On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, I officially began my battle with breast cancer. Tuesday morning, I had surgery and now the waiting period beings to see if they got it all. Once I learn the results, I will know what the next steps are. I am someone who likes to know the plan. Someone who wants to know what is going to happen on the road ahead but I am starting to learn that God desires for me to rest in Him trusting Him to lead and guide me through each day, one step at time. No fear, no anxiousness, just an awareness of His presence and a heart filled with gratitude and love.
One of the big lesson I have learned is that God prepares us for things. Sometimes the challenges we face are actually God preparing us for something that we will soon face. He is doing something in us to make us stronger, ready to battle what is ahead.
I woke up a few days ago thinking about the Tour Du Mont Blanc hike that I did last July. Then a few minutes later I got an email from a friend who said, "do you remember that hike you did last summer, don't you see how God was preparing you for what you are going through now?" As I sit back and think about it, I see that He was.
I remember this day vividly. It was day one and we weren't that far into the trek and I was already feeling overwhelmed. I felt like there was no way I was going to keep up. As you can see the others are way ahead of me and I felt bad like I was slowing everyone down. The weather was not good. We'd pass places where we were supposed to see something incredible, but all we saw was fog. We climbed up to the snow and then a really steep decent brought us to a new town and hotel where we'd be staying the night. Although that day was AMAZING it was also one of the most difficult struggles I've ever been through. Although I felt a great sense of accomplishment, I had tears in my eyes thinking this was just day one and we had several more days to complete the over 80 mile hike.
My husband hugged me and encouraged me. I knew he was in pain too. It was clear that we were in this battle together. So before we went to dinner, I took some time to rest and grabbed my favorite devotional book called Jesus Calling. It was July 14th, 2016 and this is what it said:
"Keep walking with Me along the path I have chosen for you. Your desire to live close to Me is a delight to my heart. I could instantly grant you the spiritual riches you desire, but that is not My way for you. Together we will forge a pathway up the high mountain. The journey is arduous at times, and you are weak. Someday you will dance light footed on the high peak; but for now your walk is often plodding and heavy. All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction. Though the path is difficult and the scenery dull at the moment, there are sparkling surprises just around the bend. Stay on the path I have selected for you, It is truly the path of Life.
Day two of the hike began with a lot of love and encouragement from my friend Lynsay who was the one responsible for inviting me on a "little hike" where I would enjoy drinking espresso and cappuccino's, eating gelato, sleeping in hotels, enjoying delicious French and Italian foods, etc. She is a great sales person not only in the Stampin' Up! world but also on adventures, but this trip didn't turn out exactly as she proposed. She left out all the hard parts and in hindsight I learned that she didn't realize how difficult this journey was going to be. But it was worth the pain.
Derek was by my side every step of the way. There were times I would say to him, "go on without me" and he would calmly say, "I'm not going to leave you". He'd speak words of love and encouragement to me every step of the way. He would affirm me and tell me "where almost there, you are doing amazing". He is such a gift from God. We made so many lasting memories on this amazing journey together.
The next day felt so much better. Although we had another day of not so perfect weather my attitude about the challenge was different and I was ready for battle. I knew that although it would be hard, I could make it. I just needed to take it one step at a time and not worry about what was around the corner. If I focused on the fact that around the corner was another steep path I would get discouraged and feel like giving up. So I learned to pace myself and focus on continuing to move forward focused on just competing the battle no matter how long it took me. I felt blessed to have such love and encouragement all around me, all along the journey.
One of the things that helped me a lot is that I would pray as I walked and I felt like God gently whispered to me and said, "I want to remind you of how much I love you". So when things got hard, which was most of the time, I would look down at the ground and focus on finding heart shaped stones. Each time I would see one I would be reminded of God's love and the fact that He was walking with me.
I was not alone on this journey, each day I would pass many people who were enduring the same pain but finding the peace and joy in it. It makes me think that every day I pass people who I don't even realize are experiencing struggles in their own life. Just as I greeted and encouraged those on the hike that I encountered, so I should be more aware of those God brings across my path today to speak words of life, hope and encouragement because they too could be experiencing difficulties.
This journey was a beautiful opportunity for me to set aside time to not worry about anything (which I tend to do quite often) but to take life one step at a time enjoying the journey. It was an opportunity for me to learn that often things that are the hardest offer up the greatest rewards.
As I turned the corner on the last day at one of the highest most picturesque parts of the hike I was reminded of those words I read in my devotion book on day one. "Though the path is difficult and the scenery dull at the moment, there are sparkling surprises just around the bend. Stay on the path I have selected for you, It is truly the path of Life."
I was so glad I didn't give up. I was so glad that I stayed on the path and kept walking, one step at a time.
In the same way we celebrated God's faithfulness to bring us to bring us to this point in a difficult journey, so we celebrate today. We recognize that God has a plan that can be trusted and we know that in the end we will find victory in Him.
Today I am on another journey. This one is also difficult. This one is also one I need to take one step at a time, not worrying about tomorrow but focusing on what I need to do today. I can remember my hike and the lessons I learned and apply them to what I am going through now. I see that God was preparing me as He so faithfully does.
I am encouraged to know that I am not alone. God is with me and so are so many others. More people than I ever could imagine have showered me with Facebook messages, texts, phone calls, flowers, gifts and cards. I have witnessed people shedding tears upon hearing about my diagnosis, people who I don't even know that well and it made me feel so humbled to realize how much they loved and cared for me. I was so blessed to hear friends say things like "WE are going to do this, and WE are going to do that" in helping me formulate a battle plan reminding me that I had a support system ready to battle with me. They were reminding me that just like this hike, I was not doing it alone. To say that I am glad that this happened to me seems kind of harsh but I can already see the good that is coming from it. I can see how God is using it to draw me closer to Him. I can see how God is showing me areas of my own life where I needed to slow down and learn the importance of rest and finding peace in His presence. I am reminded of His great love for me and the importance of me sharing that love daily.
I know that there are those of you reading this who understand the battle you have been there and so bravely fought it or you know someone dear to you who has. Thank you to so many of you who have shared your own journey as a way to encourage me. To everyone else who is out there, your battle may not be cancer but it may be something else, relationship issues, the passing of a loved one, addiction, financial problems, etc. Whatever it is know that God has not abandoned you and you are not alone. He promises that when you seek Him with your whole heart you will find Him. He is faithful. As you allow Him to take control he will bless you with joy and a peace that passes all understanding.
Let me conclude todays post by sharing today's Jesus Calling devotion from today. Once again it is a very timely message:
"The peace that I give you transcends your intellect. When most of your mental energy goes into efforts to figure things out, you are unable to receive this glorious gift. I look into your mind and see thoughts spinning around and round; going nowhere, accomplishing nothing. All the while, My Peace hovers over you, searching for a place to land. Be still in My Presence, inviting Me to control your thoughts. Let My Light soak into your mind and heart until you are aglow with My very Being. This is the most effective way to receive My Peace." "Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you". II Thessalonians 3:16.
Thank you for standing with me and allowing me to share my journey with you. May God bless you with a greater awareness of His presence and peace with each step that you take today.