Thursday, May 31, 2012
How God Prepared Me in Advance
As I look back and reflect over the last few years I can see God preparing me (and Kevan) for my breast cancer diagnosis. I know that this may sound strange to some of you, but without certain events in my life I don’t think I would have been as strong and as accepting of the diagnosis I received on April 6. 2012. I see now that God strengthened our marriage, worked in my heart to bring me closer to Him through His Word and comforted me through a book I read within weeks of my diagnosis. I'm sorry this is so long, but it's my story and I tend to be wordy.
Preparing our Marriage
Several years ago, in 2010, Kevan and I went through a rough time in our marriage. As some of you know, we haven’t been able to have children. Infertility is very hard on a marriage. God has instilled in most women a yearning to be a mother and sometimes it can be overwhelming and sometimes husband's just don't understand those feelings. I believe, at this point we had been off birth control for almost 4 years and had not conceived. I wanted a baby and could think of nothing else. Kevan wanted only what God wanted for us and if he didn’t give us a child then so be it. I felt like we were both getting old and I didn’t have much time left. Everyone I knew was having babies, all of our friends had children and we no longer fit in. Kevan worked outside the home at that time and I would cry some days while he was away at work and not tell him when he got home that I had had an emotional breakdown for most of the day. Kevan and I are best friends and throughout our marriage we have always been able to communicate, but during this time our communication with each other broke down. I was feeling like he didn’t love me because I wanted to see a fertility doctor or look into adoption and he wasn’t ready for either. He wanted to wait on God. I began pushing him away. He started to feel me pushing him away so he was trying to grasp on tighter to me and I felt like I was drowning. Normally, we do everything together and I was finding myself stealing away to my bedroom to get away from him, going places alone and dreaming of a life where I had a family, not necessarily with him in it. I stopped reading my bible and praying because I didn’t understand why God wouldn’t “make” Kevan listen. Lol! I am ashamed to admit this, but at this point in my life I wanted to do anything I could to have a family and if Kevan wasn’t going to help me why was I with him? I had questions in my head, “Should I divorce him and find someone that wants to adopt children? Is there someone out there that would love me enough to go through all the fertility tests?” I was desperate.
I decided to see a Christian counselor so I could talk freely about the thoughts that I was having because I didn’t want Kevan to know that I really was so desperate that I wanted to leave him. I was very honest with the counselor and it was a relief to get it off my chest. Kevan started coming with me and even though the counselor didn't provide us with much insight it MADE us communicate with each other. Kevan still did not understand why I was making such a big deal about not having children and like Hanna's husband in the bible didn't understand why he wasn't enough for me. Things started getting better and Kevan agreed that we could start seeing an fertility specialist. In the end, we found out that there is nothing physically wrong with either of us, but my heart just needed to know this. It still meant a lot to me that he was willing to go through it with me. I needed him to support me and he did. Now, I knew, nothing was wrong with me, we just needed to continue to wait on God to give us our own child and/or pray whether adoption is His plan for us.
Once we were through these dark days I realized how much I loved this man and how much he loves me. I mean, I loved him before, but now I knew in my heart that I would never want anyone else. He went through something he was not comfortable with (fertility tests, shots, “samples”) just for me and he went to all the appointments with me. He listened, he took notes, asked questions....he was there for me even though I knew he didn't really want to be. But, that was okay. It really meant so much to me that he did it and that he was supportive and not negative during the process. This struggle made our marriage stronger and showed us that we need to communicate no matter what, we need to support each other and that we want to be together until death parts us. Kevan loves me and I feel loved.
Preparing my Heart
In the midst of the fertility tests I stared reading my bible and praying again. I stopped being angry with God and repented of my selfishness. I decided I needed to read the bible from cover to cover. I had never accomplished this before, but had tried many times. Boy did this show me just how sinful I was. I was ashamed of myself as I read God's Word. God takes marriage very seriously in the bible and I had been ready to throw it away just because I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I realized now how holy God was and who was I to demand a child from Him?
I loved getting to know the God of the Old Testament and understanding so much more than I had before. The New Testament had so much that my heart also needed. I read out loud to Kevan many times too just so I can fit in my daily reading while we drove somewhere or if we were just hanging out. If I had questions he would help to answer them. It was surprising to me that it took me over 10 months just to read the Old Testament. It is A LOT to read. I read almost 45 minutes to 1 hour each day and it still took that long. I did miss a few days of reading here and there, but I still pressed on. The New Testament only took me about 5 weeks to read through. This was such a special time for me. I was learning so much about God and how He really loves ME. Spending time with Him daily was readying me for something, I could feel it. In my heart I believed He was readying me for motherhood, but now I know he was readying me for cancer. I'm not angry with Him for allowing cancer instead of giving me a child. He loves me and He knows what I need. Right now, I need Him to bear this burden he has given me for this time in my life. But, it isn't a burden I carry myself. He carries it for me. I just need to give it to Him daily. On the days I don't give it to Him...they are my hardest days...because I cannot go through it myself.
