I’ve spent most of last night and then this morning at my computer, doing research on Wilms tumor. I had promised Elizabeth and Ben I would be with them tomorrow when they talk to the doctors and I wanted to be prepared. I have a clipboard full of relevant articles and a notebook with questions I have jotted down. Down the street, Elizabeth is doing the same thing, in-between writing thank-you notes to people who have opened their hearts and their wallets in response to their son’s illness.
I took time out from research to attend church. While I don’t always find my answers in a church building,sometimes I do, so I wanted to make the effort to attend. And it is an effort~ I actually have to change my clothes to go to church, something I have not done nearly enough since the week before Christmas. I found myself fighting back tears during the “Our Father,” simply because a stranger reached over and took my hand during prayer. As I prayed the familiar words, a lump started forming in the back of my throat. During the sermon I’d been thinking about all those who had reached out to us during David’s bout with cancer; family, friends, and even strangers who’d heard about it from their church “prayer circles.” David’s treatment started in July 2006 and by November of that year he’d run out of sick and vacation pay. Our savings account was depleted and there was no way David would be able to return to work full-time until January of 2007. Yet we survived that time thanks to a collection that had been taken up at his workplace, and the Christmas of 2006 will always remain as one of my favorite Christmases. All because of the kindness and generosity of others.
That is how God works.
I was thinking about this while the stranger next to me held my cupped hand, and when she let go, I took my glasses off and pinched the bridge of my nose to stem the flow of tears. Then I looked up at the altar before putting on my glasses again.
Whoa! I had no idea I was so blind! I slid my glasses down the bridge of my nose, then back up. Down, and up. The difference in clarity was amazing. I could see the page numbers of the songs with my glasses on. Without, the board was just a blur.
I’ve had glasses since I was 16 years old but I still only wear them when I drive or watch television, and if I am doing either, will continue to wear them around the house or in the store after I drive there. It was only five or six years ago that I couldn’t pass the eye exam at the driver’s license bureau without my glasses. Otherwise, though, I pretty much walk around the house in a self-induced blind fog. I don’t wear glasses to walk with my sister and she regularly has to inform me of what that “blur” is on our pathway. I don’t wear them when I read, write, or work on the computer. I once asked an eye doctor if it was detrimental to my eyes if I only wore the glasses when driving and watching television and he said no. I haven’t really worried about it much, though I did start wearing glasses when I ride a bike ever since the “blur“ on the bike path turned out to be some carefully arranged broken pieces of glass. In fact, the blur-ability comes in quite handy when doing public speaking. I wouldn’t be able to read the notes in front of me with my glasses on and I can’t see clear faces in the audience to know whether I am boring them to tears or not. Instead, I watch for head-nodding and blurred smiles to keep me on track.
So it was quite a shock to me this morning to realize just how bad my eyesight is.
So it is with God and prayer.
I’ve said I feel like a new Christian since my mother’s death and haven’t known exactly how to pray. Instead, I have struggled to remain alternately optimistic, hopeful, and thankful.
Ever since the night her Grandma died.
What do I pray for now? I wondered when we discovered Jacob’s cancer was of the unfavorable kind. When I didn’t know how to pray, prayer warriors took over for me, sending their prayers for Jacob to the heavens. I watched my daughter Elizabeth’s strong faith waver with each successive negative report. Fatigue and emotional turmoil took its toll on her and one day I knew she had stopped praying. I heard it in her voice. I felt it with every fiber of my being.
I remember that feeling well, after David’s cancer diagnosis. I was angry, and I railed out at God. For a period of time, I shut down emotionally and couldn’t pray.
And then family, friends and strangers reached out. Cards and letters arrived in the mailbox, lifting us up. At first I accepted help and support with skepticism. It would stop soon. They didn’t really care. Their lives would go on and surely I was the only one who felt like my world had stopped. If I’d been on Facebook then it would have been even worse. Status reports range from the ultimate and aimless “I’m going to take a nap,“ to the “I had a fight with my boyfriend” variety, but not too many of us can list “My kid has cancer” and “I’m afraid he’s going to die,“ as our daily update, and who would even want to see that reminder in print every day? And yet, it is a status my daughter and her husband will have to live with daily for a very long time.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realized that God was with us in our journey through cancer but by the time David had completed treatment I knew it with a certainty.
God sent us the right people.
We didn’t care for one oncologist but the radiation oncologist was just what we needed and we still keep in touch with her, four years later. We loved the chemotherapy nurses and one comes out even now, to hug when David goes in for a check-up. We met a couple going through the same thing and still get together with them on occasion. Relationships with family and friends were deepened and strengthened. Our marriage was revitalized. God brought us blessing after blessing during that difficult time.
But it could have gone either way. Had we closed our hearts to God, we wouldn’t have experienced all the good that came from that period of our lives. Illness and sorrow can break up a marriage, cause resentment and anger, and make one become bitter and full of hate. With God’s help, tough times can enrich a marriage, strengthen relationships, and fill us full of love for others.
If we open our hearts to God.
Who is closer to God than a little child? I look at Jacob and I see purity and innocence. He has a tough road ahead of him but so does the baby born with a heart defect, the child with leukemia, the young man with the brain tumor, the young woman recovering from a serious car accident.
I am not about to trivialize our grandson’s cancer, nor am I thankful for it.
But doing research last night and this morning, I am starting to feel a sense of peace about one of the clinical trials (the UH-1 trial, not the window therapy). Prayer can guide us to the key bits of accurate knowledge that help us make a decision in an Internet filled with inaccurate information. It can bring us the right surgeon, the right doctor, the nurse that will make the difference. It can prompt a less than friendly neighbor to bring over a pot of soup, a co-worker to send a note and a gas card.
This morning I was surprised by the clarity that my glasses brought to my poor eyesight.
This afternoon I am amazed by the clarity in the power of prayer. One of my prayer warriors sent me this in an e-mail:
I pray for knowledge. I pray for wisdom. I pray for Jacob, and my daughter, who has resumed praying. I give thanks in all things, even those smallest of blessings.
The answer was there in my Bible all along.