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My Source of Hope

Last Tuesday I had my surgery for breast cancer.  Apart from the normal pre-operative nervousness, I entered surgery fully trusting in the Lord. While not finding any metastasized cancer in the lymph nodes would have been the ideal outcome, that was not the case.  With cancer found in the surgically removed sentinel node, ten other nodes were removed for analysis.  My oncologist will share the results at my Thursday appointment.

I accept the results as God’s perfect plan for my life and do not doubt His power to get me through this next phase of treatment.  But I still daily have small struggles with fear.  My gracious and loving heavenly Father has gently reminded me of the hope I have in Him and that my future is in His hands. I would like to share with you today something I wrote last Easter, shortly after Jim’s promotion to Heaven, that has helped guide my thinking today.

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A little more than five weeks have passed since Jim’s death. While I believe I am doing well, each day I learn a bit more about the grieving process.  Actually, I think I have grieved more in this past week than in the first four. On Easter Sunday, especially, a whole gamut of emotions flooded the gaping hole in my heart.

Resurrection Sunday, as we refer to it in Spanish, was Jim’s favorite holiday.  For me, as well, the victory and hope associated with the resurrection of Christ have always been at the core of my belief system and are my daily source of strength. Just as I attended the Good Friday service in order to thank God for sending Jesus to die in my place, I anticipated the Sunday services as a time to thank Him for Christ’s resurrection.

Attending Easter service without Jim was a new experience for me, and I must admit made me more vulnerable.  I first attended the English service. By the end of the last verse of the closing song, “Because He Lives,” the tears were streaming down my cheeks.  “And then one day I’ll cross that river, I’ll fight life’s final war with pain; And then as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives.”

I mentally reviewed Jim’s valiant battle with pain, and I wept as I wondered what he must have felt knowing he was facing his final battle. It hurt me that he had to suffer so.  What had he thought and felt in those final moments of life?  What was it like for him when he actually breathed his last breath and then saw his Savior face to face?

My emotions wavered between sorrow ― sorrow for all Jim had suffered and that he was not there by my side to share the celebration of the resurrection ― and joy in knowing the victory he continues to celebrate in Jesus’ presence. Through falling tears I sang the victorious chorus:  “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future.  And life is worth the living just because He lives.”*  The hope expressed in these words enables me to face each day.

Drying my tears, I began greeting those who arrived for the Spanish service.  As part of the meaningful Easter service, I had been asked to sing a solo.  I did not know if I could get through a song.  At the same time, I knew that affirming my own faith in the victory of the resurrection would be therapeutic. And that it was.

For many Easters I have sung “They Could Not,” but never with the feeling and meaning of this year.  I missed seeing Jim sitting in the front row, with his proud smile of approval and his exuberant “Amen!” at the end.  Thinking about Jim’s victory over death now as he is in the presence of his Savior empowered me.  When I translated the song into Spanish years ago, the only way I could fit the meaning into the music was to end the song with “¡Gloria a Dios, Resucitó!  ¡Resucitó!”  “Praise the Lord! He arose! He arose!”  ”  And, oh, the victory I felt as the song soared to its climax!  The entire congregation fairly exploded with joy at that beautiful thought!  I sat down and sobbed when I finished, thanking God for the reality of our hope and for enabling me to sing glorious praises to our risen Lord now and for all eternity!

*Song by Gloria and William J. Gaither©1971

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I begin my morning praying for the older of my two sons, out of the country on a business trip. I later greet my youngest son before he leaves for work and I babysit my two youngest grandsons (ages 3 1/ 2years and 23 months, his two sons) for the day.

That afternoon I bring my six-year-old granddaughter (the boys’ older sister) home with me for an overnight with Grandma.  We take an evening stroll, make colorful wooden-bead necklaces, and stir up our family-favorite creamed eggs and biscuits for dinner, making the day complete.  She says good night as she happily tucks herself under the covers in my newly decorated guest room,feeling very special.

My day is made complete with a phone call from my wonderful and caring daughter, the oldest of my three adult children.

Next morning begins with scrambled eggs and a morning walk with my granddaughter. We play dolls together.  I fulfill my promise of making chocolate-chip cookies with her, at the same time chatting across the kitchen counter with a missionary friend from Brazil and another dear friend.  All of us enjoy the hot-out-of-the-oven, melt-in-your-mouth delicacies.

My friends ask me how I am doing.  “I think probably better than average,” I answer regarding my seven-month-long journey through widowhood.  “I could have done without this new wrinkle, however,” referring to my recent diagnosis of breast cancer, “but trusting God for His purposes in the outcome.”

I answer a few ministry-related phone calls and make calls to confirm doctor appointments, while my granddaughter patiently waits for me to play with her.

My daughter-in-law, along with the two boys, comes to pick up my granddaughter. As my resident decorating expert, she helps me decide with of my late mother-in-law’s beautiful oil paintings to include in my home redecorating projects.

The children play chase, chocolate chip cookies in hand and smeared all over the mouth.  Some smeared on walls and dropped on carpets. We momentarily lose the 23-month-old only to find him in the bathroom,  happily spreading hand lotion all over the floor and fixtures, and a little on himself.

We drive to a local department store, shop, and enjoy Swedish meatballs for dinner. While they travel to their home, I return home to clean up hand lotion in the bathroom, chocolate chip cookies from walls and carpets, and tidy-up the kitchen. Who minds the cleaning up when you think of the joyful moments that produced the mess in the first place? I eat the remaining two cookies myself (which somehow don’t taste the same without the house full of people).

My oldest brother calls with an update on his own battle with lung cancer, also checking to see how I am doing.  His call is followed by a call from my other brother, also concerned for his younger sister’s health.  My day is made complete by a phone call from my dear friend and sister in Christ from our Hispanic congregation, concluding with prayer for me.

Two days from my life. Grace-blessed days: blessed with a loving family, enriching friendships, and a fulfilling ministry among the local Latin culture.

What more could I ask?  Even though the past three years have taken me on an unexpected and unanticipated path through my husband’s illness, my widowhood, and now breast cancer, God’s blessings far outweigh the trials in this amazing journey through life.  I am blessed: “Blessed by the Grace of God.”

Questions to ponder:

What fills your grace-blessed days?
How have you been “Blessed by the Grace of God?”