Tag Archives: Cancer

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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caution-speed-bump

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.

Demise of the Interloper ~ 1

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Demise of the Interloper ~ 1

It all came crashing down last Tuesday.

To be sure I was ready … but somehow not prepared … does that make sense?  I was used to this particular threat, this unwelcome guest who had been staying so long at my house I’d become accustomed to his presence – almost complacent with his company.  We lived together as though an uneasy truce had been called by some higher power.

Every day he was there spiraling around me like the coils of a slinky, plenty of room in the middle to bump around the house yet steel bands held me tightly within his grasp – defining the space I could actually roam.  In a weird way it was a prison I couldn’t leave.  Each day we existed in this unusual dance.

Like it says in Proverbs 26:11 … “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.”  I always came back.  I always returned.  After all … weren’t we joined together?

It’s almost as though … …

Don’t be silly.  I hadn’t fallen in love with him.  I always knew it would be me or him in the end.  One of us would have to go.

We could not exist in the same house forever.

It’s just that I’d developed a curious ease with him.  Easy … like your favorite jeans so holey and frayed and threadbare and probably illegal to wear in public, but you wouldn’t get rid of them for all the tea in China.  Well, maybe I wasn’t that comfortable with him.

So what was the fascination?  This hold he had on me?

He was more like the character in the story that you love to hate.  The one that you’ve already met and you already hate and then he shows up right when the story’s gettin’ good and all the other characters are finding their stride.  The author has the audacity to pluck him off the shelf and drop him back on the page and in doing so places a humongous boulder in the path that causes other, already well-loved characters to faint or stumble or fall.  Him with his wily ways and his evil grin.  What will happen next, you wonder?  What could possibly happen next?

To be sure he was like one of those devil-worms that the evil men on Star Trek slip into your ear while you can’t defend yourself.  When you’re tied down to an exam table that magically appears in the middle of whatever room they’re in on their spaceships.  Even just watching the show you watch that worm slip into the ear and your skin creeps and you swear you hear a gnawing, feel the munching, in your ear canal as the worm seeks out your brain stem to make you go mad … or worse.

He was an evil that arrived last spring and had rooted himself so deeply into my life I wasn’t sure I would survive.  Afraid that he might suffocate me … squelch my existence.  My burgeoning anxiety must have caused a ripple in the fabric of the universe because it was then that my Guardian stepped in.

My Protector.  The Man I’d entrusted my life to many years prior.  The Man who’d given me a singular focus and a task to complete that I, with my procrastinating ways, hadn’t worked on as hard as I could have.

One night as I lay still on my bed under the oppressive heat of a Floridian summer I managed the nerve to ask, “Have I waited too long,” I whispered?

I didn’t get an immediate answer which furthered my trembling.  “I’m sorry I failed you,” I wept quietly.  Ashamed.  Mad at myself for not doing what He told me I would do.  But that’s when I heard it.

Softly, like a gentle spring breeze sailing past my ear, “Numbers 23:19”.  I brighten instantly and wipe away my tears so happy he’s answered.  I pull my Bible off the bedside table and thumb directly to Numbers, anxious about what I’ll find there.

“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?”

My shoulders, which have apparently been tightened up like a screw around my head, relax and sink into their normal position, as I soak in this truth.  He doesn’t lie.  He hasn’t changed his mind.  He promised and it will be fulfilled.  I am elated by this knowledge direct from the Man Himself.

His promise will be fulfilled.  I know I must work hard now and not procrastinate any longer.  I want to make my Guardian proud.  But then, as if I was a character in a novel, the visitor was dropped onto my pages; the boulder was cast and I stumbled.

Join me Monday for the rest of the story …

The Peace of God

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The Peace of God

I was just remarking to my mother the other day that it seems to me as though more and more people are getting dreadful diseases.  I began noticing this trend about six to nine months ago and had originally chalked it up to the fact that I’d been diagnosed with cancer assuming I was just hearing about so many other people with cancer because I as moving in that circle.  But I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore.  Every day someone else I know is diagnosed with cancer or some other disease like Parkinson’s, and we’re all fairly young (between 40 and 60).

A couple of weeks ago I heard from another of my OCFG’s (Outrageously Christ-Filled Girlfriends).  She had a routine mammography that had originally gone well but the doctor had called her back for additional pictures.  Having not had that ever happen, she was a little alarmed.  We (women) each handle this information in our own way.  Women grow up with their breasts taking an odd significance in their life – mainly because they are the only sexual organ that is so obviously prominent on one’s body.  For some women breasts become a sort of status symbol, for some they become part of our identity, for others they are the life-blood for rearing children, and for all of us they are simply part of our figure.  Men, would you like a useful finger or two lopped off?  I don’t think so.  But when a doctor gives you that look or calls you back for more pictures, your mind starts whirring with possibilities that could follow. If you’re not careful, it doesn’t take long to fall down the rabbit hole of worry and I can just imagine Satan’s demons hopping aboard the fear train and stoking the fires.  Breast cancer.  It’s not diagnosis you want to hear.

However, getting additional pictures isn’t an unusual step for women as they age.  There is always something weird popping into view somewhere!  And as any good Christian friend would do, I prayed that the doctor wouldn’t find anything of importance.

I didn’t hear anything for a week or so until she let me know that they were now calling her back for an Ultrasound (US).  And that’s ample reason for the bravest of us to grow even more concerned.  Half the problem is the doctor.  They never seem to say anything that truly calms us because they’re trying so hard to not upset us.  It’s a no-win situation.

