The elephant in the room

Cancer.

That word is ominous, foreboding.  It very literally scares you to the core.  Suddenly that afflicted body part is bigger than life, and you are a little kid in a dark room, looking for the smallest source of light.  It takes your breath away and zaps you of energy.  Suddenly your world that was larger than life is very small.  Your family and loved ones take precedent, and all other “issues” don’t seem to matter.  You find yourself not thinking about that grocery list or home chores that just minutes before consumed your mind, but instead you are thinking about making a will, brainstorming about writing letters or making a video, anything to preserve a piece of your life and leave a legacy for your loved ones.

Immediately that impatience with your daughter or son about homework or cleaning their rooms or leaving the door open and letting bugs in is laughable.  You’re tempted to run home opening ever door in the house with them, jumping on the trampoline like they’ve been begging of you for weeks, fixing their favorite meal, pulling them out of school just so you have more hours to cuddle and hold them and more memories to leave with them.  You want to seclude yourself to a cocoon of grace and family.  Your perspective on life and living is completely changed.  You forgive any and all offenses.  You cling to God like never before and you hope and pray all the while imagining the worst.  Your life stops.

This is what I imagine is happening right now with my neighbor and friend.

Yesterday she got the news.

It’s rocked our world.

She’s been our neighbor for 7 years, our children are friends and classmates, they spend the weekends swimming and playing kickball and watching each other play video games.  I’ve known her since college.  She’s been there for me in my bad times.  She brought us food when Maddie was in the hospital, let me cry to her when I was grieving my hysterectomy, and she reminded me of grace at the point of my sin.  We’ve attended conferences together and Bible studies, and we share a common friend.  Her husband is my friend.  I’ve known him longer than my husband.  He was one of the very first to welcome me when I came back to America for college.  We talk about theology and Rich Mullins lyrics and I’ve cried on his massive shoulder a time or two.  Our families, along with the rest of our closest neighbors, carol at Christmas time, dye and hunt eggs on Easter Sunday, and trick-or-treat hand-in-hand on Halloween.  They are more than neighbors, we are family.

I had a good conversation with her last week, after the doctors told her prematurely that the growth wasn’t a tumor but a cyst and that they didn’t think it was cancerous, but since it was the size of a volleyball, they had to remove it then she would feel much better.  She was hopeful, cautiously optimistic.  She told me this:

“Leslie, I’ve never had a testimony, you know?  I’ve been a Christian most

of my life.  I  haven’t really had anything to struggle with.  My husband is

my perfect soul mate, my kids are healthy, and up until this point, so was I.

I’ve always wanted a testimony…even to the point of praying for it.  Now, I

will have a story to tell, a great testimony of the power of prayer and God’s

faithful people.”

She was crying as she told me, not out of fear but out of joy that she had a testimony to share!  And, little did we know exactly what that story would be.  Seems crazy that I would say that this is an answer to prayer, or that I would be cold or callous enough to mention that God was involved in this…but I am reminded, “My ways are not your ways, neither are My thoughts your thoughts.”  It doesn’t make sense and yet, here it is.  The elephant in the room.

Her testimony is just beginning.  The road before her is long, and she will feel every bump that comes.  But, He is faithful.  And just like my stories – my many testimonies (even those I have yet to share) – she will turn back to strengthen and encourage and to help and to intercede because she might not have walked their road, but she’s walked hers….and regardless of how it goes, her story will be His story.  And, He will be glorified.

How can I say that so surely?  Well, I haven’t heard that frightening word.  But “You’re going blind.” and “We found a spot on your brain,” found me pondering my life just the same.  “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”  Honest words from a transparent heart.  And, He healed me.  Completely.  My eyes were miraculously touched much faster than the doctors even fathomed.  My “spot” was merely a bruise from a recent concussion, or was it?  My God is faithful.  I’m not the exception.

Cancer.

Yes, it’s hard to imagine, but God is bigger than even that.  I know of an amazing little boy who beat brain cancer, and rides horses and swims and fishes as if  he never got that diagnosis. He shares a story…a testimony of prayer and the faithfulness of a God that heals and offers peace, inexplicable…with so many others. Like the elderly woman, a spiritual giant in our church, that still shakes a little every time she goes to the doctor, whose eyebrows never grew back and whose chemo damaged her tear ducts…but today she praises God with grateful tears Who gave her back her health.  Or, it’s like the story of an incredible young lady that eventually died of bone cancer 15 years ago, and in her death she left behind such a legacy of faith and healing that I still tear up to see her swollen face and hairless body in pictures.  All great testimonies…truly beautiful glimpses of God’s grace.

Chemo is my friend’s next frightening step, and we’d appreciate your prayers.  The writer in me chooses to call this Chapter One.  His story begins again, in her testimony.

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