Monday, September 24, 2012

The Sovereignty of God

Last night I got a call from a woman who recently started attending my church. She is one of these amazingly joyful people with an ever-contagious smile. She's a second-grade teacher...you know the type: extremely likable. I don't know her all that well and so it surprised me to hear from her.

She told me that we lived near each other. She asked about my house and cars to make sure she was correct. Then she told me this story:

"About two years ago, I was walking in my neighborhood. I passed a house and saw a man getting out of a van. He walked around and helped his wife out of their car. She was hunched over and looked weak. The woman had a scarf on her head and I realized that she had cancer. A minute later I saw their small children get out of the car. I cried as I realized that she was a mom with little ones. For the past two years I have been praying for that woman and her family.
Yesterday at church, someone told me that I was your neighbor. Then she asked, "Did you know Stephanie had cancer?" 

I was that woman she has been praying for these past two years. As she shared all this with me, she was crying and I was crying. I was able to tell her how God answered her prayers. 

I am so amazed by the sovereignty of God. I am overwhelmed by the love of God. Isn't it incredible that the God who created the universe, would see me and that he would orchestrate this and send someone who doesn't even know me, but would be faithful to pray for me? I know there are many more whom I will probably never meet in this lifetime.

I think it is rare to get the opportunity to see the influence we have in people's lives and to be able to see the fruit of our prayers. God so often uses us as agents of his grace, and we minimize it, thinking it is insignificant. Sometimes it is the unseen things, the seemingly little things, that are the most powerful. And often times we never know the effect they have.

Thanks Michelle!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Doctors

***NOTE: to prevent any more of my friends and family from almost having a heart attack from the unintended suspense of this post, I will tell you up front that I am still cancer-free and healthy as can be. This post was a bad attempt at making fun of myself. ***

I'm looking forward to the day when doctor's appointments don't keep me up all night the night before. I go in for check-ups with my oncologists every few months. Yesterday was my appointment with my radiation oncologist. There were no particular possible-cancer-recurrence symptoms bugging me, so I wasn't worried about it...until the night before, when the panic started and I found myself staying up late, looking for ways to distract myself.

Once you have experienced receiving a bad report from a doctor, it is difficult to not relive that experience with each appointment. I find myself doing anything I can to avoid doctor appointments, no matter how trivial. And any medical test causes intense anxiety.

Yesterday, my doctor asked detailed questions about how I was feeling. We discussed my fatigue and all the possible causes. She decided to do a blood panel (breathe Stephanie!).
Then she asked, "Have you had any headaches?"
My heart started pounding. I hesitantly forced out a whisper, "Yeeesss." Then quickly added, "But I try really hard to not think every headache is a brain tumor and every back ache is bone cancer."
She said, "Describe your headaches."
My mind started racing, searching for the "correct" answer. The correct answer being the type of headache that isn't caused by cancer. Unfortunately, I didn't know the "correct" answer, so I had no choice but to tell her the truth. I was as vague as possible.
She said, "Well, that doesn't sound like a brain tumor, but we can do an MRI if that would give you peace of mind."
What! Another test?!? As long as I don't think or know that I have cancer, then I don't...right? (intentional self-delusion)
My rational self stepped in. I asked, "What are the symptoms of a brain tumor or metastasis to the bone?"
She described them and, all of the sudden, I felt all of those symptoms. Psychosomatic, I know.
But truthfully, they weren't consistent with anything I've been feeling. We all concluded that my headaches are due to tension and bad posture, and a bit of stretching would solve the problem (that and regular massages...if only I could afford them!).

My blood work came back normal, except for my thyroid, which I suspected. It accounts for my fatigue and many other random symptoms I've been experiencing, and it is easy to fix.

So, I got a clean bill of health and can live in happy, cancer-free bliss for another few months.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Gift of Listening

I have a friend who is easily one of my very favorite people in the whole world. I admire her beyond measure. When I first met her (12 years ago), I was struck by her ability to listen. What a gift it was! Although my friend has many amazing things that I love about her, her unique ability to listen stands out. She engages. She asks questions. She draws me out. It makes me feel valued. It makes me feel loved. Before I met her, I didn't realize that I spoke very fast, quickly trying to say what I wanted to say before someone else started speaking. I didn't think anyone really wanted to hear me. And the truth is, most people don't listen. I still struggle with verbally expressing myself and it is a bit unnerving when people really listen. 

I recently met a man who also has this gift and offers it unselfishly to complete strangers. He is a photojournalist who travels around finding everyday people with remarkable stories of suffering and overcoming. 

He ran across "The Scar Project" and had this reaction:
"This got me thinking about the different scars we carry as individuals and how much more powerful they could be if we could gracefully expose them. My hope is that through my writing and my photography that I can help people put a voice to their stories when they may not have been able to find the words or images on their own."

A few months ago, he contacted me because he wanted to hear my story. And when we met, he didn't offer advice. He didn't judge. He didn't try to solve my problems. He just listened.

Through his silence, he offers hope and healing.

Take some time to explore his blog and read the stories. Some might offend you. Some you might identify with. You will find some amazing people who have been able to share their stories, because someone listened.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Home School

Since I complained so much last year about putting my son in public school, I should mention that I am homeschooling this year. My oldest is in second grade and my other son is in kindergarten. So far, it is going really well. My standards for education are much lower than they once were, and I've learned to let go of the things that aren't that important. I'm keeping it very simple.
The kids are thriving on the one-on-one time they get with me. I can't believe the change in their behavior and their responsiveness to me. Discipline must always be balanced in love, and I have been lacking in demonstrating my love for them by neglecting quality one-on-one time. Homeschooling has given me the opportunity and structure to fill that void.
It is so much fun and brings me SO MUCH joy!

I also have the opportunity to be involved in a homeschool co-op once a week. Today was the first day. It is a co-op that some of my closest friends are also involved in. As I walked up, one of my friends saw me and got emotional at the prospect of being able to see me and my kids every week. She said, "Something has been missing, and now it feels complete." It was wonderful to see them, but seeing them is also a painful reminder of what once was. I cried all the way home.