Side note - Every time I tried to read the bible through I used a traditional bible and I was unsuccessful...I would just give up. It seemed like too big of a task. This time I read it using my kindle and the little percentage at the bottom pushed me to read more. When I would see me reach 15%, 25%, etc....it would push me to read more and I would be so excited that I had made it so far. You can read about my experience here.
Preparing me for Death
As a believer in Jesus Christ, I believe that when I die I go to Heaven to live with our Heavenly Father for eternity. Heaven is not a spiritual place, as some believe, but an actual place that we will actually reside, in our heavenly bodies, if we are true believers. I wasn’t really scared of dying. It hasn’t really bothered me because I know I’ll be in Heaven. But, the "eternity thing"…has always freaked me out. I know, who wouldn’t want to live forever? Well, ME. It seemed so tiring to me to have to wear a white robe, sing all day and never get to take a nap. I love naps on Sunday afternoons. LOL! I thought heaven was going to be this boring place. I have never been a gold girl…..more into silver jewelry…so when the bible talks about heaven having “streets of gold”, it kind of makes my eyes hurt. I’m sorry Lord, but I’m just being honest. Really…..when I say it freaked me out to think of being in Heaven for eternity…I mean…it freaked me out!
Then, I attended a conference. One of the speakers, Steve Lawson, spoke about Charles Spurgeon and a new book that he had written about Spurgeon. You can watch Mr. Lawson's message, here. I had heard of Spurgeon’s name before, but had never really looked him up or read anything by him. Well, Mr. Lawson piqued my interests. I love history and I love the 1800’s. I have not read Lawson’s book, but on our drive home from the conference I started researching Charles Spurgeon on my phone. Then, I thought I’d browse Amazon.com to see if there was anything out there I could read on my kindle for free. There was a book called “We Shall See God” that was available to be borrowed for Prime Members (and still is!). So, I borrowed it. It changed my life. Really. Not just my thoughts on Heaven, but my whole outlook on how wonderful my life is going to be when I die. I’m no longer scared of the “eternity” thing. I am looking forward to it. Heaven is going to be awesome!
Unfortunately, I cannot think of a time when one of my pastors spoke on what Heaven is going to be like (besides the pearly gates and streets of gold). I’m sure they have, but if so it did not have a positive impact on me. Well, in this book, “We Shall See God”, Spurgeon and Alcorn open my eyes to all the wonder and glory of Heaven. I have no fear now that it will be boring or that I won't like it. So, when I was told that I had cancer and had to come to the realization that I might die. I was okay with it. I'm still okay with it. I get to go to Heaven…I get to be with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…I get to be with my Creator. It will be a place of joy, fun, friendship, beauty and so much more. I even discovered from scripture that we will have a day of rest in Heaven as well…so maybe I will get a nap here and there. Lol! It will be an eternity of wonder! ETERNITY! No longer a scary word.
The book is more like a daily reading (devotional), but I pretty much devoured it and didn’t read one day at a time. Randy Alcorn has pulled together some of Spurgeon’s sermons on heaven so each day has a different excerpt from one of his sermons back in the 1800’s. Then, after each excerpt Randy also shares a little insight on the same subject that Spurgeon was speaking on. He also does a great job.
I took many notes on my Kindle Keyboard and have read some excerpts from the book to Kevan as well. If you believe that Heaven is going to be boring you should read this book. Or even if you don't....you should read this book. Also, Randy Alcorn has his own book on Heaven which I will be buying as soon as I'm done reading Spurgeon’s book on prayer.
I will leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Many people view Heaven as an uncertain gamble, spending their lives wondering if they will arrive at their desired destination. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Through Christ, we can be assured of eternal life!” – Spurgeon – Read Psalm 103:1-5
“Eternal life means enjoying forever the finest moments of life on Earth the way they were intended. Since in heaven we’ll experience life at its best, it would be more accurate to call our present existence, the beforelife rather than to call what follows the afterlife.” – Alcorn
“Every Christian friend that goes before us from this world is a ransomed spirit waiting to welcome us in Heaven. There will be the infant of days that we have lost below, through grace to be found above. There the Christian father, and mother, and wife, and child, and friend…shall be commenced again in the upper sanctuary, and then shall never end. There we shall have companionship with the patriarchs and fathers and saints of the Old and New Testaments…and there, above all, we shall enjoy and dwell with God the Father, whom we have loved with all our hearts on earth; and with Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior, who has always been to us the chief among the thousands, and altogether lovely; and with the Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier, and Guide, and Comforter; and shall be filled with all fullness of the Godhead forever!” – Spurgeon
“The New Testament says that God “lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (I Tim 6:16). To see God’s face has been utterly unthinkable. That’s why, when we’re told in Revelation 22:4 that we’ll see God’s face, it should astound us. For this to happen, it will require that we undergo radical change between now and then. “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). It’s only because we’ll be full righteous in Christ, deemed completely sinless, that we’ll be able to see God and live”. - Alcorn
“Eden is a picture of rest – meaningful and enjoyable work, abundant food, beautiful environment, unhindered friendship with God and other people and animals. Even in Eden’s perfection, one day was set aside for special rest and worship. Work will be refreshing on the New Earth, yet regular rest will be built into our lives.” - Alcorn