Look! I am about to do a new thing! Now it sprouts! Do you not perceive it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
What do you do when the new in life is the hard. It’s not an exciting new adventure or giddy butterflies in your stomach moment. It’s gut wrenching, head spinning and faith clinging, clinging, clinging. How do you respond to this “new thing” in your life situation that feels like it is stealing from your life?
Where is the new creation? Where are the new compassions? Why this new thing?
Meet my friend, Elaine Mahaffey, and hear her story. Allow her perspective to open your eyes to new ways God loves, heals and creates the new in the midst of the hard. Many of you have heard Elaine speak at our Out of our Mind women’s events the past 2 January’s. What none of us knew this past January was that a little over 24 hours before Elaine spoke to us about being devoted to the apostles’ teaching, she heard from the doctors that her cancer had returned; this time in her bones.
When What’s New Is Hard
But I’ve been here before! I know what it’s like to hear the “C” word from my doctor. MRIs, CT scans, surgery, radiation…been there, done that. I remember the infusion center, the shock of post-surgery realization, the pain of severe burns from radiation, the celebration of treatment completed. Yes, I know what cancer is like. And now I know what it’s like to have cancer return.
As I have cried and prayed my way through this recent diagnosis of metastasis, I have asked God what I am to learn from this. With my first cancer experience, I blogged on a Caring Bridge site, but I have struggled to begin a second blog attempt. God’s Word has not changed. Everything I wrote in my first blog is still true today, so what “new” thing am I to learn? What is God teaching me now? I must confess, this new is definitely hard.
Patience. Perhaps God wants me to slow down, yet I am happiest when I am busy. My “type A” personality has always driven me to thrive on tasks accomplished. Even in the midst of this diagnosis, my mind runs with goals to achieve, closets to clean, books to write. Yet now I wait hours in doctor’s offices and infusion centers for appointments. My time is now subject to the schedules of others…no more “master” of my days. Perhaps I do need to slow down, but God please give me patience!
Humility. Countless friends and acquaintances have sent cards, visited, provided meals, prayed over me and with me, and have been very supportive. I am not used to this. It is perhaps one of the hardest parts of this whole process. Everyone means well and for the most part these interactions are good, but sometimes things are said that I must process with filters. Recently, a good friend asked me, “Elaine, how are you doing? I can’t imagine. What does it feel like to know you are dying?” I know she meant well…I would just rather focus right now on the living. God is God. He knew my date of birth and my date of death before I was even conceived. My life is in His hands, and I rest in that. Peace is knowing that I don’t have to concern myself with my coming and going. He does all things well.
Trusting God does not mean you cannot cry. Believe me, I have cried with this recent news. I am very human and my emotions are very real. My husband has always been the one who cries more than me, yet together we have “cried a river” (probably an Amazon!) these past few months. I have cried as I shared this news with my associates at work, with dear friends, with people at our church, and even at times with total strangers! I will go along my day thinking I am handling everything well, and then for some odd reason, something will open the floodgates again. I love life, my husband, our children and their spouses, our nine grandchildren, blue sky days, mountains and beaches, and so much more. Yesterday I was reminding myself, “Better to have loved much than to have never loved at all.” I love these people God has placed in my path! And I cry when I am reminded that I am diseased. But – I trust God with everything…my life, my husband, our children and their spouses, our nine grandchildren, the blue sky days, and even the mountains and beaches. He is Sovereign. He is our Provider, our Sustainer, our Rock in times of trial. He is everything to me and I trust Him even in the tears.
Deny yourself…take up your cross…follow me. Our church has focused this Lenten season on this verse Matthew penned years ago through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, and take up their cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
As we have worked through this Scripture corporately, I have worked through this privately. What does it mean to deny myself? I must understand that as a Christ follower, every part of me belongs to Christ. My time…my pride…the good days and the difficult ones…the cancer-free days and the cancer-laden days…my life.
And what does “take up your cross” mean for me? Is my cross cancer? I don’t believe it is. In his book, Experiencing the Cross, Henry Blackaby writes that “Taking up your cross means giving up your rights.” Interesting. I think I understand Blackaby’s perspective a little better in the midst of a cancer diagnosis. Taking up my cross means that I surrender my “right” to orchestrate my life as I desire, but God has every right to take me on the mountaintop or lead me through the valleys. I must surrender to His plan for me, and I choose to do so with the tenacity of embracing the truth of His Word with honesty, transparent with questions, successes and failures. The “new” is flooded with His presence, infused with His instruction, and enveloped by His grace.
The result: I will follow Him. Even when the new is hard.