Monday, March 9, 2015

Learning To Count My Days

I rummage through the junk drawer. That place in the kitchen island that is so full, it barely closes. The only thing I can find to jot down my thoughts, is this ridiculous pink fluffy heart pen. So I write down a few sentences, sip fresh coffee and watch morning break out with glowing rosy tints rising on the eastern horizon.

This morning, for the first time I see robins as they carry on their discussion about life just outside the window. They are welcome guests who bring a hopeful message that spring is on its way, after a deep season of winter.

So it’s been five years.

It’s amazing how fast these, one thousand eight hundred and twenty five days plus a few more, have disappeared, since I first heard the diagnoses of breast cancer. Those raw words that jolt you from the everyday kind of living and firmly set your feet on a path to an uninvited season of change.

In those first hours of shock and denial, when the radiologist looked away so I couldn't see her tears and the nurse tried to keep it together while she explained and the doctor hugged me as if it might be his last opportunity.

It made me choke back uncontrollable sobs to think my grandchildren would not know me and that JQ would move on to love someone else and I could soon only be a named etched in stone.  

The word –cancer– can cause to to think crazy thoughts.

In bleak days, there where muffled cries of my own soul as it wrestled with mortality and with God.

The early weeks of trying to be brave for everyone who was falling apart and positive in all of the unknown gloom. Sleepless nights negotiating with God and the dark hopeless reality that everyone is terminal.

The reminder of the cost of sin and how it brought death into the world and the reality that we only have so many days on this earth.

I've lived long enough to see close friends survive the first and second round of cancer and side effects, but ultimately lose the final battle.  That is the kind of stuff that weighs you down as you try to live.

So they say five years is something to celebrate and kind of a significant milestone for those who have had cancer.

How, at some point a person moves from being a cancer patient to a cancer survivor. And honestly, neither of those terms are ones that warm any soul. Perhaps the number is just so doctors can measure the effectiveness of treatment, but the Bible says that numbers are important.

What I know about cancer is that the hard parts were numbed by the bigger parts that have changed me.

Suffering and brokenness always bring change.

My experience in this life is how deep wounds and affliction have given opportunity for my soul to be re-stitched and remade.

In suffering there is a greater work.

This dreaded diagnoses has ushered me into waiting rooms, which I would never have sat in. It has pulled me up beside people with paper thin, ash colored skin which revealed every joint and bone. And we have sat side by side with magazines in our hands that told us how to live with cancer. And then I would slip my hand over theirs, in silence, moving past reading about how to live with cancer to actually just really living.

It has brought me into the company of surgeons and oncologists and a host of others professionals as well as everyday kind of amazing people. Some of them have openly prayed with me and others I’m still praying for. Shared suffering, produces a tangible thread between hearts.

Cancer has knit JQ and me together. Our souls are so interlaced in this living commitment and it brings an intimacy that comes from pain shared, and the deep knowing and the profound becoming more, one. And this is not just with each other, but with the Lord, who has shown Himself real and tangible in the days we have walked though together.

I don’t want to wear scars like trophies or talk about the pain as if I know how anyone else feels as they walk through the lowlands of any deep hard place, but I also don’t want to miss how it has made a difference in my life.

Cancer cured me of some of my soul-clutter.

It arrived as an unwelcome guest whose message was to remind me of what is the true Gift. 

How the 20,000 plus days before its arrival and the nearly 2000 days that have now passed since, have each been a treasure.

Cancer has given me an unsolicited platform to speak about my faith, to those who call and ask questions about my journey. 

And it has flung open the door to join others as they live out their story.

The Bible says that when we learn to count our days and embrace that fact   –of how life is short-lived, –well that is where wisdom is.

I must have needed a lot more wisdom. It’s true, five years ago, my life lacked focus on what was most important. I was just going through the motions from dawn-to-dusk. 

Being undone and embracing the unknown has brought me into a season of being more fully alive.

It has been a time of becoming more of who God made me to be. It has been days of clearing the things that entangled my minutes, hours and days and were keeping me from the moments that matter in eternity. Now I want to live a life that has eternal significance for Christ.

It has made me more sensitive to others and given me soul-eyes to feel needs and perhaps a bit of their pain. And it has given me a passion to pray, because I know that it really matters to talk to God about all these things going on around me.

Cancer altered me. Yes, on the outside, but more –on the inside. 

When cancer is pronounced over your life, it brings things into sharp focus that matter. 

My message to people who are open to hear, will always be Jesus. It isn't positive thoughts or a good life that will carry you past the fleeting days that we are given on earth. The message that people need to hear, is how the world has a problem that causes death. That problem is sin. And Christ loves us so much that He left heaven, became the Son of Man –so that He could die on the cross for us. The gift is free for the receiving.  I'd love to talk to you more about that love.

The fact is friends, God will use whatever it takes for us to move past our here-and-now of living for things that don’t last, to really living for His glory and not our own.

So if I only have this day or if I'm given 10,000 more, my desire is to live them well.

What has God used in your life that makes you count the days you have been given?

What season do you find yourself currently in?

How can I be a blessing to you today?

Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! 
Psalm 90:12 MSG


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© Rhonda Quaney