Got your walking stick? Time to take you onto this extended path I found myself on since I began this journey. The twists and turns have been most unexpected and yet have led me to God’s peace, provision and His perspective. I’ve got a lot to fill you in on since my last post so, here we go . . .
Since the title of this post was given to me several months ago, I’ve been gathering precious manna from heaven in order to hopefully feed your soul with. As I’ve thought and prayed about what the meaning of this title should include, I realized these are three very important elements that must be addressed with each of life’s most difficult challenges. Let me walk you down the paths of each one of these as they have unfolded for me.
Peace . . . wherein does one find peace when you feel like the floor beneath you just disappeared? When all the air in the room just evaporated? When you hadn’t planned for this news? For me, the foundation for my peace came by way of advance preparation through the loving-kindness of The LORD in His
Provision and Perspective. For several months preceding my diagnosis, I had been in a season where I was confronting the issue of God’s sovereignty in my life asking Him to take over every area and wanting nothing to be withheld from His perfect plan for my life. I wanted to trust Him in some previously-guarded areas of my life in which I wanted more joy and freedom in myself. A couple of months before my diagnosis, I heard The LORD speak to my heart in asking the question, “Do I have your permission to change your mind? (my perspective)”. Well, I couldn’t really be serious when I said that I wanted Him to be sovereign over every area of my life and stay His Hand in response to this question now could I? Nope. Even though it was an open-ended question with no limitations of subjects or time, I had to say ‘yes’ if I were truly serious about my all-out pursuit of Him. So, I did say ‘yes’, although I would have to admit I had a large sense that my answer would open doors I had not had to face before; and, because it was such an all-inclusive, open-ended request, I expected my closely-held theological beliefs in my life to that point in time to be challenged to their very core . . . else, why that question? In another couple of weeks, The LORD came to me again and asked, “Are you willing, for a season, to suffer in your flesh for the sake of others either coming into The Kingdom or securing their place in The Kingdom even more so? (another challenge/change of perspective)” Again, in my pursuit of The LORD owning all of me, (as the apostle Paul often referred to himself as a ‘bondslave of The LORD’), I could only have one response . . . ‘yes’. Following that question, came one of the most empowering and sobering questions ever posed to me by The LORD and one that encompassed the battle to come . . . “Do you realize that I have given you power and authority over your flesh to be able to tell it to ‘stand down . . . you don’t get a vote today and to rule over it through The Holy Spirit to tell it that it doesn’t get to be in charge’?” Of course, the Holy Spirit reminded me in that moment of the scriptures that teach us that The Spirit and the flesh are at war constantly and presenting the choice as to which one we want to be in charge of in each moment, each day and for the whole of our lives. So now the challenge to me was, did I want to follow His example of His fleshly sacrifice for the good of others? I responded and asked, “So this is going to be a battle of the flesh, is it?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “OK then. I also trust your Word that says, ‘you will not give me any more than I can bear ‘(with you).”
So, as we fast-forward to my diagnosis and God’s loving provision through my dear friend Kay’s specific words from The LORD for me, (detailed in my first blog entitled, “The Battle”), it all began to make sense from God’s perspective and soon to be mine. This journey was not about me but through me. The Scriptures are replete with story after story of God taking the initiative to speak to one of His children and tell them He wants to use them for the benefit of others . . . He led by example by sending His one and only Son to earth to suffer in His flesh to bring us The Kingdom of God through His surrendered life, death and resurrection according to The Father’s perfect will. Jesus tells us, “If you’ve seen me, you have seen The Father and I only do what The Father tells me to do and say what The Father tells me to say.” He also said, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to The Father except through me.” As ‘the way’, He led the way . . . His way.
One of the first challenges and changes to my mind and belief system that occurred was after my diagnosis, as I mentioned before, that resulted from watching the Netflix documentary called ‘Forks Over Knives’, was that I became a fish-eating vegan, (A/K/A Pescetarian, I suppose). Yep. From someone who had said for years, “I would never be a vegan!” As a side note, I do believe God loves to challenge our ‘nevers’ when we also say ‘our life belongs to you, LORD’. I mean really! Isn’t that flagrantly hypocritical? Methinks so. God obviously thinks so and I believe He loves to work His perfect will to demolish our limited and shallow earthly perspective of our purpose, calling and lives.
