My Gracious God

How graciously God deals with me.  He is not a God that superimposes himself in my life, but he is present to the extent I invite him to be.

 From my childhood, I remember a picture of Christ standing at the door knocking.  It hung on a wall in my grandmother’s home, and curiously enough, there was no door handle visible as Christ knocked.  Recently, I heard someone say that the handle to the door of your heart is on the inside.  Christ did not come into my heart except by invitation when I  opened the door from the inside.  Today, he resides in my heart as Savior, but he moves through the rooms of my life only to the extent I allow him the freedom to stir, renovate and change me.  He is such a gracious resident who waits patiently for me to give him free reign.

Most recently he was gracious to give me a good report from the CT scan I had earlier this month.  I was not expecting good news regarding the cancerous tumors in my lungs.  Living with a terminal illness like cancer forces you to take nothing for granted and to know that the worst is always a possibility.  Yet the report came back saying that since July 2012 the tumors had grown “only slightly!”  The oncologist wants to see me again in six months, but he said there would not be another CT scan until this time next year!  That will be the longest period I have ever gone between scans.

God’s graciousness continues in the way he uses that still small voice to keep me on track with even the most mundane things in my life.  You may find this amusing, but it is part of how I recognize God in every aspect of my life.  I juice fresh vegetables as part of my health regime.  To be sure, it is a messy project, so I juice a lot at one time and freeze it for future use. That still small voice reminds me when it is time to take more jars out of the freezer so they will be thawed when needed. Juicing is something I felt God wanted me to do, so he helps me be faithful to it. No, God is not my errand boy or my secretary. To me this speaks to the depth of his interest in every aspect of my life and how closely we are aligned and commune.

That still small voice in gracious tenderness smites me when I fail. God does not run roughshod over me in my failures. He deals with me gently and, if need be, firmly but always in love. He never leaves nor forsakes. There are things other people seem to get away with that God won’t let me off the hook about. I am not envious. I am constrained by a loving and gracious God who desires only his best for me. Over time, this resident has become the Lord and King of my life because I have surrendered to his gracious tenderness and allowed him free reign in all the rooms of my heart and life.

The Lord be praised for his gracious goodness!

The Cancer Story – Part IV

When we left off last time, we were preparing for my daughter’s wedding.  I had a second chemo treatment before the wedding and was experiencing weakness and lack of stamina.  With all of the last-minute details to be taken care of, the greatest in my mind was how to get the rented flowers and plants from the nursery to the church and back.  God sent a man in our church who borrowed a covered van from his company and took care of this for us.  I have thanked him more than once for coming to our aid.  Friday night of the rehearsal, God had more helpers to do the physical work of attractively arranging the foliage.  How blessed to have people with talent and a servant’s heart to assist.  I was instructed to just sit on a front pew and give directions.

Wedding days are long days, and there was some concern as to how I would hold up.  But, the Lord be praised, I was there for the pictures beforehand and the reception afterwards.  As my son escorted me down the aisle to my seat, I saw tears of rejoicing in the eyes of people who knew of my struggle.  I drew great strength from those demonstrations of love and care.  It was interesting as many came through the receiving line and commented, “It’s so nice that you did not lose your hair!”  I guess the wig looked truly natural.  Others were curious enough to ask, “Geneva, is that your hair?”  I replied, “Of course it’s my hair!  I have the receipt to prove it!”

With a beautiful wedding behind us and the happy couple off to start their lives together, life continued in a routine of work and chemo treatments.  We finally settled on a schedule whereby I would have a treatment on Thursday afternoon, go to work on Friday pumped up by steroids given to counter nausea, have an okay day on Saturday, end up on the couch Sunday too sick to attend church, get up on Monday morning, vomit, and go on to work! What a life!

As I stated earlier, I was so naive about how long I would need the chemo treatments.  As the weeks stretched into months and then into years, I was growing more uneasy about how long I might have to keep this up.  Regular CT scans showed that while the tumors were not growing, neither were they shrinking.  My treatments were handled at an ambulatory infusion center.  After several months of chemo, my veins began to collapse, so an access port was surgically implanted.  For some reason, my port was difficult for the nurses to access.  It was a very painful process as they pressed a curved needle into the narrow access point.  One nurse tried three times and finally admitted, “I have no idea what I am doing.”  After that, I insisted that the access be done only by a nurse who was familiar with my port. Because it was so painful, the goal was to get the needle in on the first try.  One sweet nurse confessed that she prayed before sticking me.  God was still sending his angels to minister to me.  How gracious was my God.

