Two nights and three days of retreating from the daily pulls on our time and being able to sit, undisturbed in the presence of God. And we were being blessed beyond measure this year as Debbi Bryson, from Calvary Chapel Vista (in California) was joining us as our main teacher. Truly a feast was going to be set before us from the hand and heart of God. "Founded on the Rock" was our theme for the weekend taken from Luke 6:46-49 about a life that is strong in the Lord, standing immoveable on the rock of Jesus Christ, able to withstand the storms that come quickly into our lives rattling and shaking us and ultimately testing our faith in Jesus Christ.
As the Women's Ministry Coordinator at our church, God has given me the awesome privilege of planning our annual women's retreat, really of being His hands and feet as He lays forth His plans. Back in the late summer and early fall, God had spoken to my heart the theme for the coming retreat. I watched in awe as one by one, throughout the year, God put each piece of the retreat together and joined the hearts of the women together under these verses. So many women were in the midst of major trials and testings. Marriages were being tested, diseases/illnesses were prevalent, death, heartache, financial pressures, lies that were destroying relationships, lonliness, depression, wayward children.....the list continued and we can all fill in the blank to our pain and trials. Little did I know that at this retreat, one of the biggest storms in my life was about to descend. God knew, as He knows the end from the beginning. And for a year He had these verses pouring over and over my heart.
"He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock." Luke 6:48
The women began arriving Friday evening. I was to teach the first session that evening and give the ladies the "big picture" if you will on those verses: "Come, Hear, Do." I've never thought myself as being a teacher of anything so there is a lot of irony in the fact that God has called me to teach not only the women in our body, but my children in our home. I think it is God's way of continually telling me that it is His work and not mine. What my mind can fathom, His is so much greater.
I was so immersed in my the love of my Savior that weekend and in the lives of each of these women. I felt their hurts to the deepest part of my heart and carried them to the throne of our Lord. This is where God met me on Saturday morning: my eyes set on Him and my heart set on all the women around me.
I woke up Saturday morning, and spent some time with the Lord and then hurried in the shower wanting to quickly get down to breakfast and be settled before the morning sessions began. As I do every day, I shaved under my arms and as the palm of my hand holding the razor brushed over the top of my right breast, I immediately felt a lump slide under my hand.
Now I must digress for just a moment. I don't do monthly breast exams. I know the general composition of my breasts and I'm speaking here to all you breastfeeding mommies....the truth as we all know it is that the perky breasts of our early 20's change quite drastically as we birth children and breastfeed. And the more children you have, the more you breastfeed, the more those breasts become shall I say, deflated! :) After birthing and breastfeeding 6 babies (4 of which for over a year), I am quite defalted on top and the breast tissue is super thin! Oh, I wouldn't trade a second of those last 12 child bearing years to have perky breasts again. It was all worth it. But I don't have much that needs examining. That of course, is no excuse. I am now a 100% advocate of self-breast exams. And so I say to all you women reading..... know your boobies women and know them well.
Now picking up in the shower........as my hand slipped over this lump. I was a bit startled. I then went on to examine the whole breast and found a rather large lump on the top of my right breast. Being a women who in the past (like almost 30 years...) was prone to worry and fearing the unknown.....I tell you it was all but a miracle that not an ounce of worry entered into my thinking process. This is truly the Holy Spirit working inside of me and freeing me from this sin. I can say with assurity that there is victory in Jesus. I remember the thought going through my head, "hummm, this need to be watched closely and looked at when I get home." And literally I moved on. Thought gone, lump out of my mind and on with the work of the ministry.
I was rooming with my dearest and longtime friend, Beth and I didn't even mention it to her, or to my husband later on the phone.
The weekend came to a close. God had done more than we could ever had imagined in the lives of so many and I was tired, but rejoicing in His goodness and love. The lump was a distant memory until Tuesday night.
