heart needed to hear.

Certainly a scripture worthy of an Ebenezer.  So I found another stone and wrote the verse address on it.  I never want to forget that here, again, was a time when God has helped me thus far.

So, did you think about using some sort of Ebenezer to remember how He has helped you too?  I’m dying to know what you’re using.  Let me know in the comments!

That Indescribable Peace

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That Indescribable Peace

I’ve just finished a book by Pastor Kyle Idleman called The End of Me.  He’s also the author of the wildly popular Not a Fan (revised and expanded in 2016) which I also loved.  As He usually does when I read good Christian material, God spoke to me throughout the book.

Pastor Kyle starts out discussing the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5) and how Jesus’ advice is contradictory to our culture.  “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” (Mt. 5:4)  Those who mourn will be blessed?  Everyone wants a blessing but who wants to mourn to be blessed?

Let’s look at it through Jesus’ eyes.  To paraphrase Idleman: when we suffer, we mourn.  Our suffering opens up a huge cavity in our hearts with whatever we’ve lost – it could be a relationship, our health, a person, anything that means something to us.  But this is where God can fill us up with Himself.  If we allow Him, we will be blessed by His presence … by His comfort … by the peace that transcends understanding.

I, and certainly anyone else who is fighting a terminal disease and loves Christ, has experienced that sorrow – that hole that gapes open like a cavern when you hear the words, “You have _________.”  Fill in the blank, for me it was cancer.

But it wasn’t long before I experienced Jesus’ presence … His comfort … His peace.  It settled on me in the midst of the battle and poured down into that hollow filling me full of Him.  It’s probably the main thing that leads me to glorify God in this whole mess.  The reason I can smile.  The reason I can praise and worship Him in the midst of cancer.

When I meet others who know what’s going on inside me, they usually start to look all sorrowful and sad.  They come up, arms open wide, hug and kiss me and step back saying, “How are you?”  I love these people – and I’m not being sarcastic.  Anyone who takes an interest in my condition (or loves on my parents through this journey) I seriously adore.  There just aren’t enough people in the world today who care about anyone other than themselves.

“I’m great!” I say, beaming a bright smile.  Even those who know I follow Jesus seem surprised at my answer.  Oh I may have some fatigue or nausea but I am great despite those side effects.  Jesus is my Savior and whatever happens I know where I’m going.

I recently remarked in a small church group that I may be answering a lesson question a certain way because I had what was essentially a terminal disease.  The group agreed but one woman piped up and said, “You know, we all have a terminal disease.”

We all laughed, but she was right.  We’re all dying – just some faster than others.

While I intend to go out on a slow boil, we all should live this life like we’re dying … because we are.

Why?  Because God is sovereign.  Only He knows when our last day will be.  And in the meantime, you too can experience life in a cocoon of His presence – thick and warm like your favorite blanket on a snowy winter morning.  Only this Comforter brings that peace that I can never really adequately describe.

How about you?  When have you experienced God’s indescribable peace?

 

The Wait

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beached-sailboats

It’s weird … this waiting.

This Neverland of Infinite Possibilities.

Well, no.  There really are only two possibilities.  Do I still have active cancer or am I back in remission?

And will this be my life going forward?  Do I or don’t I?  Holding my breath at every doctor’s visit awaiting the word?

I finished radiation treatments three weeks ago but can’t get a PET scan for another five weeks.

In the meantime I wait.  Everyone waits.

Like beached sailboats.  No water.  No movement.

Family.  Friends.  Everyone on hold.

We pray.

We wait.

It’s weird … this waiting.

The Interloper’s Homecoming

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This is the third in a series.  If you’ve not yet read The Demise of the Interloper, please travel here for Part One and here for Part Two to be brought up to date.

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It was one of those autumn days in Florida.  The kind where you walk outside and instead of being hit with the usual warm, wet washrag of humidity; you come instantly to a standstill noticing the change.  The air is drier and the temperature reduced a few degrees.  A day that instantly puts a smile on your face and changes your outlook.

