Friday, May 13, 2011

gold and silver and something beautiful

there was a moment today when i forgot. for just a minute i wasn’t a woman marked with breast cancer --- i was bella’s mom coloring chalk rainbows on our afternoon driveway. 

there was sun on my head, laughter in my ears, and before my eyes, a wisp of a girl up on her tiptoes with a handful of purple. 

i felt like myself.  
i felt real.
i felt normal.  
and it was wonderful.
for a few minutes today i failed to remember. i listened to my sarah recounting the dramatic details of her fifth grade day and watched her dig through the refrigerator in her after school hunger. my girl never took a breath: cheese out on the counter, crackers from the pantry, steady stream of words---

this quiz. 
that friend. 
at recess. 
during lunch.
in class. 

on and on ... and terrifically on. i stood wiping down granite while she flitted from story to story. my butterfly girl. and i didn't feel like a patient or a sick woman, i felt like her mom. 
another stolen moment arrived later in the evening while out running errands with emily: she flipping through music and attempting to persuade me of the need for new clothes and me quietly preparing my defense. normal stuff. everyday and average. the distraction of debate. not over anything grand and eloquent or dramatic and dire, just her pressing wardrobe need for more shorts.  

but a pleasure. a pure pleasure to escape from the remembering. i am a mother of a teen girl with a great passion for her outfits. of course she has, it is real. and wonderful.
since diagnosis day, april 19th, it has been difficult to think of much else. i have never in my life felt quite so consumed by something so ugly.  i have never felt quite so cloaked in something so mind-heavy. so anxiety-bringing... something so fear-wrapping.

when my mornings empty of children, i put music on and go about my household chores. this has always been my routine. but recently the music has been quiet. oh, it is on and it is there, but i am elsewhere.  

i windex a window and i think of cancer. i pull sheets up on a bed and i think of cancer. i toss a salad and cancer is all over my thoughts. i can feel the insidious disease spreading.  growing. 

i realize my tumor probably hasn’t changed much in this month of knowing, but the disease itself desires to eat away at my spirit. every day. all the time. on the prowl. relentlessly gnawing. the battle is beyond daily. it is hourly ... every minute. and each hour and every minute, i must fight to extinguish the flames and deflect the arrows. i am exhausted like never before by this constant companion. this uninvited adversary.    
i don’t want to be known by it---i decided that right from the start. this will, i am sure, refine me.  but i will not allow it to define me. and, be assured, there is a great difference.  neither one easy.  
re fine:  
re·fined  re·fin·ing
1: to free (as metal, sugar, or oil) from impurities or unwanted material
2: to free from moral imperfection : elevate.
3: to improve or perfect by pruning or polishing <refine a poetic style>
4: to reduce in vigor or intensity
5: to free from what is coarse, vulgar, or uncouth

intransitive verb
1: to become pure or perfected
2: to make improvement by introducing subtleties or distinctions

i have always preferred perfect. i like things just so. anyone living with me can speak to this issue. and what an issue it is. truthfully, the idea of becoming free from moral imperfection and becoming elevated and improved all sounds rather lovely. the thought of becoming pure and perfected seems quite desirable. i mean, who would resist such a suggestion. i am ready to embrace those ideas with great enthusiasm. but let’s face it, none of these things come through the comforts of life. not one automatically happens while coasting downhill. i know this. i’ve known this. i’ve even feared it.

because i have always known if God was going to do a work in me it would not be a pretty process. there is too much imperfect. too many impurities. far too many items reeking of coarse and vulgar and, yes, even uncouth. i cannot pretend they aren’t simmering beneath the heat of this surface. i am already feeling their boil. and the temperature has only begun to rise. but this is God’s doing.
“i will bring (them) into the fire; I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.  they will call on my name
and I will answer them;  I will say, ‘they are my people,‘ and 
they will say, ‘the Lord is our God.’”   ~ zechariah 13:9  
oh friends, i don’t want this heat. i am absolutely afraid of this cancer- fire. the refining. the testing. does anyone possibly desire these? probably not. i have always thought of myself as a competitor. an athlete. a challenge-accepter. a bring-it-on kind of gal. but this feels different. of course, i have no choice and will take it on ... face the challenge ... compete when necessary. i'll do my best to be battle ready, but you know it is not of my choosing. 

