I LOVE life! I love to laugh and talk and hug. I am overwhelmed by the beauty of molecules and sunsets and snow falling and even spiders (oh their incredible webs). I live life out loud, with authentic transparency that can be beautiful and real, and messy and frightening, and mad-frustrating, especially for my beloved TonyHoney. (And crazy-frustrating for my kids. LOL)
My story has taken a shocking, terrifying turn, out of the blue. I went to the doctor with a small, dry cough, mildly concerned about some contagion because I'd had the cough for 10 days. I wanted to hold a new baby friends of ours had, and share a hotel room with a friend on an upcoming road trip. The quick doc visit lead to a chest x-ray, then a CT scan, then an MRI and lung biopsy. Monday after Thanksgiving, a diagnosis of Adenocarcinoma. Lung cancer. (I have been a militant non-smoker all my life.) 12 hours after that first call I was being PET scanned, then an MRI of my brain and brain stem. 8 hours later the call that this has already spread to my brain. Less than 6 weeks ago I felt great. Today I feel really good - my physical discomfort is currently due to the steroids they put me on the day of the MRI results. But I believe the s+#@ storm-cometh, and I'm about to feel reaalllyyy bad, reaallyy quickly. And I'm TERRIFIED of losing cognitive ability. Sigh
There is a MUCH bigger story here, though. It is so key to all that I am, I would v o l u n t e e r for this turn of events if it means you are here reading this and you are able to hear the import of what it means, at some point in your life.
Tuesday, March 19, 1992
I found myself walking in to a basement classroom of a church in our town, to join a class. Let me be clear. I didn't believe in God, I was utterly disdainful of Christianity and my perception of its judgmental hypocrisy, and for the people I believed to be weak sheep that called themselves Christians. I was smart, capable, already deeply battle-scarred from growing up with an unstable father, and navigating life with strength and my version of integrity.
A voracious reader, and scientist at heart (wanted to be an astronaut or electron microscopist growing up), I read anything and everything . My best friend, who was a Christian (I put up with that), sent a fictional book for me to read about spiritual warfare. This Present Darkness, by Frank Peretti. The concept of spiritual warfare I read there really resonated with me (minus the silly god/devil component). I wanted to study the subject, which is how I found myself walking into this class. I'd already had to work my way through the horror of realizing it was a Bible study, and then putting on my big-girl undies and be the scientist who practiced what I preached - it would be disingenuous to dismiss God evidence from my fact-gathering mission. Darn-it.
The co-worker invited me on Wednesday. Wednesday night I bought a Bible and the study, Lord Is It Warfare, by Kay Arthur, and Thursday morning I headed in, confident in my ability to ward off brain-washing tactics that could suck me in to their narrow god-world. Cement block walls, chairs with attached desks, and about 30 women. Many wearing dresses. Some moms with teenage daughters, one pair in matching dresses. Bibles with covers with lace, and worn little notes and bookmarks sticking out of those Bible's. My first thought was, ewwwww, followed by an overwhelming compulsion to get OUT of there. I remember thinking how freaked out I felt. And how angry. With no logic or reason. It was so strong that I started turning to leave to go home. But the co-worker had spotted me and called my name. Followed by 2 other co-workers it turns out attended the class as well. Sigh. My pride would not allow my irrational emotional distress to embarrass me into leaving, so I stayed.
The class leader, a petite woman named Sandy, stepped to the front of the room and called all of us with the gentlest, most southern accent I'd ever heard. And I thought, oh good grief. If I believed in hell, this is what it would look like! Sandy said, "Lay-deez, let us praaay. Dear sweet Jee-sus, our Lord El-royy..." My eyes flew open. Our Lord Elroy??? This must be some kind of cult!!! Which was all I needed. Yippee, I've got a great reason to RUN. I quickly scanned the room to make sure all eyes were obediently closed, and reached to gather my things to slip out before the prayer ended.
