A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from one of my pastors. It seems that another member of our congregation had told him that I might be a good person to ask to share a part of my faith story. To be honest, when I read the email, I quickly clicked away and told myself it was probably intended for C. But God wouldn't let it go at that. So about 1am under the influence of codeine laced cough syrup, I sent an email that said yes, I am willing to share. I had to say yes before my mind had time to think of all the reasons to say no.
Then, on December 23, I found myself standing in our sanctuary speaking about how the Prince of Peace has been active in my life in the last two years. Some intersting things happened in my heart there at that microphone, but those are stories for another day. For now, here is some semblence of what I shared with my church congregation. We have 4 different services every Sunday morning; I spoke at each one. These words are some combination of the things I said at the four services, at least as I remember them.
I am not a gifted public speaker. I am here because I know the Prince of Peace. I asked Jesus to be my Savior 32 years ago.
Many of you are familiar with my family's story over the last two years, some of you have been a part of our story with your prayers and other gifts, but some of you are not. So I'll start at the beginning. On January 14, 2011 around 11pm I left my house with my 7 year old daughter, D, and headed to the ER. I took a change of clothes for both of us, my cell phone charger, and my Bible. I remember every moment of the drive on the icy roads. We arrived just before midnight. By 12:30, I was standing in the hallway of the ER hearing the doctor say, "You're daughter has leukemia. That's cancer. Are you ok?" My immediate response was, "Jesus is the same today as He was yesterday, and He'll still be the same tomorrow. I should probably call my husband.". I called C. I have no idea what I told him. It really didn't matter; he'd already hit google with her preliminary blood work info and pretty much knew what the diagnosis was going to be. Our entire conversation took less than 30 seconds. Then I started to go back into D's treatment room. The doctor stopped me. She was sure I was suffering from shock. They wanted me to sit, to eat a cracker, to have some juice…..really just to react in what they deemed an appropriate manner. They took my blood pressure. I had never been so calm in my life. I'm going to let you in on a little secret......as I merged from 575 onto 75 on the way to the hospital, I heard a voice say, "She has leukemia.". You see, God's better than Google; He didn't need any info from the doc to get the diagnosis right. I was not in shock; I was in peace. John 14:26-27 says "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.". This is Jesus speaking; this is His promise. The story I just told you is of me living that promise. 32 years is a long time to hear God's truth over and over. The Holy Spirit was faithful in reminding me of what I knew to be true......Jesus is the same today as He was yesterday, and He'll be the same tomorrow. This truth brought me the peace that Jesus promised.
The same Bible that went to the ER with me that night stayed with me going home and back to the hospital many times over the next 6 months, but I didn't open it. Not even once. The only scripture that I physically read was that on notes and cards from friends and the many placed around my house by a friend. But the Holy Spirit was very faithful to remind me of all that Jesus said. I didn't read the Bible as I usually would because the Spirit was so very clear. In many ways, I wish that I could go back and stay in that time. God was so very close in a way I had never experienced before. Cancer has given me more than it can ever take away.
But time goes on, and I am human. And that closeness diminished. Many of you have experience with cancer, and you know that at times it seems like you have more bad days than good. In one of those times God lead me to the 16th chapter of John and these words from verse 33. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." This is His reminder that He has overcome whatever I will have to face. And in that reminder, He once again offers peace. This is a verse that I still often cling to on most days. There is nothing I will face today that He hasn’t already overcome, and there is nothing that the doctors can tell me next month that He hasn’t already overcome.
When I did pick up my Bible again, I went to the Old Testament. That's always my go-to place. I need the unending love and power of God the Father that I read about there. One day I found myself reading in the book of Isaiah. I read these words, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal." (26:3-4). I read and reread these scriptures for days. And I prayed that God would help me to keep my mind steadfast and trust in Him. He had shown me that was the key to real peace. And during this time, while snuggling in her bed watching a movie one afternoon, D looked me in the eye and asked, "Mommy, is leukemia going to kill me?". As much as I wanted to tell her NO!, I didn’t because I had promised that I would never lie to her. I looked back at her filled with a perfect peace and told her the truth. "It might, but dying here on earth simply means you get to start living in Heaven sooner." Her response was short, "I guess Heaven's not such a bad option" and she returned to watching the movie. As tears ran down my cheek, I thanked God for His peace, for keeping my mind steadfast and my trust intact, and for being the Rock eternal as Isaiah said. When your daughter asks if she is going to die, eternity becomes really important. God is faithful even then.
I'm far from perfect. I still fall into fearing for myself and for Danielle. But the Spirit is still faithful in reminding me of the promises of Jesus. And Jesus is still in the business of giving peace......yesterday, today, and forever.
There is great blessing in saying yes.............I'm so glad that I did.