Standing in the middle of the driveway I took a deep breath of the crisp air before walking gleefully to the mailbox at the end of the drive.  There was a spring in my step and a large smile plastered across my face.  I had every right to feel a sense of bliss as the seasons changed.  I’d been free of the Interloper for six months and had re-discovered independence inside my own home.

I found my friend Herman at the mailbox.  A little lizard who enjoyed sunning himself on the black metal.  “Isn’t this a glorious day, Herman?” I sang out.  He scampered, as he always did, to the very back of the box as if I was going to hurt him.  We’d only been performing this ritual for months.  I laughed and pulled down the door grabbing at the bills and circulars that threatened to fall out of the open box.  Closing the door I looked for Herman to say good-bye but he’d already moved off and onto some other adventure.  Turning on my heel I headed back to the house but stopped quickly.  What was that?  I thought I heard something in the bushes behind me and it was much too big to be Herman.  At once the hackles on the back of my neck stood up as I turned slowly, needing to see what was there but not really wanting face what it might be.

The sound seemed slightly familiar.  Like a noise you heard once, years ago, and swore you’d never forget it … but now maybe you had forgotten and my mind raced … trying to recall.  I sucked in my breath, at once very afraid, turned and walked quickly toward the safety of my home.  My fear grew quickly in intensity as I all but expected to be jumped from behind by some wild animal or deranged person with mayhem on their mind.  Inside the house I slammed shut the door, locked it, and leaned against it trying to calm my shaking.

Safe now with my anxiety diminishing, I walked into the living room, kicked off my shoes, and settled into a soft couch to read the mail.  A matter of minutes passed as I flipped through junk and bills when I suddenly sat bolt upright.

“The Interloper!”  I practically shouted into the empty house.  My mind reeled.  Could it be?  Hadn’t we gotten rid of him six months ago?  Sweat broke out on my forehead and the mail in my lap slid to the floor as I rushed over to the window and peered down to the foliage at the bottom of the drive.  The leaves moved silently as if blown by wind but I could see nothing else out of order.

Immediately we pulled in the professionals to conference and they put my home through a battery of tests.  While waiting for results I laid silently in bed each night straining to hear any evidence of the Interloper’s evil presence.  I’d already dealt with his malevolence once and truly had no wish to be involved with him again.  I sought out my Guardian but He didn’t speak … or I couldn’t hear Him.  Perhaps my inner turmoil simply drowned out His voice, but the silence was unnerving.

I met with the cutter first.  He was my go-to guy with the ready smile and quirky bounce.  Except this time he wasn’t quite so jovial.  “It’s here,” he said solemnly.  “You may have to live with him for the rest of your life.”

“What?”  I asked quickly, even though I knew I’d heard him the first time.

“This type is hard to completely eradicate.”

I immediately thought about a time in the Bible when the disciples were trying to remove a demon from a young boy but were unable.  After Jesus had removed the demon the disciples asked Him why they hadn’t been able to do the job.  Jesus said, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29 HCSB)  I was already praying but I wondered if I needed to start fasting.

The cutter suggested that I meet with the Brazilian next.  He, with his toxic lotions and potions, almost immediately told me that there was little he could do.  Through testing, part of my home had been found to be lacking suitable internal structure.  The toxins he had to use to eradicate the beast required my home to be stronger than it was.  He looked at me solemnly while taking a bite of his turkey sandwich as if contemplating what he could say.  Clearing his throat, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and suggested I meet with the genius … the Mastermind.  My options were running out.

Approaching the Mastermind’s office I prayed that he would be able to help me.  If not … if not … I couldn’t speak the words.  The alternative was not something I wanted to have to face.

Where was my Guardian?  I knew He hadn’t left me, wouldn’t ever leave me, but why wasn’t He talking?  Why couldn’t I hear Him?  He so readily spoke peace into me the first time I’d encountered this evil presence.  Why not now?  I stopped asking knowing that sometimes we just didn’t get answers.  Feeling resigned, but with a touch of contentment, “Thy will be done,” I whispered.

