Be Careful Who You Listen To

 “I’m lying in bed.

I feel the gentle touch of the soft breeze coming through the open windows of the bedroom. As I lie there, quietly assessing the day ahead, I become aware of the birds chirping in the trees, the murmur of voices and a dog barking twice, probably at another dog as the owner walks him on the sidewalk of our small town. I stare out the window at the blue sky, my mind not registering the beauty of a new day; instead it is stuck on an ugly new reality.

            My eyes wander the room, pass by the clock which reads 6:50 and land on my sleeping husband. A deep sigh escapes my lips. Thoughts run rapidly through my head as I think of all the “undone” things on my list. What about this? What about that? Everything is a jumble of anxiety and “oh well!” Kind of like how it is when you are getting ready to leave for vacation and you know you will never get everything done, so you just give up.

            Except this is no vacation. In fact, the paramount thought going through my head is to wonder if I will still be here in two weeks. I throw my arm over Mike and hold tight.”

            This is an excerpt taken from my journal the day after I was told the tumor on my right ovary was so large it rested on a major artery and the removal could cause a blood clot which would be fatal. It was one thing to face the surgery, probable cancer and chemo, but to think I might not get past the operating table gave me an urge to do SOMETHING, I just didn’t know what!

            Do I clean out my closets? Give away my jewelry? Write letters to my family?

I chose none of the above.

            Instead, I chose to believe the screen the doctor inserted in my artery two days before surgery would do the trick and catch any blood clots. I realize it’s the doctor’s job to inform me of all possibilities, but they are just that; possibilities. Not probabilities, and certainly not absolutes!

            This is a thought process I had to cultivate over the next weeks and months. When my diagnosis of stage 4 ovarian cancer came and I heard the 80/20 statistics (in 80% it returns in 18 months), I thought “Why can’t I be part of the 20%?” instead of assuming the opposite.

            So much information came my way and most of it was upsetting. My friends and family were wonderful, but I could read the fear and uncertainty on their faces.

The world shifted on its axis and we all needed to realign.

I soon noticed that when people heard stage 4 ovarian cancer, a change come over them. Uncomfortable and uncertain how to respond, one woman even said to me, “Wow that’s a death sentence”. To which I replied, “Well, it is for some…”

You begin to see the dilemma. Cause and effect.

There really was no way to head this off, it was so unexpected. Negativity is contagious. Someone’s thoughtless comment could send me into a woe-is-me tailspin. Someone else’s limited thinking can limit you.   

When it came to cancer, I couldn’t handle limited thinking and it drove me to the Lord, every single time Fortunately for me (and for you) there is no better place to land. When people tell you something can’t be done, isn’t possible or even highly unlikely, they aren’t factoring God into the equation. The God I serve is a Mighty God! Nothing is impossible for him.

Do I really believe that? Or is it just Bible verbiage?

This is where “the rubber meets the road” as they used to say in an old tire commercial. Or where, as the saying goes,” you put your money where your mouth is”.

Don’t assume this is easy-peasy, even for the optimistic sort, like me. True, I’m a glass-half-full personality and I can usually be counted on to find the sunny side, but this mindset took enormous effort. It was hard work. And true confessions here, I had many a crying-jag. Some days all I could do was cry.

But I was crying out to the Lord.

Even when I couldn’t find the words, my mind screamed out the pain. Lord, help me. What do I do with this? And in my focus on Him I found rest. I found peace. I felt held and comforted. I sought answers I didn’t always get but what I did get was assurance that I was never alone. I felt heard.

Those times with the Lord gave me the courage to face each new day…  the surgeries, tests, lab results, CAT scans, doctor visits, bald head, weary body, side effects, hospital stays. I learned to pay less attention to the “noise”, and more attention to the whisper of God, which came to me, not only in the quiet time I spent with him, but through people I know and trust.

 Laughter through tears, practical help, reminders of scripture, visits with friends, and sometimes total strangers would remind me of his truth and reaffirm me of his presence.

So, when I say be careful who you listen to…

Ahhh… you’re going to hear all kinds of stuff from well-intentioned people but learn to filter it through the Holy Spirit and his never-changing word. Reject the random comment or the piece of advice from a well-meaning friend or acquaintance that doesn’t resonate well within you.

They can certainly trip you, but be ready to fall into the arms of God.

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