(Previously published February 20, 2011)
Tuesday came with much anticipation....and a bit (ok a lot) of house cleaning in preparation. About a month ago, my Aunt Kay called and asked if she could come and spend a few days with us, as my radiation was beginning. We looked at our calendars trying to work out the days and both of our schedules and a forecasted snow storm prohibited our time together. A later date was put on the calendar, one that worked for us all and one that would mark the final days of radiation. She would be able to be the hands and feet for my tired body, and she would be able to walk the steps with me that my feet have traveled daily for 20 some days. I was thrilled to be able to share this leg of the journey with her.
She walked through the door around lunchtime on Tuesday, cleaning cloth still in my hands and quickly jumped into our daily routine and life, making lunch for the kids as I hurried off to shower and get ready for that day's radiation treatment.
One day closer to the door closing, the chapter ending and cancer treatment being behind me. A door that I am having trouble closing. A threshold that you would think I would be running full steam across, but instead feel tethered to a harness, holding me back. Like I am swimming upstream, wanting to reach the end, but unable...tired, sore and restless....characterize my going forward, and yet somehow, I make few strides in that direction.
And it is there that I have been this last week somewhere in the midst of faith and fear. Kay has been a much needed distraction, a helping hand, a dose of laughter, a special gift.... offering words of encouragement, loving arms, an open heart and reminders to surrender: A favorite word for she and I. A word that God has been speaking to my heart for many, many years. A word that she christened me with almost 3 years ago, following our attendance at the Rochester Women of Faith. As we attended together with some other special women in my life, my sisters included. The platform for many deep conversations. Little did I know at the time, how God was using that time not only with her, but also my sisters and grandmother, to deepen relationships, chisel away things from the past and push forward in healing some deep hurts, while at the same time, preparing me for what 2010 would hold...breast cancer.
A few weeks after the conference ended, a special package arrived in the mail, its contents as meaningful as the one who gave it....my Aunt Kay. Nestled inside a creamy white ceramic pitcher were tokens of remembrance from our time together that weekend, and the deeper messages that God had for our lives and our hearts.
"It is with a full heart, filled with love, that I give you this pitcher, capturing the memory of our incredible experience we shared, offering tools to keep us all remembering what we need to do, to survive and blossom."
....a pair of glasses to keep a clear vision of what you need to do,
....lens cleaner for when they get foggy and need cleaning
...notepaper to write down those important ideas, fears, hopes, issues
....a mirror for you to see those traits, strengths and weaknesses
....Kleenex to dry the inevitable tears
....mints for when your breath needs calming
....The "church lady" with raised arms, to remind us to raise our arms to God in prayer and praise
...a telephone to call each other for support, to share, to listen, cry or celebrate
...a worded stone...
Little did she know that it is a word that God had been speaking to my heart since I could remember. A word that held more significance than she knew. A word on a rock, a polished stone....that in Christ alone, I can surrender all. Outside of Him....nothing. And that as I surrender, He makes me that polished stone for Him. What was significant then, in the Spring of 2008, has become that much more significant today, 2011. And here I am once again, at those crossroads, will I walk over this next threshold with fear or will I walk in faith, surrendering my future days, my future breaths, all the uncertainty that lies within treatment ending and the waiting to see if cancer will return...the unknowns, the fear that can easily sweep into my mind holding me back from fully crossing the threshold....whole.
Today, will I surrender my fears, my future, my what ifs, my life to the God of the heavens? The sovereign one with whom there are no accidents. With whom truth gives way, shining its light on the very core of my fears. With whom His very Word, that which we can hold in our fingertips, and take into the inner places of our beings.....
brings hope, love, truth, comfort, encouragement, courage, forgiveness, healing, strength and endurance...and the ability to surrender to Him.
These precious reminders were all tucked neatly inside a hand chosen ceramic pitcher.
"Take these deeds, both this purchase deed which is sealed and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may last many days." Jeremiah 32:14
The reminder through Jeremiah that restoration of the land was certain. It would be possessed again by the Jews. They would return to their land.
Kay said...."And all is contained in the memory of the visual of the white pitcher....of our fractured, imperfect lives made whole and beautiful by God's love, blessing and forgiveness shining through."
As I pulled my pitcher out of the package, two pieces fell back into the box.
