Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

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Monday, September 9, 2013

A Penny and a Pivotal Point in My Childhood {34 Years Later} ~ To the Praise of His Glory

"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,  in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory."

Thirty-four years ago today I was in a hospital bed recovering from surgery. No one knew what the outcome would be. My parents were given that dreadful diagnosis; the nightmare that no one wants to wake up to and live as reality. 

That is a season of my life that for years I have lived without embracing. I have tried to hide from it and tried to overcome it. I have lived in the fears of it. 

Not by any choices I have made, but by God’s Sovereignty I have had to walk a certain path in my life that I would never have chosen for myself. The thing is, we don't always get to choose. 


A child doesn't wake up one day and make a choice to fight to live, whether it is because of health or extreme poverty. She just lives it. She doesn't see the injustice of it all. But the truth, woven as a thread of hope all through her days, is that God is always good and does good, even though at times our hearts are breaking in the pain and we can't see the sense of it at all.




Throughout the Old Testament, time after time, the Israelites were reminded to remember what the LORD God had done for them. How he provided water and food for them, how their shoes never wore out, and they received victory in battles they never should have won. 

They were to recollect God’s wonderful acts, lest they forget!


Forgetting what God has done will lead to pride and pride to idolatry. Forgetting where we have come from only leads to despair. I go back and recall and I see how He restores me to Himself.


God wants a heart fully devoted to Him and in remembering what He has done builds my trust and faith in Him. I must walk by faith in the way that He laid out for me; not by fear!



I must not forget what God has done for me. 

I look way back in my life and I flip through old medical files. These files describe in detail things which I scarcely remember. As I pick up the pieces and put them together I am given a peace that passes all understanding for I see His hand at work and it brings a confidence that He will fulfill His purpose for me.




I have had to go back and recall these past experiences as they build confidence for the present. Seeing what God has done will build the bridge for me to walk by faith and not by sight. It is easier to put one foot in front of the other without knowing every twist and turn but always looking to the One who does.
"When we find ourselves groping along, famished for more, we can choose. When we are despairing, we can choose to live as Israelites gathering manna. For forty long years, God’s people daily eat manna—a substance whose name literally means, “What is it?” Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don’t comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable. 
They eat the mystery. 
They eat the mystery. 
And the mystery, that which made no sense, is “like wafers of honey” on the lips…I think of all the mysteries I have refused, refused, to let nourish me . . . Would I really choose the manna? I only tremble, wonder…if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see. 
To see through to God. 
That that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave." {Ann Voskamp, 'One Thousand Gifts'}

Like the children of Israel, if I can open up my hand and taste the manna--the mystery, the "What is it?", and at the same time, His daily provision--then I will see that God is always faithful and His steadfast love endures forever. 



When I see the gift, even for the hard things on this journey, I need to give thanks and enter His presence of full joy!

The mystery--the thing God had provided for me to daily depend on Him, to trust in Him; to give Him thanks for the difficult things in my life has been my health.

The month I celebrated my third birthday I was admitted to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

For Cancer.




I scan the copies of my old typed medical files. I never get over what was recored in the year of 1979:

" . . .  she was perfectly well until August of this year while holidaying in England when she swallowed a penny. Chest x-ray was done and this showed the penny situated in the esophagus but also showed a large mass in the right hemithorax. When she returned to Canada she brought the x-rays with her and was referred by her family doctor to Hospital for Sick Children for further work-up. She was admitted to HSC on September 3rd . . . "

Four days later I was in the operating room. I was diagnosed with an undifferentiated sarcoma - a rare and rapidly growing tumour in children - and I was a thirty pound, three foot, not quite three year old, with a tumour the size of a grapefruit.



I swallowed a penny! And they found a sarcoma. God provides in ways we never could imagine. 

I was given a 50/50 prognosis, but that depended upon if I responded to the treatment.

They were told that there would be extensive side effects. Permanent damage, nausea, vomiting and hair loss were for sure. Then there would be many other complications that could arise, including the risk that the treatment “could cause a second malignancy later in life”.

Treatments would last for two years and at times my parents questioned whether all that I was going through would be worth it in the end. It was a living nightmare for my parents as they watched helplessly and struggled through at a time when there was not much support for the parents of cancer patients. My father was self employed and they had three other young children to care for at home.

