Had a great time of prayer last night with Laura and others in Rochester before she went to meet with her oncologist today to discuss her future treatment options (for Stage IV gastric cancer) as well as what immediate steps should be taken. Although I'm sure she'll provide a more detailed update on CaringBridge later today(www.caringbridge/visit/laurarider) the outcome of that meeting is that her next treatment has been pushed off until she has an endoscopy and CT scan, hopefully tomorrow and Friday.
While it is always so good to be together with my best friend (we've been best friends for 28 years!), it is such a reminder of the difficult, complex journey we're both on. Over the course of the past year since her diagnosis, we've asked many questions - sometimes once, sometimes a thousand times. On some we've gained insight and for others the answers are still unknown. And, as you might imagine, sometimes having unanswered questions is really hard. It can challenge you to your core and tempt you to focus on the lack of an answer versus enable you to keep your focus on the many, many ways your faith in a loving, good, powerful and ever-present God is affirmed on a daily basis.
A few weeks ago in my own journey with cancer, I experienced a day where the problem seemed so big, the answers seemed so unknowable, where the hope of Christ was elusive to me. Although I knew the hopelessness I was feeling wasn't true, the reality is that I felt alone, scared, worried, in despair, without a felt sense of His presence. Chad and I both sobbed on our bed as we contemplated what might lie ahead. It was a terrible place to be. It gave me just a glimpse of what it's like to try to navigate the many challenges of disease without having a Lord and Savior who is above, beyond and, at the same time, intimately in the middle of my difficult circumstances.
I have often said over the past several weeks that I have a problem to which there is no good human answer; that is, no doctor, no medical treatment, no loved one, no friend, no pastor, no nutritional and/or exercise plan is the ultimate answer to my problem. Because, as much as my problem is medical, it is way beyond just medical. I have cancer, but I am not cancer. I am way more than cancer; I am a whole person with emotions, thoughts, and spiritual needs that are complex and deep and unyielding and hard to define.
So, while doctors and medicine may be able to keep my cancer "controlled", they cannot even come close to coming up with the answer to what I can do when I feel in despair, when I feel alone, when I think about the hard things that may be ahead and I get scared, when I wonder who will love my children as much as I do if I'm not around to care for them, when I wonder "what's the purpose of my life".
No well-grounded eating plan, no amount of positive attitude, no amount of exercise can give me enough control over this situation so that I can overcome it. I can eat blueberries, guzzle green tea, and fill my body with only organic, whole foods until the proverbial cows come home and it is not a sure-fire way to beat this disease. These steps, while no doubt good for me, cannot restore my life. They cannot give me rest. They cannot bring joy and peace. They cannot give me the freedom to lay on the grass, stare up at the sky and know that things are just as they should be.
And, while you - my precious friends and family - can encourage me, cheer me on, remind me of truth, extend love to me, lift me in prayer...even you cannot take this away. You, on your own power, cannot take this away.
For one day a couple of weeks ago I became completely overwhelmed with the size of my problem and the woeful inadequacies of solutions the world has to offer. I kept looking around, frantically, for someone to be able to say yes to my desperate questions, "Can you take this away? Can you fix this? Can you tell me that this will end the way that I want it to end? Can you tell me that I won't have to endure more physical pain? Can you tell me what will happen next?"
Silence. The best the world has to offer was totally silent.
I am immeasurably thankful that, in this dark moment, my husband sent out an email to an audience way beyond who I thought he would and asked for prayer for me. I am immeasurably thankful and so incredibly humbled that a group of people prioritized coming out to a last minute time of prayer for me at my church (and, even more replied and told us that, while they couldn't be physically present, that they would be lifting us in prayer wherever they happened to be that evening). I am immeasurably thankful that, when I couldn't see through the darkness around me, that those who could see, chose to stand in the gap for me.
They didn't judge me. They didn't make me feel embarrassed by the constant tears flowing out of my "I hate to cry" eyes. They didn't do anything but love me, remind me of what I know to be true, and talk to Our God on my behalf. They challenged me to release my children to the care of the Lord and wept with me as I sobbed my way through a time when I visualized placing my kids in the arms of Christ and affirming that they are, first and foremost, His children. They boldly asked for God to heal my body from this disease and specifically that "there would be another explanation" for what the scary things I saw on my bone scan that day. They spoke truth to me that joy will be coming, that His grace is sufficient, that His presence is perceivable, that He alone starts and He alone finishes my faith. They even admitted that they had moments when they wanted to be "selfish friends" and keep me around on earth for a long time.
The darkness lifted. His face was seen. Hope returned.
It was glorious.
It was not silent.
It was the "Yes" that I had so desperately needed to hear.
And it changed everything.
Why am I telling you this? Well, for one, it's long overdue. I was supposed to tell you a couple of weeks ago, but didn't know how. Still not sure I've fully captured it all; in fact, I'm sure that I haven't. But, I'm also telling you this because Laura needs for you to know it too.
Her battle is hard this week. She's having an endoscopy and CT scan in the next two days that have been ordered by her doctor to reveal why her stomach hurts again. Based on those tests, he will make a recommendation as to her treatment plan. The tests are not easy to take, the waiting for the results is not easy to do, the currently unanswered questions to Our God are challenging to say the least.
While she isn't in despair like I was a few weeks ago, she is weary from the battle and perplexed as to what it all means. And, just as I needed you all a few weeks ago (and will need you're help again, I'm sure) she needs you today. Would you please take some time today and in the next few days to - either for the first time or for the thousandth time - stand in the gap for her by lifting her before the Father in prayer asking for His wisdom and His presence to be known above all else?
With love and deep appreciation for you,