In July 2010, after four years of chemo and no real evidence that the tumors were being impacted, I told the oncologist that I wanted to stop.  I had sensed the Lord dealing with me for a number of months, so I finally summoned the courage to tell the doctor I’d had enough.  He was willing for me to take a break for four months and then do a CT scan in October to assess the situation.  Over the years I had continued to educate myself on the power of nutrition to heal, and one friend kept me flooded with good information.   Thus, concurrently with suspending treatment I began changing to a vegetarian diet and added juicing to my lifestyle.  Within three weeks after stopping treatment and changing my diet, I felt like a new person.  October came when the doctor wanted to do the CT scan.  Please remember that during all these years of chemo, I had absolutely zero insurance; but between the goodness of God and generosity of the Greenville Hospital System, the medical costs had been covered.  Since I would qualify for Medicare in January 2011, I asked the doctor if we could hold off until then to do the next CT scan.  He was agreeable.

What unfolds next is a testament to the power and grace of God.  Looks like we are headed to Part V only because I want these posts to not take too much of your time to read.  Also, there are some details that should not be skipped because they show the working of God in my life.  With more to come, may the Lord be praised!

The Cancer Story – Part II

Fast forward from 1994 to the Spring of 2005.  My husband was preparing to visit his father in Texas for a week.  I was eager for him to be on his way because I had a list a mile long of things I wanted to do in his absence.  In fact, I said “Lord,  I have so many worthwhile things to accomplish.  Please don’t get in my way!”  What a foolish thing to say!

My husband had not been gone 48 hours before I was flat on my back with the worst upper respiratory incident I had ever experienced.  I seemed to get these sinus/bronchial infections at least twice a year, but this one was worse than usual.  I had to sleep in a recliner so I could breathe.  None of those important projects such as visiting people, doing deeds of mercy, or housework had even been started.  What a graphic illustration of the saying “Man proposes; God disposes!”  It was clear I was not the one in control of my agenda.

By Friday of that week I was not getting any better and I was fighting for every breath.  With the weekend looming and fearing that pneumonia was setting in, I asked my daughter to take me to the emergency room.  The ER experience was typical….lots of waiting…..and waiting.  They did a chest x-ray and took their time getting back to me with the results.  I will never forget when the doctor walked into the room where my daughter and I were waiting and announced, “Well, Mrs. Anderson, you do not have pneumonia but you do have cancer!”  The date was April 1, but this was no joke.

There were many things in that moment that I had no answers for.  It had been 11 years since the doctor said, “We got it all,” when my worst fear that the cancer might return had been realized, and it had taken up residence in my lungs.  The x-ray showed two larger tumors and many peanut-sized tumors scattered throughout my lungs.  A CT scan followed that evening that confirmed the diagnosis.  This news was so overwhelming that trusting God was the only thing I could do.  Metastatic disease could not have come at a worse time as I was both unemployed and uninsured.  Yet the God with whom I had been so brazen lovingly flooded my heart with his peace.

My husband was still out of town but was due home in a couple of days.  I shared the information with my children but did not think it fair to deliver the news to him by phone.  I wanted to talk this over in person.  Upon his return, we gathered as a family to contemplate an uncertain future and to pray together for the Lord’s guidance.

I was referred to a thoracic surgeon who performed a bronchoscopy hoping to collect enough cells to determine the exact type of cancer that was in my lungs.
When that procedure did not yield enough material for testing, a lung biopsy was ordered.  The doctor made it sound like such a simple procedure that I made plans for the weekend following the surgery on Thursday!  Again, I was such a fool.  As it turned out, this was major surgery requiring the usual six-week recouperation period!   Tests  proved the cancer to be the exact same granulosa cell that had been in my ovary.  That being confirmed, I was then referred to a gynecological oncologist.  It is hard for people to understand that I do not have lung cancer.  I have ovarian cancer in my lungs!

I will pause the narrative here and take it up again next week.  Stay tuned.  God is at work.

The Lord be praised!

 

Trusting God in the Dark – Preface

To me it is significant that the first recorded words spoken by God are these: “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). At the time God spoke those words, darkness was upon the face of the deep. God tells us that he forms the light and creates darkness (Isaiah 45:7). And it is furthermore significant that “the darkness and the light are both alike to (God)” (Psalm 139:12).

God said, "Let there be light"

I remember reading that verse and being swept up in the concept of a God who dwells in such light (“in him is no darkness at all” I John 1:5) that he does not see the dark. Oh, there is no doubt God knows the dark is there – he created it. But it is we who see the dark. More than likely, we all can look back over our life and remember a time when things looked really dark.

I understand dark places. There was the time when I learned that my last day of work was the very day we were set to close on our dream home. There was the day when the doctor told me I had ovarian cancer. Then there was the day eleven years later when I learned the ovarian cancer had metastasized to my lungs where it resides to this day.

As dark and devastating as these events were, they pale in comparison to one event that altered the course of my life forever. Continue reading