The Mastermind greeted me warmly.  I’d spent so much time with him and his machines that I’d grown fond of this man.  Aristotle is quoted as having said, “There is no great genius without some touch of madness.”  I’m not sure I could call him ‘mad’ but certainly I enjoy the touch of weirdness that seems to skirt around the edges of his brilliant mind.

I left his office with hope and determination that we were going to be able to exterminate the Interloper once again.  They would build me my special bed the following week and begin shooting the photon torpedoes into my home directly after.

Then, on a Saturday evening before we’d even started the process, a friend said, “You’re the most courageous person I know.”

I sighed.  “If I’m courageous, it’s only because I know the Creator is with me, goes before me, and stands behind me.”

She smiled knowing that what I said was true but still shook her head.  “It helps that He’s working with gold.”

I blushed, “You’re a good friend.”

The next day as I listened to my pastor in church, he seemed to stare directly at me when he uttered the word, “Courage.”  I shivered in my seat thinking about my friend’s comment the day before.

I only had to wait one more day before a family friend met up with me in the grocery and said, “Have courage.”  I could hardly contain my delight realizing that I’d just heard from my Savior.  In the matter of three small days He was successful in getting His message through.

Courage.

Instantly peace settled into my dry bones and filled my heart.

“Thank you,” I whisper into the air, knowing He hears me.

And now.  Now I lay in my special bed while the Mastermind and his minions shoot photons around my house targeting the intruder.  Each strike sends the enemy screeching and running for cover.  I pray that God keeps this professional’s aim true and that every blast weakens the Interloper further.  I imagine he will be reduced to ruins and cease to live no more – and pray the same.  But I draw on the courage given to me by my Maker and smile.  I will be courageous.

Thy will be done.

 

The Fog

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The Fog

When Paula came home from Atlanta the last time – she was in, as they say in Hospice, a very delicate condition.  In fact she came home in a private medical jet because the hospital believed she wouldn’t survive the 10-hour drive.  Her friends rallied together so her husband could continue to work and we took shifts caring for her.

When I initially walked into her home for my first shift and saw my beautiful friend laying on the couch it dawned on me that this might be the end and I bit back the tears that threatened.  You see, Paula has cancer.  If you’ve read me for a while you recognize her name.  She was diagnosed before me but was there for me through every step of my treatment, leading the way, plying me with ginger chews and bible verses and toasty socks and lotions, and a safe, godly ear for me to whisper into.

Walking through her door that first day was shocking. She was flat out on the couch under a pile of blankets and could not speak well, walk, or control the shaking in her hands that were puffy with steroids. She was on oxygen 24/7 and a regimen of oxycodone and other drugs and was only occasionally lucid.  As the weeks went on I continued to take my turns sitting with her, helping her eat, and perform other vital necessities.  Since she slept most of the time I busied myself with reading, writing, working on my book, and dozing off myself every once in a while.

We continued on like this for weeks and even though I prayed for healing a part of me was watching my friend sink further and further away from us and I asked God a few times if this wasn’t the end.

That was, until last week.

My ‘visiting’ day that week was Friday and I walked into Paula’s house to find the morning-shift friend smiling at me and Paula sitting up on the couch, her eyes bright, and a wide smile on her face.  I can tell you now, I was more than a little freaked out.  My friend was back to her perky self.

“It’s so good to see you.” She said.  A weird thing to say when I had just seen her the week before.

But as the day progressed I was to discover that Paula remembered nothing of the past eight weeks.  Nothing – save the constant ringing of the doorbell on Halloween.

She remembered going to Atlanta that last time and then … nothing until last Sunday when she, as she said, “Woke up from my fog.”

I was dumbfounded.  Had God spared her the mental anguish of the last eight weeks by closing her mind to what was happening to her physically?  No one had an answer for it but I wouldn’t put it past Him to do such a thing.  That’s how much He loves us.

But that wasn’t the half of the miracle – here was my lovely friend Paula.  Sitting up – and I mean UP (not propped up!) eating, talking, joking, laughing, with only a small shake in her hands to offer any lasting evidence.  Her legs and arms were still mighty weak but that first day she walked with her walker, crossed her legs on the sofa like any proper lady, and held lasting coherent conversations.  Even though she continued to freak me out as I watched her, I praised God for His miraculous healing.

