Aching with mixed feelings this morning, echoing the thoughts of a Steven Curtis Chapman song that “in spite of all the questions and pain, I will trust You God!”. These yearnings are nothing new…in fact Dianne and I experienced a day two years ago that is etched in my heart and mind as a day that was wonderfully memorable, terribly difficult, yet incredibly significant in our journey of faith.
It was a beautiful, autumn day, October 2012, when Dianne and I took a short trip across town to Treehouse Vineyards for a wine tour. Di was always on the lookout for “deals” and had bought this for us as a special “day trip”. It was a small vineyard and not too many people on the property, so we were really able to relax and enjoy some peaceful time together, walking the property, taking pictures and sharing life. *(Dianne was even willing to pretend to “whine” for a goofy picture I took next to a banner).
Our drive back home that afternoon was also leisurely, taking back roads through the countryside, enjoying the clear skies and the change of season. Partway home we got a phone call from Dianne’s oncologist with results from a recent biopsy. Though Di was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July 2011, she had been officially “in remission” since April 2012. Now, just 6-months later, we were getting news that the cancer had returned in a metastatic tumor in her neck. I don’t recall everything that was said, but I do remember pulling off the road and getting the hard news, holding Dianne’s hand and “feeling numb”. Even though we knew there was a likelihood that the cancer could return, we didn’t live out of that possibility. However, fear was definitely lurking, waiting to pounce on our hopes and dreams. We spent the next couple of hours sitting in our car in a parking lot, crying, talking, praying…trying to process the seeming uncertainty of life.
This is one of the most indelible moments in my life – a real “tension” of faith in the face of fear. It almost feels like that day was representative of our view of life – placing our stake in the ground, saying “THIS is WHERE WE STAND, no matter WHAT comes our way!”
As we finally made our way home, after an exhausting afternoon, we were surprised to find a package in our mailbox. Dianne opened the large envelope to find a gift and letter from a friend she met months beforehand, who was also battling cancer. He had gone through several ups and downs, yet in the midst of the fluctuating circumstances he found his faith in God to be a stronghold. The gift he sent Dianne was a t-shirt that he had printed with the bible verse from II Timothy 1:7 “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”, along with the phrase “NO FEAR”. Dianne and I wept, overcome by the simple reminder that God IS in control, and we don’t have to be afraid. Even though we knew this to be true, it had so much more significance to be able to accept that truth in the midst of such uncertainty. This is one of the most indelible moments in my life – a real “tension” of faith in the face of fear. It almost feels like that day was representative of our view of life – placing our stake in the ground, saying “THIS is WHERE WE STAND, no matter WHAT comes our way!”
If there were ever a day to be described as a “roller coaster day”, this would be that day. Yet, in spite of the ups and downs of life, I continue to be reminded that the One in whom I place my trust doesn’t waver. My God is faithful and I continue to choose to trust Him.
If you’d like to hear DIANNE’S side of the story, and how this day impacted her, please read below what she wrote in her CaringBridge journal in October 2012. Her testimony continues to amaze me and inspire me, as I know it has many others:
I closed my last post with a verse from Matthew that reminds me of one of my favorite childhood songs, “The wise man built his house upon the rock….” I think much of the reason I liked that song was because I liked this part, “…the rains came down and the floods came up and the house on the sand went SPLAT (big clap)!”
Today the “rains came down and the floods came up” and our windows were rattled but our house is standing firm. Sadly, we learned today that the biopsy shows pancreatic cancer cells in the lymph nodes in my neck. This is an extremely unusual metastasis, and one my oncologist (who specializes in pancreatic cancer) said he had not seen before.
I was very surprised to learn this and greatly disappointed as I really thought it was not going to be cancer. I am so grateful he called to let me know in spite of the fact that he didn’t want to tell me over the phone. I will have an appointment with him next week to discuss treatment options. It was just after five when he called today so I wasn’t able to schedule that yet. His initial thought is to treat me with Xeloda, the oral chemo I had during radiation as I tolerated that much better than the IV chemo. Radiation is also a possibility since it would reduce the masses in my neck and help eliminate the neck pain I’m experiencing. Please pray that we will figure out what will be the best plan of attack to stop the cancer from spreading and to get rid of the areas of concern.
While disappointed at this recent news, we know without a doubt that God is in control and that He loves us greatly. I’d like to share three ways we have seen that this week. The first was Thursday morning, the day I was to have the biopsy. When I was given the appointment for the biopsy, I was told I couldn’t eat for six hours prior to the procedure. Since my appointment was 1:30pm, I knew I’d have to wake up early and have a good breakfast. However, Mark and I both completely forgot about that when we went to bed Wednesday night. I woke up Thursday morning at 6:50, checked the clock and rolled over to fall back asleep as I didn’t have to get up yet. As I was beginning to drift off to sleep again, I remembered I needed to eat. Now those of you who know me well know that I’m not alert enough to think about anything that early in the morning. I know it was God reminding me. My dear hubby got up and made breakfast and served it to me in bed. After I finished eating, I crawled back under the covers for some more sleep, feeling incredibly loved that God was in even the seemingly unimportant details of my eating.
We were out today when Dr. Reza called, and it was several hours before we arrived home. While we were out we had had plenty of time to talk with each other and call the family to let them know. As we drove home my mind began to wander to other things that were impacted by this news such as my ability to work and the bills that will surely be ours before long. I honestly started feeling sorry for us and was bemoaning the fact of how we won’t be able to save money for a newer car for me like I had hoped. Then my mind turned to more practical issues such as paying property taxes. At that moment I was reminded that God provided a large sum of money we weren’t expecting (but needed) this week.
In my ramblings to Mark about all that was coursing through my head, he said, “The financial aspect is just another part of the uncertainty that we have been called to have as part of our lives now and is going to require trust as well.” I totally understood what he was saying but as I pulled onto our street, I said, “Can I just say that I’m already tired of uncertainty?” I was still in my little pity party in spite of those two reminders God has given me this week. As we pulled up to the house, I stopped at the mailbox so Mark could grab the mail. He held out a large manilla envelope and told me where it was from. I instantly knew what it was…..a t-shirt from friends I made at Joni & Friends Family Retreat. It wasn’t just any t-shirt….it’s one they designed when he was going through cancer treatments. It says, “NO FEAR ‘For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’ 2 Timothy 1:7” WOW! I couldn’t wait to open it and did so as soon as I stopped the car. I cried at other points today but upon seeing the t-shirt, I just lost it…..they weren’t tears of sadness either. I was overwhelmed with God’s love and timing! My friends told me eight weeks ago they would send the shirt. They had no idea about my biopsy but God knew that I would get this news today and He made sure I got His encouragement to have NO FEAR at the moment I needed it most!