My pitcher had arrived broken. The handle cracked in two places. I smiled at the imagery. God wasn't finished with me. I didn't know then, what I know now....no one can but God.
Kay was beside herself, apologizing profusely.
I just smiled and reassured her, all was well....it would be a constant reminder of the unfinished work of God in my life.....I was still in His hands being made whole.
I placed the pitcher up on the shelf sitting over my desk in the office.
A constant reminder of the work of the cross. The work of master Potter....my life His masterpiece.
(Kay had asked Barclay on Thursday to glue the handle back on)
Kay joined me and Barclay on Wednesday, as I had my first follow up appointment with my Medical Oncologist. My "chemo" doc. It was the first time seeing her since chemo ended back in December. I wanted Kay there. She, too, having had breast cancer 16 years ago. She would think of questions we had missed, be another set of ears.
My oncologist greeted us with smiles and proceeded to get the results of my blood work. Within a few minutes, I learned that my white count is still low, under the normal range. Immediate fear swept over my body as the questions poured into my head. My oncologist seemed unconcerned and verbalized just that. Still, I couldn't move past the new information. The appointment continued as we discussed Tamoxifen...a pill that will be added to my daily intake beginning next week. A pill that will encapsulate my breast cells prohibiting estrogen to enter in. A pill that I will be on for 5 years that will catapult my body even further into menopause with all the lovely side effects.
And yet, my mind couldn't get off of the low white count.
Stacy....will you surrender to ME? Will you continue to trust ME? Will you?
Kay left on Thursday afternoon, after my radiation treatment. As we hugged and kissed farewell, she got in her car and said, "Remember your word.....SURRENDER"
I arrived home shortly thereafter. The house was quiet as the children were all at a friends. As I walked into the office, there on my desk sat a new, creamy white, unbroken....ceramic pitcher....with a note on top.
"I always felt bad that your vessel arrived broken ~ you deserve to have a perfect vessel to hold your tools."
And the tears welled up as they freely fell upon my cheeks. This side of heaven, I will never have a "perfect vessel." After cancer treatment comes to an end, there will be other tryings, other pressings, more refining, more lessons to learn, more brokenness. But the King of kings and the Lord of Lords will heal the brokenness. He will bring faith where there was fear. He will speak words of Truth, shining His magnificent light into all areas and then out through the cracks that He has mended, I pray He shines...if I would only surrender to His mighty Hand, trusting Him fully.
It is a choice. A daily choice. And the irony that that is right where God had me this past week...faith versus fear. Choosing Him and His Truth....or choosing me and my circumstances.
"Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause you to hear My words." Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter, so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make." Jeremiah 18:2-4
"But now, O LORD, you are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand." Isaiah 64:8
God gave me a glimpse of what He desires me to be.....a vessel for his honor. A vessel fit for the Master's use. A vessel marked by the healing brought only by my Father's hand.
The events of Tuesday through Thursday were divinely orchestrated. Each moment, as He knew. He knew what I would struggle with. He knew what I needed to be reminded. He knew.....as He knows the beginning from the end.
And as I taught on Thursday, at our ladies Bible Study.....that there are no accidents with God. There is no darkness in Him. In Him is light. He is the revealer of all things secret.....just as with Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar....God had an eternal kingdom to show Neb, Daniel, and all those in Babylon....and He had intimate truths to share at the same time to each one of them. The big picture and the little picture. He cares about it all, is over it all and through it all. And just as the Neb's dream and its interpretation were certain and sure (Daniel 2:45), so too is God....certain and sure.
And He kept asking....Stacy, will you just surrender.....as my faith and my fears kept colliding, as a pendulum swings back and forth. Monday marks the end of radiation and the crossing over into life after treatment. The treatment door swings closed. Two more reconstruction surgeries to go....but no more treatment. A waiting, as 5 years is the magic number for recurrences. A getting on with it, with life, with living and my emotions need to get in line with my faith. Where uncertainty in the physical needs to rest in the certainty in the Spiritual...in who God is. Not just a passing through, but a true resting. He is certain and sure. Nothing else is. But in Him is where I need to be planted, firmly and securely. In Him there is no fear.
He had more for me.....more that He unveiled on Friday....as my heart sought Him deeply.....
Aunt Kay and I at my Grandmother's 90th birthday celebration, June 2009.
Part 2 later....until then....