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It’s been four weeks since that day and Paula’s now moving around without the walker, has been out of the house to shop and dine and go to a Christmas party, and continues to amaze.

God is truly astounding.

Never give up praying.  Never stop praising Him.

Never give up believing that God will intervene.  I know that many times He doesn’t, and we won’t ever know why this side of Heaven, but sometimes He does.  In both times, in all times, we must pray, and believe, and have faith, and praise Him continuously.

I’m learning that now, more than ever.

 

Sorrow

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Sorrow

It’s dreary here without Paula.

Her two greyhounds stare at me as if because I’m here, their female human should be too.  Chrissy and Scooby.  I don’t have the heart to tell them she won’t be home just yet.  They’ve already been missing her something fierce, I’m sure.

A sound outside makes me get up from behind the laptop and move to the front window. The dogs are excited.  Perhaps I’ll give them a treat, they think.  Or even better, a walk.

I see the neighbor across the street poking around in his garden.  He wears a lumbar brace, smeared with dirt and stained with sweat.  His belly protrudes over the belt.

I try to imagine what it smells like and my nose wrinkles in perceived disgust.

A UPS truck in the street slows but then inches forward stopping at the house next door.  I sigh and absentmindedly scratch the pooch that stands next to me.  I look down.  Scooby.  I take his long head into my hands and rub his ears playfully kissing the top of his nose.

No sooner does UPS pull away when another truck, larger and white, pulls up directly in front of the house.  I squint to try and read the small blue lettering on the cab.

Hospice.

This is what I’m waiting for.  But I wish I wasn’t.

You see.  Paula is not doing well at all.

The cancer has gripped her body and is causing a host of other issues.

But Paula, whom God put directly into my path so that I could love on her through her struggle, ended up loving on me so much more when I was diagnosed.

She saw me through the breast biopsy (which was negative) and then the heart issue (which required a stent) and then the surgery and then the chemo and then the radiation therapy.  All along being supportive and encouraging and ever so prayerful.

I won’t lie.  It was tough to tell her when I went into remission.

Because she wasn’t.

And I wanted her to be free with me.  I wanted us to celebrate together.

While she was finding cancer in more and more places I’d been diagnosed, treated, and relieved of the disease.

Why?

That awful question which has no answer this side of Heaven.  But I ask anyway knowing my words fall deafly into a void.

Why do I get to hear the words “cancer free” and she doesn’t?

Instead, I watch forlornly as Hospice moves in the bed and the tray table and the oxygen tanks and my eyes fill with tears.

It doesn’t matter that I know we’ll all meet again in Heaven.  I want time with her here – now.  We’re just getting to know each other apart from our shared medical journeys.

I sign the paperwork of receipt and plop down in the chair behind my laptop, exhausted.  I put my head in my hands and pray.

Pray for healing.  Pray for Heaven.  Pray for her husband.

It’s all I can do now.

Hold her hand, love her, and pray.

And pray.

Demise of the Interloper ~ 2

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Demise of the Interloper ~ 2

This is Part 2 of a post that began last Friday.  I guarantee you’ll be confused if you didn’t read that so here’s a quick link so you can get caught up.  Part One

I stumbled because I didn’t realize it would be this hard or this painful.  I became so weak I wasn’t able to continue working on the project.  To finish what my Guardian wanted me to do – had promised I would do.  The visitor had other plans for me.  With every month that passed I became more and more frail and my dream of completing the project slipped further and further away.  I clung tightly to what my Maker promised like a life preserver flung to a drowning man, quietly repeating the words to myself, etching them into my soul.

God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promise and not fulfill? ~ Numbers 23:19

No one told me that I would have such a difficult time removing the intruder when he decided to lay down his tentacles deep and strong.  He was solidly entrenched like a soldier avoiding enemy fire in a foxhole.  It would take more than me to do away with him and the Guardian called in the experts.

The professionals’ sole purpose was to exterminate him from my house.  They did all they could.  Not all at once of course, but in an orderly fashion, even though I wanted everyone to throw everything they had all at once at the poser.  Remove him quickly and once and for all.  They couldn’t do that, they said, but they came, one by one, to ply their various trades.

