Gifts unrecognized

I've said it now, to several people. Written it in e-mails to new cancer patients reached out to.

Remission. "I'm in remission."

It took months to feel at home with remission. After four years of cancer, owning cancer, being cancer, it felt strange and scary to be in remission.

Four years ago, on a hot June day in the cold air-conditioned hospital, I whispered a verse in my dying grandmother's ear as she struggled to breathe, her eyes wide and wild like those of a caged animal.

"God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of peace." (II Timothy 2:7)

When cancer first choked my throat, and my voice was raspy and tremulous, fear ebbed in. He quietly made his bed in my heart, and slowly built up walls and made a home there.

Cancer isn't like remission. When you hear you have cancer, it is an immediate change. You go from normal to cancer patient without stopping to breath in between. Remission was a slower process for me, like the first time you take a deep breath when the doctor tells you to, and use all your muscles to take in that air, and your lips quiver as you let it out slowly, trying to make the breath out last and not rush out all together. As you settle into the deep, measured breaths that calm your body and your soul, you quite thinking about it so hard. The muscles between your ribs relax. Your lips quite trembling.

That's remission. The first time I let out a remission sigh, it was hard work. Now I'm riding serene on the waves of breath in and out, no longer hurried or compressed by cancer's grip.

I realize that, although I haven't lived with a spirit of fear for these four years, fear is what motivated me. Getting to the 5 year mark would mean success, the 10 year mark a small miracle. Now I am almost to 5, and I'm in remission. I need to let go of fear as my motivator.

Fear is what drove me to gather up small joys. Fear is what propelled me to enjoy motherhood and love my children deeper. Fear is what rocketed me to a new peace with the everyday distractions and disappointments that inevitably come. Fear is what aroused the hunger to find the gift in every day alive, even if it was just the gift of being alive.

Cancer narrowed my vision for life, while at the same time expanding it. Like a zoom lens, it focused all my energies on the minutiae, pulled me toward the details of the moment, and my 10 year, 20 year, 30 year plans gathered dust because it had been so long since I picked them up and pondered them. My vision expanded to see joy in the hidden corners of life, to find beauty under cobwebs, to see His glory in a million small ways, sparkling like a fresh rain had just fallen over the entirety of my life.

I haven't decided yet if I want to zoom out. I haven't picked up my 10 year plan yet. I think I might live this way forever.
Yesterday is past, tomorrow is uncertain, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.
I think about the ways God used cancer to free me: free me to love, to live, to relish, to understand, to see meaning. Wisdom? Is that what cancer gave me? Perhaps it is that I finally, truly, believe and can walk in the truths of Matthew 6:25-34.
If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? ...walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (The Message)

Linked up to Lisa-Jo's prompt, "Gift"