The first obvious experience on this journey with my new perspective came through my surgeon’s young nurse. When I first went into his office (and I thank The LORD he is a strong, praying believer), The LORD kept me focusing on this nurse. When I silently asked The LORD why He was drawing my attention to her, He replied, “She is not a believer and she knows that you are so be very careful what you say to her and how you treat her.” So noted. After my double mastectomy surgery, I had drains put in which I was to keep for about three weeks. This nurse was going to be the one to pull them out on a Tuesday when my surgeon was usually in surgery at the hospital. That nurse called me the week before to confirm my appointment with her and told me I didn’t have to keep measuring the drainage if I didn’t want to. When I went into the office three weeks after my surgery, I told this nurse that I could tell the right side where I had the tumor and five lymph nodes removed was still putting out too much drainage according to the paperwork the hospital had given me. When she asked me how much, I said I couldn’t tell her exactly but since we had been measuring for over two weeks, I could tell by looking at it that it was way too much. She said, “Well, it’s been three weeks and they have to come out.” I sat there for a minute talking to The LORD in my heart and asking, “So am I letting her pull this when I could refuse it knowing complications will likely be the result?” He said, “Yes”. I said back to The LORD, “So we’re going down this road are we?” Again, He said, “Yes”. So, I swallowed hard and told her “OK”. I must say that I felt a distinctive turn in my road at that moment but still surrendered my heart and healing to His will. It took about three days for those holes to close up and my husband and I were on a plane the next morning heading to New Orleans for a speaking engagement he had that Sunday. We wanted to fly back on Monday but because there was a convention in town, no seats were available to fly back until Tuesday. By late Saturday afternoon, the right mastectomy pocket began to fill with fluid, turn red over a large area and I wound up in bed with chills and fever. We began texting pictures to my surgeon’s cell phone and in contact with him through our time there. Each afternoon and evening, although I was staying on Ibuprofen, I was in the bed with chills and fever watching this right side continue to fill with fluid. He told me that as soon as I got off the plane on Tuesday, I was to drive to his office and one of his two P.A.’s that were in the surgery with me would see me because, of course, he was in surgery on Tuesdays. The P.A. drew more than 60 cc’s of fluid out of that pocket and checked it for infection . . . it was staph. She started me on antibiotics and instructed me to return the next day as she knew the surgeon would want to see me ASAP. On that visit, he admitted that the drain on the right side should have stayed in at least another week and as he apologized, he offered his hand to slap to which I said, “It’s OK.”, it’s not about that”. He went on to say, “Of course, it would be you and with a daughter in med school not just someone off the street.” He went on to explain what would now have to take place. His nurse (the same one) would come in and pack the now re-opened, large wound and I would have to have a home health nurse come in the next day and attach a wound vac. Then, three days a week for the next two to three months, a home health nurse would need to come repack the wound and change out the necessary parts of the wound vac until the wound was closed up again and healed. Having never even seen a wound vac before, I had no real idea what I was in for. He left the room and his nurse came in to pack my wound and release me. I said to her, “Well, I guess it’s a live-and-learn situation for both of us, huh?” She deeply apologized . . . I could tell she felt very awkward and sorry. I went on to say, “It’s OK . . . we’ll get through this together.” I thought in that moment, ‘well when do we dispense grace and forgiveness unless it’s needed?’ I also thought, ‘We’ve got two kids in med school and although they had previous medical experience and EMT certifications, they are still going to be green when they get finished and how would I want people treating them when they make mistakes due to inexperience?’ I believe that all comes back on you and your loved ones . . . your choices . . . my choices. The LORD had already brought my attention to the fact that this girl is not a believer and what did I want her to experience from a known Christian? How do I help her experience the reality of the love and forgiveness of Jesus himself? Only when it’s the right time . . . when one desperately needs to be marked by this experience on behalf of The Kingdom of God – that’s when. However, when I called my two biological daughters first to tell them the results of my doctor’s appointment and the wound vac, they were very angry. I told them both to “Stand down . . . this story is not over and besides, what if I need to get into the space of a home health nurse to minister to her? How do I do that unless I need one?”