i wouldn’t choose this fire, this hard refining. no one really does. some of my friends write to me of my strength and my positive attitude and my well-equipped spirit. but, i have to tell you, i have grave doubts. i know me. these are nice things and encouraging words, but i am pretty sure there is little in me which can conquer --- anything.  j

ust a few days ago i had to select a vegetable for dinner and felt myself becoming unglued. it has been that kind of a week.  i know a grand part of this refining plan is to empty me of myself: my strength, my vanity and my scant bits of power.  empty me so i can be filled. 

emptied for filling.  

dying to self. becoming weak to find strength. confusing stuff, i know. i won't pretend it all makes perfect sense. this is not about digging deep within is about digging deep in my God. i know this is hard to understand. i wish i could write out a road map of explanation --- for you. for me. 

i am always open to talk further. be warned, however. you might not want to debate too roughly with a woman a week away from an ugly operation. i could either haul off and hit you or break down into a weeping ugly mess and leave you feeling sheepish and terribly guilt ridden. 

perhaps we should wait for saner days. let's debate then.

so it's pretty clear, i don’t desire the fire, but, guess what ... i do long for the silver and gold.  

oh, how i want it. i know God will use this scorching heat of cancer for something beautiful. it is how He works. He has promised me this in His word, to “bestow on them (on me!) a crown of beauty instead of ashes.” - isaiah 61:3.   

oh gosh, do i ever hold on tightly to that promise. i know the fire will do some damage. there will be some ashes. it might sound more gentle to just try really hard to improve. to be more determined. to work harder. 
but, let's face it, i could put myself through every self-help seminar every self-help book on the shelf...and i would be no more helped and no more beautiful then when i began.  

the process of refinement is not about our choosing or about our determination, it is about God’s plan and His appointment. His appointment which was in place long before any self-help ... long before me ... long before time.

hard to imagine, but He ordained the day i would learn of my cancer and He has ordained the day when i will be cancer free. one way or another. my hope is not in earthly hands or earthly medicine. it is in the hands of His plan. 

i know cancer can be beat and life can go on. i am planning on that mightily. but i will always carry some kind of cancer.  cellular or spiritual. we are cancer carriers. all of us. there is always something insidious eating away at us. attacking our minds...hearts...spirit. we are consumed by something. for me, right now, it may be cancer, for you, perhaps something else. but don’t be deceived, we are diseased people living in a broken world.  
i fear this post may have taken a somewhat depressing turn with all this talk of fire and ashes and disease. that wasn't my intention. but remember, these hard things are temporary.  they are only for a time. i began my writing with the Joy of my Forgetting. someday this will all be behind me. and someday your particular struggle will be behind you. but it will always be a part of me ... of you. 

and someday, dear friends, when we hold those crowns of beauty ... He has promised there will be silver and gold.


Janet McPherson said...

God bless you, Jody. Thank you for sharing your deepest thoughts. I too have been through the fire - in a totally different way. I would never have chosen the circumstances, but the experience taught me that God is faithful. When one has nowhere else to turn, He is enough. Praying for you daily.

Aus said...

Hey Jody - you were writing to me - us - my bride and I. If you swing by the blog you'll see it's down because of 'issues' with our oldest daughter and her future husband. And I grieve the what that relationship develops - and I grieve the rift that it has caused between us...and I mourn that loss....

"and someday your particular struggle will be behind you"...

You were writing to me, and I thank you for that.

You are now - and always will be - a beautiful, vibrant, loving, woman - wife - and mother. Regardless of the wrapper - you WILL always be you.

I once met a man I had known for years and had been absent from for some time. I sought him out after I had heard he was terminal w/o a heart transplant - and way too old to qualify for one. He had maybe a few weeks left. The first thing he did when I saw him was to give me a huge hug - and then start talking to me about something really great that had happened for him that morning - he was just buzzing with joy. And after a while I looked at him and asked - with all the bad stuff that's happened how can you be so happy? "Aus, I'm living, it's been a good day, why shouldn't I be happy? Don't mourn for my luck - you play the cards you're dealt - and I'm planning on winning a big pot!" Laurian lived almost another two years - and before he passed away he called me and left me a voice mail - "Hey Aus - it would have been a real waste if I'd have stayed sad - wouldn't it? Cya around"

You are a winner - you'll beat this thing for sure - and we're blessed to know you!

Prayers - but mostly hugs!

aus and co.