As I watch my own carefree three year old with her blond wisps blowing in the breeze, I can't imagine how difficult it would have been to see your three year old daughter's life hanging on the line.

I don't know the pain they felt when they watched blond locks fall to the ground and how it would have been a vivid reminder of how sick their little girl was and how they would have grasped for hope. 


I'm not sure how they cried out in agonizing prayers to the God who heals.


I've never asked if they silently wandered the halls or screamed in horror in a secluded place as Dr. Simpson wheeled their baby girl into the operating room and took up his scalpel and cut away 95% of the tumour.


Doubt, 

depression, 
anger, 
shame, 
fear, 
helplessness,
loneliness. 

These are some of the words to describe those years.

Treatment for paediatric cancer was in the pioneering stages in the late seventies.  The doctors treated me very aggressively hoping I would survive. After my initial surgery and treatments and being in the hospital for most of that September and October I returned to the hospital every three weeks for chemotherapy for two years. On a number of occasions I was hospitalized for neutropenia.

My first memories are of this time in my life. They can leave me suddenly with overwhelming sense of loneliness.  Laying on a cold table in a vast room, being pushed to the play room on a pole and playing with other children who had no hair, the smells of sickness and medicine, tears mixed with vomit, the bright red as they pricked my thumb and the fear I had of needles.



I was often all alone as parents were not permitted to stay overnight with their child while in the hospital. My Daddy or Mama would come to be with me in the afternoon, but the nurses would make them kiss their little girl goodnight and send them home. I was often fretful and cried for them. And when I was able to go home I remember the side-effect of the chemotherapy drugs. The anti-nausea medication at that time was not very effective and my memories of vomiting validate that.

You don't live through cancer without it leaving a calloused scar on the rest of your days.

By God’s grace my life here was extended. I gained victory in a battle I never should have won.

It was a pivotal point in my childhood that changed my life forever. 

And it is more than a healing grace; it's a Divine grace. Oh, taste and see.

Our Saviour heals our scars and he took our pain and he bore our suffering and He shed crimson blood on that cross of Calvary that we might die to sin to live to righteousness.

I often wondered why I had to go through it all, but when I have looked back and realized what God has brought me through and give thanks for it, I wonder why He allowed me to survive it. 

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!"

My journey still has difficult bends in the road because of the long-term side effects, but God's faithfulness is so evident and beautiful. By looking back I have seen His powerful and gracious hand in it all.



My husband shared these words regarding our circumstances and the uncertain days ahead:


"We do not lose hope, we do not grow weary in recognizing the faithfulness of God in our lives. 


He is our comfort, our assurance, our peace. 


Our wills and desires must be en-robed and dissolved in His ultimate will and plan for us.


'The more we seek Him, the more we will find Him. The more we find Him, the more we love Him.' The more we love Him, the more we get lost in His greatness.


This is our highest purpose."





~edited and reposted from the archive as I remember how many years have gone by and still God is faithful and His steadfast love endures forever.


6 comments:

  1. Pretty much AMAZED by this Rebekah! So blessed that you share your testimony here! Love & prayers, in Jesus, Cynthia

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  2. Wow!!! What an amazing testimony and blessing and what Ann spoke on once about when what God gives us doesn't look like gifts. I was 19 when I fought my battle with cancer. Very far removed from your innocent 3 year old self but not adult enough to embrace what was really happening. I don't know that I am even now. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  3. What a beautiful post! I realized how insignificant a penny is to so many people today. Some will not even pick one up off the ground. Yet that small coin, value of one cents, was rich in value to you. Our God does huge things with little. I am so grateful that I read your story. I visited from Tell His Story this morning.
    Blessings,
    Joanne

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  4. love you story this evening!! You are living a God-sized miracle. So thankful to be joining you on this journey through (in)ked.

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  5. Wonderful story of God's grace and perfect timing. Looking forward to reading more through (in)ked.

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  6. Such a beautiful testimony, Rebekah. God's mercy and grace never gets old, and the story should be told over and over. Love the pics of your children with the penny. What a heritage of faith they have! Blessings.

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