Mmm...I love this photo I took several years ago while camping in one of our favorite Thanksgiving spots: McDowell Mountain Park outside of Scottsdale, AZ. I love the composition, the light at sunrise that morning, and the symbolism contained in it for me.
Well, this past Thanksgiving we were experiencing the furthest thing from camping.
On November 9th I received a life-shaking test report that hurdled me down the dark hole of having to imagine your life being shortened. The test report said, “suspicious for” two types of breast cancer. As I read and reread that conclusion, my eyes glazed over. And of course, running over to Google to research all the medical terminology in the report did not reduce my panic (Having trouble breathing...)
And so that fateful day began a month of the kind of terror that seems to come with the possibility of a cancer diagnosis. We felt an urgency to make a decision on where I would go for further testing and possible treatment. Where we live is similar to other small mountain towns re: limited medical specialists, along with the new norm of staff shortages. I leaned on a couple of women friends who have been down this road and have gotten to the other side, for advice on best next steps. (Beacons of HOPE for me.)
We landed on MD Anderson in Houston – one of the top medical centers in the country for breast cancer, and close to our daughter’s home north of the city. But, as a new patient the next available appointment was three weeks away, inside the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Thank God for that merciful provision of location. I know of no one who personifies the loving, tangible, personal care of our God more than our daughter, Heidi. It is her super-power, hands-down. And we were to be recipients of her gifting starting with her response to our call sharing the shocking news of the report: (A break in my hyperventilating...)
“We’ve just got to get you here...Can you leave the day after tomorrow?”
By the time we landed in Houston, on Thanksgiving day, Heidi (along with her husband Brad) had arranged all the logistics we would be needing in the coming weeks, including a rental car, and an apartment - both near her home but also approximate to pleasant distractions that were right up our alley. We saw her love and knowing of us in every customized detail.
This was the first of many ways God used people to advertise His presence and love right in front of our eyes – and yet it was still difficult not to see Him as letting us be crushed.
During this excruciating limbo - from suspicious finding to roleplaying the end of our life as we know it - my husband and I would sometimes confess to one another the new go-to thought pattern of:
Will this be the last time _____?
And to think I had always seen myself as, and found people coming to me for having an optimistic, HOPEful view of life.
This trial would quickly land on the list of battles that have brought me to the humbling truth that I cannot manufacture or sustain HOPE on my own.
Lent During Advent...Remember Jesus’ prayer to His heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane?
My Father! if it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not mine. [Matt 26:39]
I have dear friends who have had to drink from such a cup - the suffering of breast cancer – with various twists and turns, and outcomes. (In fact, adding to my risk factors, I had three aunts die of breast cancer.) But when it was me in the dark garden, I realized the chasm between being the friend or coach coming alongside, and being the one pleading and resolving and surrendering, only to go back to pleading...
Ok... (Trying to take deep complete breaths), How about I try to use what I’ve learned as an Enneagram Practitioner? I know that the Divine Gift of (my) Type 3 is HOPE. Hmm...So, I thought:
How can I reach down inside of who God made me to be and grab some of that HOPE for myself in this desperate moment?
For my literal sanity, each day of waiting, I recited one of my go-to scripture verses, about HOPE. (The feeling of space happening in my chest.)
May You the God of HOPE fill me with all joy and peace as I trust in You, that I may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit. [Romans 15:13 – personalized]
If you have followed my blog or been on my website you know how important music is in my journey. So unsurprisingly, God would use song lyrics as another way to remind me He is with me. The Song is Fear is Not My Future (by Brandon Lake and Chandler Moore). I’ll share a few of the lyrics, but please, be blessed by downloading the song and taking in all the messages embedded in the lyrics. (Note: Check out my P&P Music Page for a sampling of the song.)
Fear is not my future, You are. Sickness is not my story, You are, You are. Heartbreak's not my home, You are, You are. Death is not the end, You are, You are...
Hello peace, hello joy, hello love - it's a new day! Hello strength, hello hope -it's a new horizon - the sun is coming up! Hello peace, hello joy, hello love. Hello strength, hello hope - it's a new horizon...Fear is not my future...
(Singing this affirmation of my beliefs brought tears of HOPE along with deep exhales.)
Let me finish where I started...Back to that photo at the top... Believe it or not, three years after I took that shot at the same campground during that same Thanksgiving week, I took another photo of a sunrise – this time, about an hour later, so you can see more of the sun behind that very same saguaro!
Mmm... the creative ways God reminds us of His very real presence – and that His love is the same for us, no matter the day, the year, the trial or triumph. And He has a limitless list of ways to rescue us – not just an option A or B.
When I reflect on God’s endlessly creative ways to show up, I think of it as He owns the whole alphabet! This is HOPE to me.
In both photos, I can’t help seeing a cross in that giant cactus. And I can’t not see HOPE in that rising sun (Son).
As it turned out for me – this time, anyway - the initial report was disproved – no cancer, all benign. I have steps yet to take; but I am so grateful for an outcome that allows me to continue to “praise Him in the land of the living!” [Psalm 27 & 42]
My commitment to offering who He created me to be – an E. Type 3 Encourager Coach – has only been strengthened through my recent trial. I pray I will get many more opportunities to share His HOPE from my journey with you in yours.
A few of the learnings I desire to take forward in my journey:
H - Help from a circle of trusted friends. Stop pretending to be an island, trying to do it on my own.
O – Opening up to more possible options past A or B. Reflecting on the various ways I have received HOPE, provisions, rescue in the past. (He owns the whole alphabet!)
P – Power in passing on: Don’t underestimate the power in sharing my story & where/how I experienced HOPE during my ordeal. It will spread HOPE to the listeners. (Some may even respond with “Thank you for sharing”!)
E – Endless gratitude for every moment, day, given. To commit to living each day in a fresh awareness of how limited our days may be.
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