Finishing the Race

Gandalf 3

DON’T LET ANYTHING STAND IN THE WAY

“I met with my pastor today and I told him I want you and Elaine to sing at my memorial service.”

My eyes filled with tears as I realized Sally knew her time here was coming to an end.

“I am deeply honored that you would ask me, ” I choked out.

This was the woman who had visited me 24 years ago right before my mastectomy to encourage me that cancer was not a death sentence. Sally had experienced a mastectomy and chemotherapy just the year before and became a volunteer with Reach for Recovery.

Sally was also an operating room nurse and the next week as I was rolled into surgery, Sally was one of the nurses on duty. She asked if she could pray with me and I replied, ” please do”. Sally prayed that I would be calm and sense God’s love as I went through surgery. The last thing I remember is thinking that when the surgeon made the incision love would pour out because I was so filled with God’s love through the prayers of Sally and many precious friends and family.

That was 24 years ago and after two more battles with cancer, Sally went on to be with the Lord.

“I don’t want anyone wearing black and being mournful,” Sally told Elaine. “I want the service to be a time of worship and blessing because I will be with Jesus.”

It was that indeed!

Sally’s memorial was a celebration of a life that radiated the love of Jesus everywhere she went. Sally had touched so many lives in so many varied ways through her ministry as a nurse, her singing and playing the guitar at nursing homes, her participation in the Community Orchestra playing the flute, playing tennis and bridge, and many hours of service through the churches she attended over the years. Sally was a talented woman and was so generous in using those talents for the Lord.

I am blessed to have been in a Home Group with Sally for the past several years. Her late husband, Arden, and she were committed members of our Home Group and they loved to worship and pray together before he died.

Sally continued to participate and she loved to worship and pray for her children and grandchildren. We prayed for healing for Sally and she expressed her faith in God as her healer – always confirming her trust in God’s will.

I will never forget watching Sally as her physical condition worsened, she remained strong in faith and Spirit. She confessed that God was faithful and that she was ready to go to meet Him when it was her appointed time. As a nurse, Sally knew the medical implications of what she was facing, yet she also know God was in control.

Last weekend I was watching our grandsons play outside and noticed how the youngest one tries to keep up with his bigger brothers. If there is an obstacle in the way – he climbs it.  He doesn’t want anything to stop him from being right there with his big brothers.

Isn’t that the way we should be with God? We must not let anything – cancer, separation, heartache, even a loved one’s death stand in the way of following Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith. Sally was like that  – cancer did not separate her from God’s love. Paul says something about this to Timothy when Paul realizes he is near death.

2 Timothy 4:6-8  (NLT)

6 As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Sally fought the good fight.

Sally finished her race.

 

 

 

 

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Faith or Fear

Woody Family in 1990

Woody Family in 1990

 

In June of 1990 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and on July 2, 1990 I had surgery to remove that cancer.  I was 38 years old and we had 4 children aged 13, 11, 10, and 8.  My first thought was that my children needed a mother. As wonderful a father as my husband Phil was – I felt my children needed me. Who would fix the girl’s hair?  Who would be there for the important life events that lay ahead? Could Phil shop for wedding dresses someday?

People all over Jackson County began praying for me as well as people literally around the world. My parents were teaching at a mission school in Taiwan at that time and their whole school began praying for me. I don’t really have words to describe the very real effect of those prayers, but I can describe the results of those prayers in two practical ways.

1)    I felt very loved. People took care of our children, cleaned our house, and brought meals for a total of 40 days.

2)    I felt peace. God impressed on me a Bible verse that says – Psalm 31:14-24

14 But I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands.

The peace came because I believe when that verse says “my times are in your hands” it means that I will not die one day before Gods’ will is fulfilled in my life. I realized at that point I had a choice. I could choose faith or fear. 

I could live in fear of the cancer coming back –

or I could live believing in God’s faithfulness.

I have chosen faith.

Yes, fear does try to creep in. Whenever ……

  • I feel a different pain,
  • I hear about someone I know having a reoccurrence of cancer,
  • I am waiting for the results of my yearly check up.

At the moment that fear tries to creep in – I again choose FAITH.

A former chemistry teacher at Smoky Mountain High School named Valerie Yurkovich had breast cancer the year before I did and came to visit me and bring a meal after I had surgery. She told me that when her husband found out I had been diagnosed with cancer he said, “That surprises me because she is such a good Christian.” I was blessed that he thought that about me, but the Bible never says that just because we are Christians, bad things won’t happento us. In fact it says in James 1:2 – 3

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

I never asked ‘why me?” when I found out I had cancer – instead I realized “why not me?”

Valerie Yurkovich did face a reoccurrence of cancer and died after battling bravely. So did other friends of mine – Martha Queen, Elizabeth Dux, and just last year, Pam Lee.

Why am I still here?

On 9-11 this year I heard one of the Captains of a Fire Fighting Unit speak about the horror he experienced being in a stairwell of the World Trade Center when the building collapsed. He and his men were on the 40th floor with several people they were rescuing. They heard a loud explosion, things collapsed around them, and after a time as the dust and debris settled, he realized there was blue sky above him. The building had collapsed all around him and miraculously he and those with him survived.

This Captain said that people hear of his experience and often say “You must feel that God has something very special for you since you survived.”  – he replies –   “No – because then that means that those who died that day did not have special futures ahead.”

I don’t believe that I have survived 22 years after cancer just because God has something special for me to accomplish in life. I believe He has something special for ALL of us.

Jeremiah 29:11 says  –

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The life lessons I have gleaned from having cancer are:

  • Growing older is a blessing! – I am BLESSED to be 60 with graying hair and wrinkles! I am able to enjoy being with our adult children and their spouses. The blessings of seeing them enjoy their careers and families and 11 grandchildren are gifts I no longer take for granted.
  • God teaches us through suffering – Sheila Walsh says about suffering
    • You would never sign up for it…. but you’d never change it.

The challenge for all of us is to live each day as if to accomplish the SPECIAL PURPOSE God has for us by choosing faith over fear. Fear of anything robs us of the peace faith in God brings.

In the next post we will look at some of the common fears that afflict young mothers. May God bless you with faith!