“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
I feel led to share a significant part of this journey with you tonight. This is part 1 of 2 (or maybe 3) 🙂
My words flow out of a heart that is full and overflowing with the presence and joy of the Lord. Psalm 16:11 says “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” His presence and joy ALWAYS co-exist! If I’m lacking in joy, I can always attribute it to a lack of time with the Lord. When the distractions of life overtake me (whether it’s the usual stuff of life or hard circumstances) and when my eyes start focusing more on those things than Jesus, my joy shrivels! Each and every time!
I feel that’s what happened to me in the weeks surrounding my third treatment. There were some dark days which took me to a dark valley – physically, spiritually, emotionally. I was still reading God’s Word and praying, but it just felt dry. I couldn’t FEEL God’s presence. Can anyone relate? I sought comfort in the Gospel – with a true heart knowledge that I was 100% carried by our precious Lord in these times and knowing that He simply wanted me to learn what it meant to truly rest in His finished work on the cross and His all carrying arms.
God was still teaching me through these dark days. He spoke a truth into my heart: “Faith isn’t faith if it is always FELT.” Those “mountain top” moments are amazing, but not how God intends for us to live life every day. Because at some point our faith goes deeper than our feelings. It’s in these times that the Word of God is more precious than ever because we read of the character of God, and the promises to those of us who believe.
As Pastor George Crow (our precious Pastor at Northeast Presbyterian Church) always says “Jesus loves me this I know”…(how do I know this?)….”For the BIBLE TELLS ME SO”. It really all comes back to this, the simplest truth: trusting in what God tells us through His Word even when we don’t FEEL it. My feelings and emotions are so fickle!
During this time, however, I longed for God’s joy-filled communion as I had experienced….even in other dark valleys I had journeyed through in times past. I wanted God to restore my faith-sight that I had at the beginning of my journey, when I had the deepest conviction in my soul that GOD WAS UP TO SOMETHING. I cannot even express the deep confidence the Lord blessed me with in those early days surrounding my diagnosis. That first week was a complete BLUR. After the “It’s cancer” phone call, in the midst of my part-time ministry job, caring for my children and home, each day I found myself scheduling doctors appointments, meetings with people that we needed to share the news with face to face, etc etc. Not to mention processing the devastating news we had just learned. But in those days, I sensed God’s presence like few times before.
Through God’s grace (ONLY HIM!) my eyes were fixed squarely on the “story beneath the story”, which is the story of FAITH that God was writing in my life. This is the often unseen story, and really it’s the BIGGER story. Cancer? That’s the small story of sight. It’s not eternal. It’s transient. But the FAITH story is eternal!
I KNEW this cancer diagnosis wasn’t an accident. I was so confident that although God did not cause breast cancer, that He allowed it as His grace in my life, to do a million things in my life and others lives (some we get to see – thank you Lord – some we will never see this side of eternity)! I had JOY that the Lord had chosen me to carry this cross, and I waited expectantly to see all that God was going to do through this trial. I knew it was no accident and felt set-apart to suffer with my Lord. Joy, peace, hope.
These were my truest convictions during those crazy days – and that is ALL the LORD. NOT Brooke Turner 🙂
But in the days surrounding and after my third chemo cycle, I realized something had shifted in my heart. I realized I had shifted my sight from my Great God to my circumstances. I no longer felt the joy and peace of the Lord. My heart was full of dread for the upcoming cycles and the very real, very terrible side effects!
But last week everything changed.
Last Wednesday I had the sincere joy of entering into the presence of the Lord with 200 of my closest sisters in Christ as Northeast Presbyterian Women’s Ministries presented an event called “Summer Sisterhood: Sisters set FREE!”. I was SO excited about this event because after our Spring Women’s Retreat the Lord impressed a clear vision on my heart for what He wanted this night to be. A night of worship, transparency and God Glorifying testimonies! We arranged for two amazing female leaders to lead our time of worship (check out Called Worship – Kerri & Carrie are incredible!). Three women shared powerful testimonies of how God gave them freedom in their lives, and we even enjoyed fellowship around a delicious meal. The night was all I could have envisioned and more, thanks to my Women’s Ministry Staff- Anne, Tara & Sharon and many volunteers, who executed the event beautifully! It blessed my heart to see and give hugs to so many of my precious sisters in Christ who have held my arms up during this time.
What made the difference? Fixing my eyes BACK on Jesus, my suffering Savior, the One who knows the depth of my pain, and the One who is greater than my pain. HOW did my eyes shift back to Jesus? Through
1) TIME in WORSHIP : allowing His truth and His character to wash over me as I corporately worshipped in song with my sisters in Christ
2) TIME in FELLOWSHIP with other believers: as Romans 1:12 says: being “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith”
3) TRUTH: of who God is through His Word (in this case through the testimony of my sisters in Christ. Each testimony was saturated with the Word of God)
4) TRANSPARENCY: admitting that I don’t “have it all together” all the time. This may be a scary thought to some considering I have been called to serve as the Women’s Ministry Director of a large church…but as I grow in my journey I realize the importance of being real and vulnerable. Often one persons transparency can mean freedom for another as we exit the shadows and understand that many struggle in the same way that we do.
The BIG IDEA – the takeaway- I in myself am SO very weak, but our God is SO very strong. And often His strength is manifested and channeled to us as we enter into authentic community with other believers. God could have “pulled me out of the pit” in anyway that He wanted- but He chose to use the Summer Sisterhood event at NEPC and my sweet sisters in Christ who ministered to me there. I needed to be surrounded by my army!
Find your army, ladies! The Lord wants us in authentic community with other women – we cannot do this life alone! And if you don’t have an army of sisters in Christ – we’d love to have you join our sisterhood at Northeast Presbyterian Women’s Ministries! (not a shameless plug, only sharing because they are a treasure of my heart and I want the world to know the love of these women!)
Part 2 to come -where I will share the one day where I felt the very weakest in my own flesh but witnessed God show up in a mighty way!
My fourth chemo was last Thursday, 7/16. That day went well although the meds they gave me made me very drowsy and I think I was a little glazed over for most of my conversations that day!
I went in again to the clinic on Friday for fluids, anti nausea meds, etc and had a home health nurse show me how to administer the same over the weekend. YES I actually (very carefully) gave myself meds through my port this weekend!
Today (Monday) I went back to the clinic (see a pattern here), to get more fluids, meds, etc. and I’m praising God to report that I feel GOOD! I even ate lunch and dinner (hallelujah!)
I will be back at the clinic on Wednesday for more of the same, plus my weekly herceptin infusion. I’m optimistic that maybe all these trips back to get hydrated and to get anti-nausea meds through my port (which work much better than oral meds), that this may be the secret to a more manageable couple of weeks.
THANK YOU for your prayers and for journeying with me, and for allowing me to be transparent!
His grace abounds,