I wrote yesterday about the huge struggle our family was just handed, with the discovery of terminal cancer present in Cheri’s mom. For a number of weeks, she had not been feeling well, having a lot of stomach and digestive distress which created a pretty miserable condition for her. She was barely eating, and with no energy and what seemed to be lots of pain.
When the doctor told us the diagnosis and the prognosis on Friday, it was a strange sort of relief – at least we all knew what the situation was, and even the probable extent of her life. This is a faithful family, who trusts in God, and who have seen life and death as part of their own lives. The struggle, though, was not the revelation of the death to come soon for someone we all love. Instead, it was the utter frustration and concern that she was experiencing such pain and nausea and a failure to live while she was still alive.
We met with hospice, and was promised that they would work with medications and such to avoid that tough way of living, and bring some relief to her, even if it couldn’t be cured. It was good to hear, but still as we moved through the day, Cheri’s mom continued to just feel terrible, with lack of sleep and no food. They put her on a liquid diet, but you can imagine how much energy you would have ingesting only jello and broth and juice! When we left late Friday, we did so with a prayer that God would provide a way for her living to be worthwhile, even as she was dying.
We all slept poorly Friday night, and after two days of 240 mile round trips, Cheri was almost contemplating the need to head back to Grafton, just to be with her mom. We were up by 5am, but Cheri decided to wait until after 8am to call and see how her mom was doing before we loaded up the car and headed north again.
Imagine, then, the shock and joy when Cheri was greeted on the phone by a cheerful and resilient voice on the line! Cheri’s mom sounded upbeat and rested and told Cheri she had just had a breakfast of bacon and eggs and toast, after sleeping almost the entire night. Realize – she hadn’t reported sleeping that way for a good three months. She told Cheri that finally, later that previous evening, that they indeed brought her some medications that she hadn’t had before – ones to settle the nausea, and to ease whatever pain she was feeling and to settle then anxiety that had grabbed her and held her. As a result, she seemed to turn the corner, at least in her comfort and strength. Throughout the day, Cheri would check in, and sure enough, she continued to feel “so much better.” She was eating good solid food without the digestive distress, and was just feeling better.
So – you can chalk that up to modern medicine and good use of pharmaceuticals, and I wouldn’t deny that, but I think more importantly what we experienced – all of us – was an immediate and gracious response to prayers offered in love for this woman who was simply feeling horrible and needed relief. It’s like that old hymn: God answers prayer in the morning, God answers prayer at noon. God answers prayer in the evening – he’ll keep your heart in tune.
Now, I’m not a mystic by any means, and for a long time, I have bristled against people trying to “use” prayer to fix things, as though God were sitting in some cubicle somewhere, just waiting for the order to come in. I’ve always tried to treat prayer with a far more respectful and careful approach. Prayer isn’t a tool of mine – it’s an avenue of conversation with the God of the Universe. In that conversation, I do know that God expects me/us to share both the joys we have experience, and the needs and fears that seem to surround us. They aren’t shared, however, to get God to work for us – they are instead, the opening of our hearts, and coming to wait upon God’s love and care for us, as God sees fit. For me to approach prayer in this manner, it means I leave it all with God. I know before and beyond all else, that I am a beloved child of God, and it will all be well, whatever the “well” comes to be. Anything else, and my prayers become demands, and the tendency to begin thinking that God has pleased me, or disappointed me. That kind of ego and demanding heart does more to destroy my relationship with God than anything else I could do. So I choose not to do that, and to offer my needs and hopes into God’s care, and then wait patiently and hopefully for that Amazing Grace to present itself as I discover my life truly in God’s hands.
So, to hear Cheri’s mom yesterday morning sounding like the woman we have known and cared for over so many years was simply an affirmation, not that God “obeyed me,” but rather that all along, God has loved and cared for us all. Does this mean that Cheri’s mom won’t die? No – the diagnosis is starkly in front of us all. And it doesn’t mean that there won’t again be times of pain and discomfort and other bad things, but God also knows that. It becomes then a time, not measured in the passing of days, but a holy time where we wait to see God’s presence and power and peace. That for me is the greatest expression of faith that we can offer in return.
I hope, if you are in a time of challenge and concern in your own life, that you will take time to also think of how this can be a time for you to grow and reaffirm your own faith through your own prayers. Of course, it goes without saying that your prayer on behalf of Cheri’s mom would be a sweet gift.
Word for the day: deliquesce. Pronounced dell-uh-KWEEZ. Hidden in the word, from Latin, is one of our normal everyday words: liquid. Liquere is “to be or become liquid.” De-liquescere, therefore, really means “to melt away.” Usually deliquesce is a chemical or natural change as something moves from solid to liquid, but it also is used when we talk about things we hold on to pretty tightly, like opinions or fears or desires for revenge. Then something happens, and it just feels as though it all deliquesces – it just melts away, or fades away, or doesn’t really matter anymore. It’s nice when that is able to happen…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.