The calendar I got for Christmas in 2008 still hangs in our pantry listing all the activities of January 2009. I realized this the other day. Two years out of date, it hangs there and I have barely even noticed. Almost every box is complete, people to see and places to go. It is filled with activities and plans.
January is all about making plans. It is in our house. I start the year running, determined to achieve great things. I begin setting goals for exercise, meal preparation, spiritual reflection, organization, education, books to read, as well as plans for work and family.
Mostly in January I read this little book called “Sorted” and I begin to throw out everything that did not get worn or used the previous year. I try to create order and space in the very tiny place in which we live. I re-read “The Artist’s Way” because it reminds me to relax, to explore my creative side and to indulge my passion to write. I start an assortment of Bible reading plans but revert back to the method of reading it at a snail pace, journaling under four simple headings that help me find relevance, revelation, meaning and application. I am immensely thankful for January. It is a time for positioning oneself for the year ahead. I am astounded that God, by His grace, gave me January to get prepared for Sam’s diagnosis. Even though nothing prepares you for cancer.
As we sat in oncology on Thursday for Sam to receive her monthly infusion, we listened to the story of the boy opposite; he looked like he was about 19. He told the social worker that he got diagnosed with cancer on New Years Eve. He told her about his parents, the trip they had planned and how they had left anyway. His elder brother was there, and a couple of friends. They were supportive, filling out forms, inquiring about drugs, side effects and treatments. They were laughing hysterically over some of the questions that Centrelink want to have answered. It made me laugh too, just listening to them. I love how laughter is contagious. I whispered to the nurse ‘does he have Leukaemia?’ and this unexpected wave of emotion swept over me and I began to cry.
I don’t cry, not usually. So I felt a bit embarrassed by my sudden overflow of tears. “Are you okay?” the nurse asked me. “Yes, sort of,” I replied, “Its just so unfair that he is at the beginning and it’s such a long road.” I could have completely lost it at that point, so I laughed instead. I looked at Sam and told her I was sorry, that I was just sad that his mum wasn’t there. Sam said she was sad too, kind of shocked by that and suddenly we were judging his mother for going away. Then I remembered that two years ago I did not realize how bad Leukaemia was, maybe if I had a trip booked I would have gone too.
I did not know then that every part of my life was about to change or how hard things would get. It’s so easy to make judgments about others and act all self-righteous about how good we are. Sometimes it takes a while to work out what you are meant to do in a circumstance you didn’t expect. Sometimes all our best plans are interrupted and we have to change course.
I remember all the phone calls back and forth to my boss (who is amongst my dearest friends) trying to work out how I could stay at work through Sam’s treatment. I thought life would just go on as it always had. ‘I am high capacity, I can fit in work as well,’ I had thought. We looked at every possible scenario before we realized there was nothing for it but for me to take leave. Leaving work terrified me almost as much as the cancer. I didn’t know how we would survive. I felt like life was over in so many ways but good things come as a result of pressure. We begin to think creative, unconventional thoughts. We learn to make peace with today and discover that there is no point in fearing what might happen tomorrow because today is all we have. We get God’s perspective and our focus shifts, He teaches us how to think.
“We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things that are unseen. The things which are seen are temporal and the things which are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:8
Sometimes all we can see is our circumstance, the hellish place that we are in right now and all we want is for God to deliver us from it. We don’t want life to be hard, we don’t want to have to make sense of a situation that seems unfair and undeserving. We want to be delivered from it, for the thing to pass as quickly as possible. We want to wind back the clock and freeze time in the past when life was wonderful and opportunities for success were ours for the taking. We are terrified about what lurks behind the shadows of the future. Every now and then I catch myself asking my husband, “What will we do if this or that happens?” In his wisdom he reminds me that God will be with us then, in our future, should the situation arise and He will give us strength, He will be with us just as He has been with us the last two years.
There is nothing like His presence. Even when life is upside down and out of order, God’s grace filters through the cracks. He fills and expands the places of our hearts that feel rough edged, brittle and unprotected. His love oozes out like ‘polyfiller’ forming a buffer, a landing pad for the bubbles of grief that rise and fall unexpectedly in the pit of our belly. He coaxes us to swallow the lumps that get trapped in our throat and see the possibilities instead. He shows us the beauty all around us, the things we actually didn’t stop to notice when life was good. He teaches us to settle with today and enjoy it completely. We can still shoot for the moon but while we are travelling towards it we discover that we already have the stars (like Bette Davis said) and life is good.
On the flip side of what it is worrying you today, can you see something good? Is it possible that what you fear night not even happen?