In that instant, the room began dissolving into a brilliant white light. I saw Sandy's lips moving as she prayed, but the sounds in the room, including her voice, faded out as this light infiltrated everything. I thought my eyes were having trouble adjusting. My next plausible explanation, because of the retina-searing blinding white light, was there had been a nuclear explosion and we were about to die. I was terrified and braced for the impact. The destruction I expected didn't come. Instead, a sudden lack of anything except the light was all there was. I thought, "Am I dead? Could it have been that painless?" My awareness shifted. I realized not only a lack of substance, but also a lack of fear. The peace and absence of fear was tangible. The light was tangible - I could feel it. That light was ASTONISHING. There were no walls, no ceiling, no floor. There was no fear, no pain, no B A D. I'm a researcher at heart. I want to know the "why" about everything, but here - none of that mattered. This place was the beginning and the end. All answers were here. The hole in my soul was perfectly and completely filled - a hole I was oblivious to before now.
I clearly "heard" a voice declare three things:
God is real. Jesus Christ is His Son. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God.
This was a declaration of absolute truth, from the only source of truth. My soul knew it. No questions, no concerns, no decisions. Truth. I agreed matter-of-factly with each truth as it was declared. And just as quickly, I saw my sins for the first time - as God sees them. By “man” standards, I was a good person. By God standards, I was not. My shame and grief were paralyzing. I was horrified to the depths of my soul. Before I drowned in that shame, though, I became aware of Jesus Christ. I understood He had paid the price for my sins. Jesus, sinless and guiltless, accepted my unfocused, often flippant disregard for life as God designed it, and paid the price with His LIFE. He DIED so that my fellowship with God could be restored. Jesus did this long before I even got it that there was a God, much less that I was sinning against Him!
Amazing love. Acceptance. Peace. Joy. A total lack of condemnation. So clearly these thoughts came on the heels of my shame and grieving. I felt these truths so completely! I knew I was God’s treasured creation. My life had just been eternally redeemed, based on the simple act of believing Christ and allowing Him to take the lead.
What felt like hours or lifetimes were really just moments. Suddenly the room came back in to focus. The tangible silence rushed back to Sandy, whose voice became audible again, just as she was completing the prayer. My surroundings were back to normal, but I was eternally changed. Because of that astonishing experience, I have spent my last 27 years loving this amazing life I'm privileged to live, while longing to go Home to the eternity I know is waiting. I am thankful for Jesus Christ. I KNOW He died on the cross to take away the punishment for my sins – so that I could have eternal life. And I am thankful for our merciful God, who transformed an arrogant, selfish, heart like mine, and gave me the opportunity to live my life in the service of my risen King!
If you’ve never put your heart’s trust in Jesus as your Savior for whatever reason, I pray you’ll do that soon. I struggled through life with the perception that I was my own god. And it pales in comparison to the peace I have from knowing the real God - the lover of my soul. I’ve experienced a moment beyond these shadowlands, and it pierced me to my core. I bear witness to you, Praise God, our Messiah is risen, He is risen indeed!
If God gives me another 50 years here in this life I LOVE, with the people I LOOOOOVE, I will whoo-hoo happy dance and give Him all the glory. If He calls me Home in this hard thing, I will cry and plan and do everything possible to help my amazing tribe transition through this with love and grace and joy in the grieving. And I will learn to accept that my suffering can help them let me go if that time comes.
I am in a win/win situation. He knows my heart because He created it, and He lives in it. If He asked me, I would ask for time to process and plan and grieve and laugh and love well. I would ask to spend a little more time with the love of my life, knowing TonyHoney knows I also long to be with the Lover of my soul. God has granted me a gift of time. And He's given me the extraordinary gift of knowing Tony is His as well, and that we will only be separated for a measure of time here.
In Him! Heather 2 Corinthians 4:7-18!
I want to clarify about “Our Lord Elroy”. Later, I asked Sandy about that. She laughed out loud, then explained that the study they had most recently completed had been about the names of God. One of those names – ‘El Roi’ – in Genesis, was Hebrew for “God Who Sees“ but sounded like “Elroy” with her southern accent. LOL!