On July 3, 2011, I began what I will call a New Beginning in my life.
No, this is not a new beginning as most would interpret that phrase; rather a new journey into a new level of trust in my Beloved Shepherd.
I began having some undefined pain in my lower left abdominal/pelvic/back. Very quickly over the following days, I went from thinking I had some kind of diverticulitis and it would subside within a few days, to being told it was a lower back problem, to having an ultrasound which revealed a large cyst on the right ovary, to ruling out ovarian cancer. The speed with which all of this moved kept me from being able to really stop and think about all of the ramifications of what I was hearing. At this point today, July 15, I have had a lot of blood work which shows no elevated cancer levels, and a CT scan, which I am awaiting results.
Talk about a swirl of emotions—you can’t even imagine the places your mind can take you when you are suddenly faced with this. I have no insurance, so that is a primary concern. My sister, Pat, just moved up to Prescott, and we three sisters had a lot of things planned—shopping trips to Phoenix, hanging out, lunches, doing ministry together. And then there is Mom, who has had recent small strokes and we all believed we were finally all together so we could share in caretaking for her. We’ve had several family health scares in recent months. My sister, Linda, was going through the process of “ruling out” lung cancer. It was ruled out; she has Valley Fever and has not been up to par for several months. My nephew, Paul, had a stroke. Thankfully the blood clot traveled in a path not typical for such a clot and the deficits were minimal by stroke standards, nevertheless, enough to send up red flags and to take stock of his life; for a 37 year old man, this is no laughing matter. My niece, Natalie, has one of those “mysterious” things going on, seemingly not able to be diagnosed; a lung problem of some kind. It has slowed down all of her activities, not the least of which, her work with the youth at her Church and her singing with them. She loves to play guitar and sing praise. My daughter-in-law, Jeniece, also having mysterious pain ranging from mild to extreme in her lower abdomen/pelvic area—so far no conclusive diagnosis. It is severely restricting her activity. My nephew Ben’s wife, Melanie, having severe pain in her lower abdomen/pelvic area—so far no conclusive diagnosis.
So, what is there to say about such things? “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
Well? Is that true? Or is it not?
As everyone already knows, I journal my life, and so, as I told the groups I spoke with on the book tour: “I invite you along the journey with me, to experience it as I experienced it, no holds-barred.” And that is how the book was written of my journey through John’s dementia illness and death. So too, now begins a new beginning.
What were my emotional responses to this thing? I’ll be quite frank: First of all, my thought was “Does this mean I get to see Jesus sooner than I expected?” An excruciating, exquisite pang of pure joy shot through me at that thought. Followed quickly by “But I can’t bear to see what this is going to do to those I love, Lord. Please, I can’t watch them all suffer anymore than they already have over this past eleven years.” Exquisite, ecstatic joy, side by side with the most intense grief, all bundled together in one big emotional package.
And between these two intense emotional polar opposites, my mind went to many things in the night watch. One night, the enemy tried to edge his way in with his usual condemnation and harping on my stupidity and weakness—not having insurance is a stupid thing, but then I haven’t really been able to afford insurance, but stupid nevertheless, because after all, I am known for my inability to make wise decisions, right? This is going to devastate me financially. He started moving me down that road to despair rather quickly—I won’t go into the details, but it wasn’t long before I heard the Shepherd speak in my spirit, “Whose voice are you listening to? The voice of the Shepherd or the voice of the butcher of the sheep?” I heard Him urge “Get up, now, and go into your prayer closet. Read the Word, put on your praise and worship music.Fix your eyes on Me.” This was around midnight. I obeyed. With my praise music loudly playing from my ipod and my index packet of Scripture verses given personally to me by my Shepherd, I sat for hours, intermittently lying on the floor, face down (Shachah—Fall Face Down), and standing up with hands raised, bowing, singing, thanking, reciting the promises of God out loud, so the enemy could hear them, remembering that the God-breathed word has energizing, living power (Heb. 4:12). By the time this ended, I was breathless with anticipation at what God was about to do. I went to bed and slept in peace.
Open up the sky
Fall down like rain
We don’t want blessings
We want YOU.
Open up the sky
Fall down like fire
We don’t want anything but YOU!
(Open Up The Sky, Deluge. Bethany Presents Deluge Live. 2008 Bethany World Prayer Center and Integrity Media, Inc.)
The following night, my sisters Linda and Pat, Mom, and my daughter-in-law, Tasha, all gathered here and had a time of prayer that literally felt as if the ground shook underneath us. Again, I went to bed and slept in peace. Jesus did open up the sky as we prayed.
So, I leave this first part of the journey blog with this statement: Am I afraid? Not at all. In fact, Jesus has given me the most incredible, supernatural peace I think I have ever experienced. I experienced something like it when we thought Linda might have lung cancer and Jesus kept taking me by the shoulders and telling me, “Don’t go there—she is not going to die!” I don’t know where this is going to take me, but I know WHO is taking me, and He knows the way. And there is a bigger picture—an above-the-line, eternal picture that is being woven into this which I will write about in another blog. I state emphatically as I did when John was sick: I am not a tower of faith! I am not one who automatically, cheerfully believes and has great faith. I am all over the charts with my walk and I can almost smile even thinking about it when I recall hearing someone say that when they are faced with a huge trial their first thought is, “Jesus trusts you with this.” My first thought is “You know already that You can’t trust me with this! You know that I am going to stumble a lot and flail around and at times I will get very disappointed with You—don’t trust me with this, please!” And I can feel Him smile and say, “Exactly. That is why I am allowing it. Because it is still My strength that is being perfected in your weakness—I am not surprised at all by your weakness, it gives My strength more value.”
Beth Moore writes in Believing God: “Thankfully, I gave up on perfectionism a long time ago. One positive result of past failure is that you surrender the pursuit of perfection and, if you’ve gained any sense, replace it with the pursuit of God’s redemption. Nothing is more redemptive than faith in God….Hebrews 11:6 says that faith pleases God, not perfection.” (Moore, Beth, Believing God.Nashville, TN: Lifeway Press, 2004, p.204).
Welcome to a new beginning.