I was home and packing to go to visit relatives and see my sister, Heather, in the NY area for 5 days. As I sat on the edge of the bed talking with my husband, I remembered the lump. I shared the finding with my husband, who then confirmed that it was present and palpable. We both agreed that I need to get it checked out through radiology as soon as I returned from NY. As my husband worries about next to nothing, He assured me that he thought it wasn't anything. I wasn't quite so sure.
Fast forward.....Friday, May 7th, I'm scheduled for diagnostic mammogram and then ultrasound, if needed. Since the age of 35, my ob/gynecologist has given me a radiology script to have a baseline mammogram done. Well, at 35, I was still nursing so upon turning 36, he told me, "get a mammogram!" I didn't, deeming it not really high on the priority list and never even thinking that breast cancer would be a part of my life, as it didn't really run in our family. Well, now at age 37, and turning 38 in 5 days, with this script in hand I went to the appointment. I wasn't really worried. I didn't have anyone come with me. As I sat in the parking lot before entering the building, the thought of breast cancer began to creep into my thought process. I quietly prayed asking God to go before me and be my strength. I went in for the mammogram and my technician was just lovely and gentle. She had such a sweet spirit and we laughed together, despite the awkward moments and I'm sure, her seeing things on the screen that caused her concern.
She finished the scan and lead me quietly into the back waiting room and telling me I would need an ultrasound. My heart began beating a little faster. I remember pulling out a book that I had put in my purse on "Principles of Leadership for Women" by Gail Mays. I remember reading over and over the words "a leader fit for the Master's use."
"But what I can promise is that God never wastes your pain. He will use every trial to make you more prepared and fit for the Master's use."
"Remember you're simply a clay pot chosen by the Master to be used. It's not the container people should notice but rather what's inside the container!"
"Have you forgotten what prayer can accomplish? I'm so thankful that early on in ministry the example was set for me to make prayer my first response."
And as I let these words work through me, I was called into the next examining room. I laid on the ultrasound table with my eyes set straight up just praying. I laid as the technician took hold of a ruler, laying it across the top of my breast and moving the wand around the area in question. And then she told me to get dressed and she'd be back in a minute. They were long minutes. I didn't have a watch on and there was no clock in the room, but the minutes seemed like hours. I knew in my heart something was wrong. In walked a gentleman, the technician and another woman. The radiologist pulled his seat up next to me and said, "you have two masses in your right breast. We don't know what they are. They have characteristics of cancer and they have characteristics of fibroids. The only way to know for sure is to have them biopsied. Do you have any questions?" There were not assurances, no hands extended of hope. Just the unknown.
To say that the peace of the Lord was upon me is an understatement. His supernatural strength flooded through me. I looked at the radiologist and said, "ok, let's go to the next step." And as the radiologist and technician left the room. There across from me sat a young woman, probably about my age, who pulled her chair up close to me, leaned in and introduced herself. Her name was Cindy and she was my new breast care coordinator, a nurse, who would be walking the intimate steps with me until the end. A woman, who shared with me that just a couple weeks ago, she had to walk these very same steps herself. All turned out well for her. Her masses were benign. But she had such a heart of compassion. There was tenderness in her eyes. And I looked at this woman I said, "God knows. Let's do what we have to do."
She lead me to another room where she proceeded to talk me through what I could expect in the coming week. I would need to meet with a breast surgeon and would have a needle biopsy done in her office, as the mass was large enough to be done without ultrasound guidance. Her job, was to take care of all of the details and make sure I was ok as we went through the process. I broke down for a couple minutes as the magnitude and possibilities began to overwhelm me. It was a bit surreal.
Out to the sunshine I went. I remember it vividly from when I received my son's diagnosis just 8 years previous.....your world begins to come "unglued" if you will, but life around you continues untouched. Or does it?? Is it just that we become consumed with ourselves and don't stop to take notice of those hurting around us? My face was tear streaked, my heart was heavy as I got into the car to drive home.
It was another moment in my life where I knew in my heart of hearts, that my course was being changed. The winds were picking up, the storm was on the horizon....and I needed to stay the course hand in hand with my Savior, trusting Him to light the path......
....to be continued.