What I might call “God moments”, my friend Mary calls moments of grace. She writes beautifully and poetically of her days of living cancer while noticing those quiet moments of peace and Presence.
I tire easily, and nap daily. That’s a fact of life.
Sometimes in the evening, the effort needed to get out of the recliner and go to my prayer desk for evening devotions far exceeds the resources I have left. Then I knit, reflect on my day and rest in the comfort of a long and well-established relationship. We’re together regardless of what I do and so much of his Word is written on my heart.
But right now, a week after chemo and nearly ten weeks after surgery, I also experience moments of grace — times when I simply feel alive, when cancer seems like a bad dream and I am filled with a deep peace. I savor them.
This morning, I woke before the alarm jarred me from sleep and I lay cocooned in the warmth of clean sheets and a Sherpa blanket. Light from street lights filtering through the blinds barely disturbed the familiar shadows that surrounded me. Nothing hurt. I wasn’t nauseous. I was simply in my bed, breathing in morning and resting a few minutes more before starting my day. A moment of grace.
On Sunday, I climbed into the cab of a John Deere tractor to do chores with a dear friend. He had the misadventure of a tire problem, but I was as content as a kitten curled in the sun. For the first time since surgery, I was able to pull myself up without gritting my teeth against the pain and ride through the pasture as he fed hay without bracing myself against the movement of the tractor on the uneven ground. A moment of grace.
I suppose I could have refrained from going to the ranch while recovering. A certain logic would even indicate that would have been the wiser course of action. But, caring for the body without caring for the spirit is akin to trying to make bread without leavening of some sort. Granted, tortillas are good, but if you want ciabatta bread, you’re not getting it without yeast.
In my life, the ranch has become a home, not a physical home, but a place where my heart rests, a place where my spirit is restored, a sanctuary of joy and contentment. Friendship rooted in love does that for you, gives you a home, and that’s what I need to heal, to have the stamina to endure the tough stuff. I need sometimes to go home.
I need to see the Prairie Coteau under the blue blanket of snow. I need to watch the cows, bellies swelling with spring calves, make their bobble-headed way to the pasture where the hay is unrolled for them. I need to feel my dear friend next to me, hear the rumble of his voice and the warmth of his laughter. I need to rest my head on his shoulder and, for a few minutes, just rest on the solid strength of his presence in my life.
After I had an allergic reaction to one of the chemo drugs a week ago — just a week ago? — and some injection or combination of injections allowed me to breathe again, I lay in a chair where my feet dangled like a four-year-old’s, and longed to hear his voice. I texted and asked if he had a minute to update me on chores. He texted back that he had a few.
As he talked, my mind carried me to the ranch, to the silos and grain bins, to the black faces of heifers lined along the fence waiting to be fed, to the sweet green smell of silage in the feed wagon and the sound of earlage spilling out of the silo. As he talked, I remembered the smell of his jacket, the way his eyes crinkle with amusement when he’s delighted by a story, the solid strength of his presence in my life, and I could finally take the deep slow breaths I needed to rest before they started the drug one more time. (Same drug. Same reaction. Who would have guessed?)
That, too, was a moment of grace. I was living with the cancer, but was not wrestling the demon alone.
I know that as a person of faith, I am supposed to be strengthened by trust in the promises sprinkled through Scripture — that God cares for me, that he has good things planned for me, that he can heal me as Jesus healed so many. I tend to think, though, that trusting God isn’t so much about believing we will get what we want as it is about abandoning ourselves to his will and knowing he will give us the grace to make the journey with humor and dignity. After all, Jesus did teach us to pray “thy will be done.”
I don’t think that’s bleak fatalism, but rather life-giving freedom. I am able to savor all the sweet moments without assessing whether they get me closer to beating this thing or not. The morning a friend took me to get the portacath placed, dawn was brisk, but low clouds captured the first light of day filling the sky with a rosy glow. The next days were rough, but now that the port has settled into place, it’s not the pain that I recall, but standing outside and watching that light show. A moment of grace.
I have no idea whether chemo and radiation will knock this thing on its butt or whether cancer will win this round. I do know I will fight the fight and be grateful for all the blessings God scatters along the way. I fully embrace each and every one — whether it’s time at the ranch, time with my girls, the kindness of a friend, Mother Nature showing off, or any of a myriad of things I haven’t yet imagined. They are all God showing his hand, which is love. I see this and I am glad.
You can find the original post on Mary’s blog, Create a New Heart.