I’d recently driven down routine mammy-extra views-ultrasound street and took a left turn at biopsy lane so I told my friend about the entire process I’d gone through so she’d know what to expect.  As I’ve written recently, I’d given my burden to God to handle because with everything that was going wrong in my body at that time I just couldn’t worry about one more frightful thing.  Then we prayed again, bringing her fear and anxiety to the foot of Jesus’ cross and laying it there. Not only did my friend not have to bear this burden alone – she didn’t have to bear it at all.  She knew that, but it’s always nice for a friend to come alongside and agree.

I love chatting with this particular OCFG because we throw Scripture at each other all the time and that’s not a bad thing!  We always seem to be bouncing God’s word or Christian-living views and questions off each other … what do we think … what do we know … how do we know it.  We talk it out and usually come to some sort of agreement.  It’s quite enlightening to discuss Scripture with someone who is studiously in the Word.  We should all have people in our lives who are at all ends of the spectrum.  The really knowledgeable, the semi-knowledgeable, and the maybe not so knowledgeable.

A little while later I’d checked in with my friend and she gave me the date of the US.  But this time she sounded different.  She shared right away that she was enjoying God’s peace and that she’d received a word of knowledge … Job 23:10 which reads in the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

10 But He knows the way that I take [He has concern for it, appreciates, and pays attention to it]. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold [pure and luminous].

How lovely is that promise?  He knows the way I have taken … God is so intimate that He knows everything.  We can be confident in His testing because we really can’t fail.

My friend continued her thoughts in a text, she said (and I could feel her joy), “So I know that no matter what happens, I will be refined as pure gold! How gracious of Our Lord to comfort me with that truth!”

How gracious indeed.  How can we not love and worship a God who provides this kind of peace and protection when we need?

I’m so ready to worship Him forever!

** Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation courtesy of BibleGateway.com

The Right to Ask Why

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The Right to Ask Why

Our Lord is love and grace … and justice and mercy and wrath … He is All … and thank God He is, because I need Him now and nothing less will do.

I’d texted Paula last night to see how everything was going in Atlanta (where she goes for her cancer treatments).  She was going for scans and we’d been praying for no new activity in her lung or leg – the places where cancer has settled it’s nastiness into her body.  We prayed … asking for healing, perhaps searching for remission, or any positive news that we could hold on to.

I think about something I’ve read over and over again this past week:

Do you cling to the crisis or do you cling to Christ?

In retrospect, I think, how silly we are.  Why don’t we just hold on to Jesus?  Oh He is with us, definitely.  He always goes where he’s wanted.  How nice that no matter how ‘mature’ we are in our Christian walk, He allows us to behave all human-like and attempt to grasp the reins of our situation rather than just slip our hand into His and walk with Him through it.  He never shakes His head in disgust or tsk-tsk’s us when we manage to move around Him, like we never saw Him standing there, and look everywhere else before we come back to Him.  I guess that’s grace, hmmm?

Paula’s reply text comes the following morning.  “We got bad news,” her text read.  “The cancer has spread to my brain.”

I sit there in shock and devastation, my phone slipping from my hand.  Tears immediately well up and spill down my cheeks.  “Why?” I ask God.

It’s such a human thing to ask but I still immediately ask God’s forgiveness for asking it.  Do you think that’s weird?  I don’t.  It’s never weird to talk to God about anything that is on your heart.  But I know He’s not going to tell me why.  It’s a futile question that won’t be answered because His ways are not my ways.  I still feel badly for asking but then I just talk to Him – a river of words gushing out of my soul: Lord, I’m gonna ask why and I’m probably gonna ask why for a long time today, so please just listen. I take a breath and chuckle to myself.  Sometimes I envision Jesus sitting in the chair next to me listening to me prattle.  I imagine He shakes His head silently – even though I know He would never do that.

“Why?” I ask again wiping my eyes. “Oh Lord, why Paula?

“Why not Paula?” I hear in my mind. “Why not you? Or the guy down the block? Or a lady in California? Or a kid in Germany?”

I sit quietly.  Those questions don’t seem very constructive or comforting, but I see God’s point.  Asking ‘why’ doesn’t help move the situation forward.  Asking ‘why’ allows me to sit transfixed by grief without making any progress.

I do one thing that I can right now – get Paula and her husband on the church’s prayer chain and on every prayer warrior’s lips I can think of – and then I pray.  It’s fitting that part one of the post about Ephesians 3:20 had just dropped that morning and so I pray Ephesians 3:20 over Paula.  We definitely need more than I can ask for or imagine.

Then I remember reading a post from one of my favorite bible teachers, Margaret Feinberg.  In her post “How to Cling to God When Everything Falls Apart” Margaret talks about replacing the ‘Why’ question with a ‘Who’ question:

Who is God in this?  This is a daring question to ask.  But such a brave question will not just lead to a deeper connection to God, but to answers that transform us—making us look just a little bit more like Jesus along the way.  You see, God listens to our stinging words, embraces our frail hearts, and meets us where we are.  Nothing is too much for the Holy Who.

As the day wears on I’ve stopped asking why and set my sights firmly on God.  God knows how much my heart aches.  He knows the pain and sadness and frustration that Paula must be feeling.  He knows the heart of her amazing husband, Bob, who has been such a rock throughout this ordeal.  He is within us, between us, going before us, and covering us.  Jesus in our midst.

I wonder if He is crying.

Dear Lord, our almighty Father in Heaven, how grand are your plans and purposes. You are the Alpha and the Omega, without whom we would not be. Let your healing hand of mercy and grace fall gently on my friend and all of your children who suffer from this dreadful disease.  Help us to be constantly touched by Your magnificence, recognize Your wonder, and abide in Your truth. We may ask why, Lord, even though our soul knows that the answer remains with you. Thank you for allowing us the freedom to ask. Propel us to a better future by helping us to not wallow in misery over our present. We love you, Lord. Amen.

Thank you to all who prayed with us this past week.

My heart is full of joy for you.