February 2: (Written after receiving the reports that both the mammogram and ultra sound confirmed a solid 2.5 cm mass as well as enlarged ducts.) Apparently, this could mean I have cancer. It's really a bummer! (What a dumb thing to say--duh!) One of the things I most resent is now that I have this information, it's like, no matter where I go, there is this intrusive, unwanted guest (the knowledge) tagging along. The "unwanted guest" has invaded every space and is no respecter of privacy. I try to have devotions; the "unwanted guest" pushes in. I try to play volleyball; here comes the "unwanted guest." I try to sleep; the "unwanted guest" lurks. It's really quite tiring! It appears that no area of my life is off-limits to the "unwanted guest."
Sorry to disappoint, but I won't be one of those stoic Christians who somehow goes through illness or loss with utter confidence and calm. Personally, I think this whole situation really stinks. However, it is amazing that in the midst of the intrusive "unwanted guest," I ALWAYS feel the still and calm presence of my best friend, Jesus Christ. This doesn't mean that I always feel still and calm--far from it! But, it's pretty cool, that no matter how hard the winds blow or the waves roar, my anchor never budges--not even a fraction of an inch! It's also cool that I can cry, be scared, feel frustrated trying to make medical decisions with inadequate knowledge or experience, feel disappointed, and an array of other emotions and be completely accepted by God. I mean, seriously, God is so not surprised by my response. I take great comfort in the tremendous emotions Jesus expressed the night before his death. He is the creator of humans and certainly understands a human's natural response to suffering and loss. It's amazing how much peace comes from experiencing this unconditional love. NOTHING compares.
So, yes, I'm bummed. This certainly wouldn't have been the course I would have chosen for myself. And yet, I do have a deep sense that nothing will happen to me that is outside God's plan for my life. No matter how rough the water, no matter how obnoxious the "unwanted guest," no matter how painful the procedures, I am "safe." I KNOW God is good. He is my refuge.
February 13: (Given the medical reports, a decision was quickly made that I should return to CA for further testing and treatment) As I held my girls in my arms waiting to check my baggage at the Guam airport, I suddenly heard the familiar harmonic voices of Micronesians. Strolling towards me, smiling shyly and strumming a guitar, came a dozen PIU students. They were singing a special song we sing at PIU, We Are One Big Happy Family. Of course, the tears began to flow down my cheeks. I teased the students that they had ruined my make-up and thus my chance of flying business class. Since I was flying on a buddy pass (a stand-by discount ticket acquired from someone who works for the airlines), I was told that I could be bumped into business class provided my appearance was attractive. (You better believe I gussied up!) After serenading me with several songs, the students gathered around me and one of our students prayed for me. It was amazing how loved I felt. The young man who prayed had only recently become a Christian. He has an inspiring story evidencing God's transforming power. This made his prayer especially meaningful to me and served as an affirmation of our ministry at PIU. I had been so nervous that I would fall apart at the airport and yet I knew how critical it was that I hold it together for the sake of our two young daughters. This surprise send-off was just the diversion I needed. It completely changed the tenor of my departure.
My next hurdle was going to be holding it together once I was alone on the plane. Two things happened to ease this transition. The first is spelled B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S class! The couple of times we've had the luxury to fly home to California, we've had to secure the least expensive tickets (always well over $1000), and from the time we step foot in Guam's airport until we arrive in San Francisco's airport, approximately 30 hours have passed. Yes, 30 miserable hours of long layovers in Japan followed by knees jammed into the seat in front of us and seat backs laying in our tray table. Makes me shudder just thinking about it! I cannot begin to convey the unbelievable difference flying business class makes (equivalent to first-class on international flights). In spite of luxuriating in my business class seat, soon I began to feel my emotions pushing to the surface. I certainly didn't want to make a scene while I sipped my orange juice served in a real GLASS with my legs fully extended and resting peacefully on an ottoman. It was at this point that I remembered the gift bag the students had given me. I grasped at the gift bag stowed under the seat "miles" in front of me. Immediately, as I read the dozens of notes in the bag written to me from PIU students, I was enveloped in the love and security found only in Christ. These notes were filled with love, support, and best of all, Scriptures students had chosen to encourage me. It was amazing the strength and joy I found in God's word. Several of them had written, "Don't forget God's cell phone number: Psalm 50:15." Curious, while on a short layover in snowy Tokyo, I flipped open my pocket Bible and read: "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me." I have no doubt God will do his part. He has shown himself to be faithful and true time and again. My prayer is that as I walk this particular rough stretch, that I might honor Him.