The next day, as anticipated, I got a call to schedule my home health nurse to come by, do an extensive history and intake before they could start this process. There were actually two nurses that showed up and got the process started. Well, I said, “You know what, if I have to have this thing hanging around me for an indefinite period of time, I might as well name it. Think I will name her Wanda, The Wound Vac!” So, we made friends and began to hang out . . . well, perhaps she was obviously doing more of the hanging out than I was, but still . . . we were now inseparable. I introduced her to all my friends and family. I did find out, however, that she didn’t think so much of showers so I left her whining on the sink while I showered. As it turned out, I had the same amazing nurse for most of my treatment as she had found a really successful way to make the most of that apparatus. She was also an authentic and fun believer so we had a wonderful time when she visited. On Monday of the third week, as she had been measuring the closure on my wound for healing, she said, “You are healing miraculously! I’ve never seen anything like it and I think you will be done with Wanda by the end of this week! It was to be three weeks and not three months!” Wow!! Then she told me that she was sorry I hadn’t met a nurse that worked most often in my county as this week would be her last week and she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer herself. She went on to say that it had hit her so hard that she was like a deer in the headlights now . . . stunned and shaken. She was apparently moving near family and also to take another job. I told her “I’m so sorry about that.” On Wednesday morning, my phone rang . . . it was that nurse I was told about calling me. She introduced herself and said, “Your regular nurse had a flu shot on Monday and now has the flu . . . so I’m coming today.” I said, “Great!” When she arrived and got settled, she began asking questions about my chemo experience and said, “I hope you don’t mind me asking about your chemo as I’ve just gotten diagnosed with breast cancer and I’m so shocked.” I said, (not letting on I already knew about it), “I’m so sorry! I will be glad to tell you my story and pray for you before you go if that’s OK with you.” She said, “I would love that!” I had absolutely no sense that she was a believer but knew I was to help her any way that I could. So, when she was finished, I led her into the main part of the house, took her hands and began to fervently pray. We had such an amazing visitation and touch of Jesus through The Holy Spirit that we were both weeping by the time the prayer was finished. I hugged her and sent her on her way telling her, “I will be praying for you as God brings you to mind.” Friday arrived along with my regular nurse who rushed into the room giving me the biggest hug and smile saying, “I just love you!!” When I asked “Why?”, she said, “You should just see that nurse that was here Wednesday . . . she is not the same person that walked in your door. She is hopeful, secure and in a completely different state of mind than when she first came in here! She has a completely different outlook now. What did you do?” I explained how I let her ask me questions, offered to tell her my story and prayed for her. I went on to tell her how much Jesus showed up and loved on her and touched her heart and mind so much. Told her I just loved having the front-row seat to it. She hugged me again. As she finished removing Wanda, I declared a ‘moment of silence’ for Wanda’s departure and thanked her so much for all that she had meant to me during her visits.
So, as you can see, from the time The LORD dropped into my heart that there may be a home health nurse that needs to be ministered to and how do I get in her space unless I need one, that that was one of His intentions in my situation the whole time. The question remains to be answered by all of us who try to follow Christ is that ‘Are we willing to suffer and trust Him, looking for His ways, for the good of others who need to experience the reality of Jesus living in and through us to touch them and mark their lives that He cares enough about them to set up these divine appointments just for them?’ What’s it worth to someone with that kind of diagnosis or life-controlling issue to find out how much God knows what’s going on in their life and wants to enter into it to go through it with them? I can tell you from personal experience that it means EVERYTHING! It means more than we can ever fully realize unless we have had a similar experience. But, we must be willing to enter their pain with them to bring them the hope and strength of The LORD because after all, it’s not up to us. We can’t do that – only God can manifest and touch their hearts to give them what they need on their journey. Too often, we let the enemy lie to us and convince us that it’s all up to us and we just don’t have it in us to do it. You’re right on one count . . . we don’t have it in our flesh to do it, but God never expected us to assume that responsibility. He knows we, too, are simply made of flesh and have that limitation. He just wants us to be willing to be the messenger and invite Him into their lives to do what only He can do. Jesus tells us in His Word in Matthew 10:39, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” I love Jim Elliot’s take on this concept . . . he said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Francis Frangipane broke this out uniquely from his book, “The Three Battlegrounds”, as “We will never know Christ’s victory completely until we stop reacting to our circumstances humanly.” So if you are either a Christ follower or are considering making that decision to become one, just know that your life is not your own . . . your gifts, your calling, it all goes back into your creator’s hands. But I can promise you one thing, that if you trust the One who has made you, your gifts, your calling and crafted His perfect and amazing plan for your life, there is no greater, more fulfilling adventure than to trust Him with the whole of your life. He’s known you since before the earth was created, every day you will live, all that you will face and what He has in His Hands to help you. So, the pressure’s off of you. The results are not up to you. All that’s up to you is to be willing to let God use you and give you that incredible front-row seat to watch Him do what only Jesus can do. Finally, I believe I have been given a verse from God’s Word to mark out this season of my life from I Peter 5:10, which says, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” What more could we ask?
Stop and rest on that walking stick and let God talk to you about your life. I’ll leave you here with Him . . . you couldn’t be in better hands. Will see you around the next bend.
Click on this link and let it wash over you . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy9nwe9_xzw&list=RDdy9nwe9_xzw
Blessings to you . . .