Monday, July 13, 2015

Howdy, stranger!

I've been offline off and on lately, sort of trying to get better and instead getting worse. So I haven't posted on this blog for a looong time. My apologies.

It's a funny animal, this chronic pain stuff.  Sometimes it makes me withdrawn, and other times it makes me seek out books of folks who have walked this road - with discouraging or encouraging results, the primary requirement is that they have walked it with Him.  

One woman I've been reading just recently lost her battle with breast cancer.  The breast is where it started.  She celebrated after she finished her first round of chemo and radiation, bilateral breast removal and reconstruction, followed by a total hysterectomy -  only to find another tumor in her bones, then her brain.  Round after round of pain and vomiting and pills and IVs and radiation, MRIs and chem panels, endlessly.  At diagnosis, her youngest was a 3 yr old little girl.  Her oldest a 13 year old..  And in between them, a boy and another girl. She lost her battle in March.  Her hubby, a pastor named Jason, after 17 years of marriage is on his own, with four children and a church to care for. Please, if you are reading this, please pray for him.

When I got the news, it gutted me.

Through it all, she had a radiant faith.

Absolutely radiant.

Not to say she didn't have tough times. But her peace shone through it all.

And I sit here with my hangnail (in comparison) whining and wailing because I hurt a little.

Another couple, friends of mine, after 20+ years married, were just diagnosed with lymphoma in the hubby's brain.

Thru their entire walk together, they have dealt constantly with his type 1 diabetes, insulin dependent, that destroyed his kidneys.  When the time came for a transplant, the wife discovered she was a perfect match, and instantly gave him one of hers, all the while raising their daughter and praising the Lord.  He started having a loss of energy a year ago, he finally had to stop working.  Then he began to lose his balance once in awhile.  Then he began to have headaches. Then his short term memory got funky. An MRI of the brain showed several tumors.  A brain biopsy, itself a dangerous measure, revealed the lymphoma, which has a notoriously bad prognosis.  They immediately began scheduling radiation therapy.

When told of the diagnosis, Phil said, "Whether He gives me 5 more minutes or 50 years, I stand on the Rock.  My life is in His hands."

They've had a lot of rough roads to follow throughout their marriage - this is nothing new to them.  And their reaction is the same it has always been: to live in a way that glorifies God.

Seems like so very much loss lately. My heart aches for the pain they are enduring - at the same time I am in awe of the way their lives of faith glorify Him. And for sure it has driven me closer to the Rock they live upon. I so very much want to glorify Him the same way - and I see my failures in such glaring red letters - capitals all, that seem  so obvious and avoidable.

Another recent loss was the author and missionary Elisabeth Elliot - a woman I have looked up to since I met the Rock for myself.  I think I have read almost every one of her many many books.  When faced with the loss of her husband in the middle of an Ecuadorian jungle, killed by cannibals he had come to befriend, she, too, stood on the Rock - with a 14 month old little girl in the midst of an alien land.  She survived on the verse "underneath are the everlasting arms" and handled her responsibilities with the motto "do the next thing".  And so she did.  When she died at 87 she had outlived 2 husbands (her second husband died of cancer 5 years after they were married) and was suffering from Alzheimer's at her death.  When she was diagnosed, she said, characteristically, "underneath are the Everlasting arms" and walked through her days doing the next thing.  She never lost the wealth of Scripture she had memorized since childhood, or the old Scriptural hymns that have been replaced by "modern worship" songs.  The old hymns taught doctrine to people that couldn't read, but could understand from the hymns what a life in Christ meant.

One of her heroines in the walk with the Rock was Amy Carmichael.

So, of course, her books are also part of my library. Another woman who lived as a missionary - in India for over 50 years, her main focus came to be saving the little girls who were sold to the temples to as sexual slaves of the multiple gods that are worshiped.  Eventually her mission began to include the little boys as well.  When faced with difficulties, Amy said, "See in it a chance to die."

And there is the heart of every difficulty we face on this earth: death to self.

Amy had an accident that left her in pain and mostly bed-ridden for the last 20+ years of her life - tho it was no accident to the One Who allowed it.  The work she began is flourishing still, in India, mostly staffed by the women who were once little girls that were saved and placed in the arms of Jesus. She was beloved of the girls she saved, because they knew her love for them was an overflow of the One she stood on - this same Rock that connects all my heroines to one another. Her poetry, like that of Annie Johnson  Flint - another chronic pain sufferer whose "little book of poems" have survived the years to still be nourishing to my soul and glorifying the same Rock.

So I trudge on.  I am trying now to "do the next thing" and trusting Him to take care of the rest.  He has kept me for 26 years of illness (and counting) and has never failed me, tho I have so very often failed Him.

My consolation is knowing that when He plucked me out of my black and white life to give me one of living color, He already knew about my future failures, and yet He still chose me. He's had to do all the giving,  because there is certainly nothing of value I can give Him - except that which He values the most : my battered, stained, unreliable heart.

And my feet, standing, on that same Rock - the Rock of Ages.

There's plenty of room up here. 

And He will welcome you, too, and help you to stand here, all with open Arms.

The Everlasting ones.