The first one brought in his knives and his lasers and attempted complete eradication.  He was a nice man with a quirky grin and a funny bounce in his step.  He was brilliantly superior to others in his field and got very close to ridding my home of the unwanted.  But in the end my enemy remained.  Sitting there with a stupid grin plastered on his face that if you looked at it long enough began to look maniacal and gave you the shivers.

The second professional was from Brazil and poured toxins all over the house which undoubtedly quieted the trespasser but made me sick in his wake.  He too, was very nice and enthusiastic and interestingly brought the same turkey sandwich to work each day for his lunch.  I wondered how someone could eat the same thing day after day, but never got up my nerve to ask.  His toxins wore me out and damaged me physically yet the interloper remained.  I’m pretty sure he was hiding under the bed in the guest bedroom.

Months ticked by as I lay in pain followed by exhaustion followed by nausea followed by more pain followed by more exhaustion.  The intruder triggered an endless loop that even though I knew it would eventually end – knew it had to end – there still seemed to be no escape.  When that helper left he told me confidently that he’d see me again, but as I shook his hand goodbye I secretly hoped I wouldn’t.

I leaned ever harder on my Guardian’s shoulder.  The peace He afforded me was almost more than I could bear.  He was so lofty, so far above me, how could He love me so?

You might wonder where my family and friends were in all this.  They were there helping, supporting, assisting me and the professionals as best they could.  They prayed diligently and there were times I felt enveloped in a cocoon of their prayers.

But, I worried about my parents.  I didn’t want them to have to watch me go through this.  I knew they thought often of what might be, projecting a future they couldn’t comprehend.  We’d lost my brother in a car accident at an absurdly early age and one night I lay in bed speaking softly to my Guardian, “I don’t want to go before them,” I whispered, tears slipping down my cheeks and wetting my pillow.  “Why should they have to battle through the death of another child?”

“They’re not going to lose you,” He said matter-of-factly.

I sighed and laid back, knowing it to be Truth.  “I will trust you,” I said as I turned over and drifted off to sleep, swearing I could hear my visitor in the kitchen rooting around for his late night snack.

When the intruder surfaced again, showing his hideous face and parading around the house, we brought in the third professional.  This last one was a handsome, serious, mastermind with a machine that loomed as big as a house.  He set it up and left it to run its course of pulsating photon radiation beams while I lay on a special bed to protect me.  For thirty-eight days I listened to noises that sounded like photon torpedoes firing out of the Enterprise at a cloaked Klingon vessel.  Could this be the answer?  I had a special bed, but the intruder didn’t.  Could I dare to expect that torpedoes would be the answer to destroying the nemesis that wouldn’t leave?  I prayed his aim was true.

When the last guy was done with his newfangled photons we knew we’d still have a long wait before we could determine if the intruder had finally backed his bags and left.

We waited and prayed.

And prayed.

And prayed.

I could hardly contain my anticipation, a part of me was still suspicious because the house was so silent, almost too silent.  It’d been over a year since I’d had real harmony in my home.  At times I wondered if I’d be able to exist without him.  Sometimes I held my breath and tip-toed around the house just to see if I could hear him breathing.  Perhaps he was just hiding in the basement and would pop out and scare me like a scene from Nightmare on Elm Street.

My Creator was silent too.  I expect He was sitting on His throne with a grin on His face.  He already knew my future.  He knew what was to become of me and He knew what had become of the interloper.  I was reminded of His promises and settled into a peaceful holding pattern.

But it was during a church service when the pastor prayed victory over anyone dealing with a thief in their home that my entire body trembled and every piece of my skin sprouted gooseflesh that I knew my home was healed.  I wanted to cry in relief and thanksgiving.  I looked heavenward and mouthed a silent, “Thank you.”

Three days later the professionals that my Guardian had called in to help arrived at my door.  Their joyful grins couldn’t contain the news they so desperately wanted to relay.  From Stage 4b to cancer free.

The intruder was gone.