Moments of mystery {30 Days of Thanks}

Remission day was 8 months ago. I still have no lymph nodes in my neck, throat or chest. And so another infection slams me in a sudden 24 hour assault, and the good ear, the one I can still hear out of, swells shut, the ear drum torn, blood pouring forth, and I am on four more medications in addition to the 15 or so I take on a daily basis still. All because of cancer. A friend, newly diagnosed, asks me if life ever returns to normal. I tell her it does...sort of. It does, in the sense that the doctors visits spread out, the diagnostic tests are fewer and farther between, there are many days you forget about cancer altogether and enjoy life like never before.

Every small joy you ignored in the busyness of normal life is suddenly captured in vivid color. The miracle of a single orchid blossom...that orchid plant that all you did was water on your sill for an entire bursts into bloom, and you are overcome by the symmetry of the blossom and the pinks and yellows, and there in the mundaneness of a Wednesday evening in your kitchen, you are face to face with God in a moment of utter praise for an ordinary miracle.

Life is shrouded in mystery. Why did I get cancer at 28? Why was it the aggressive kind that took four years to bring under control? Why does every check-up come with mixed celebration - no radiation in December, yes, but March? The doctor says probably. Tumormarkers rising, falling again. Scans inconclusive, then negative again. Hope is the thing with feathers...YES, but to me that quote rings true, not because hope is beautiful as a swallow captured in the hand, but because it is an elusive thing, a wide-eyed bird you can hold in the palm of your hand for only a brief second, feeling the pounding heart of fear under your fingers, the whisper of the wings fluttering as hope threatens to take wing away too soon.

You learn, on the hard road, to grasp quickly and tenaciously at the small blessings. You learn, on the path marked with suffering, to read deep the meaning of the allegories, the lessons shrouded in mystery. The hearing loss that marks today is a question of trust: do I value my hearing enough that I will give up faith in an everlasting, unchangeable God for the gut-wrenching and useless practice of worry, anxiety and helpless planning for tomorrow? Do I cling to the Cross, do I look down at the footsteps marked before me on this road, the very footsteps of the Christ I long to follow? Do I prepare again to sweat blood in Gethsemane as I pray that the cup may pass? Or do I fling the cup as far from me as possible, rage at the cup, rage at the God who proffers it, rage at my circumstances, rage at my helplessness?

I have made my choice, long ago, and I will not waver. I choose the path of joy and thanksgiving. I choose the easy burden He trades me for my difficult one. I trust Him to carry my pack of rocks - the yoke of cancer, infection, complications, endless consequences of a dreadful disease I did not ask for and do not understand. I trust that whatever outcome He has planned for me is exactly that - planned eons before my birth, eons before my diagnosis, and ages before this small infection that has cost me the hearing in my good ear. I choose to believe that He is bigger than, greater than, and more important than any sacrifice I might still be asked to make on this temporary road of life.

I choose to mark this day - with it's doctor visits, painful procedures, aching ear, silence, and orchid blossoms on my window sill - a day of thanks. Day 7 of my 30 days of November gratitude. For He has richly blessed me beyond measure. The least I can do is accept whatever tribulations He asks me to journey through, to take the cup despite the blood, sweat, tears, and prayers. To take the "no" answers with the "yes" and "maybe". To wait upon the Lord for my deliverance and the answer to my prayer for healing.

Will you join me? Count a gift each day for which to give thanks this November, the month of Thanksgiving? Will you join in the tradition of the pioneers - plagued by disease, death, and hopelessness - who set a feasting table in the presence of their friends and enemies and gave thanks for what little food and kindness they experienced in a foreign land? I arrived nearly 5 years ago in a desolate foreign land of a difference sort - the land of Cancer, where my landscape changed from the na├»ve, carefree life of a young mother at home with children to the desert of doctor's appointments, scary lab tests, surgeries, and radiation treatments. I expected something different. God gave me a whole new life to live. I chose to trade cursing for blessing, even in the immaturity of 28. I am going to keep choosing it now, 33 and still living in this foreign country despite that magical word "remission" spoken back in February.

Please join me - and see the orchid blossoms instead of your pain. See the joy of this day, instead of your suffering, your fear, your disappointment, your anxiety for the future. Trade your heavy burden for that which is light. He offers you His burden to shoulder, the burden where death has already been defeated, where sickness has been healed, where sorrow has been forever wiped away for an eternity of celebration. Can't we count one small joy, and focus our eyes on this and the prize that lies ahead, instead of whatever plagues us in our daily walk? It is such an easy trade. Mindless, really. Join me. Not on the road marked with suffering, but on the road marked with a million small graces, like diamonds in the dust, just waiting to be noticed and reveled in.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30)

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