This post is really for me. For my own reminiscing and processing.
So I'll just go ahead and say...
Welcome. Welcome to my thoughts. I wanted to jump back today - way back to about 3 years ago before this journey with my mom and cancer began. It's so crazy and awesome to be able to look back and see how the Lord was strategically working and secretly preparing me for the road ahead.
Let's go back to 2010 - the year I graduated college. I attended the University of Central Arkansas and graduated with a bachelors degree in Family and Consumer Science (a fancy way of saying Home Economics.... or my "MRS" degree.... or just everything wife and mom related). A couple years prior, I felt the Lord leading me in the direction of youth ministry and working with teenage girls. When I graduated, I already knew I would not be pursuing a job that directly used my degree. I knew the exact kind of job I wanted - to work at a church in youth ministry investing in girls' lives. And I also knew that I did not want to move back to my home town. I loved central Arkansas and all my friends there, and I did not want to leave.
The funny thing is, this very position I knew I so deeply desired, was about to open up at my home church in NW Arkansas. One of my dear friends, Jessica, was currently in the position, but was soon to be married and moving to Texas. A couple people had mentioned the idea to me - "You should work at the Studio!" - a few teenagers, my mom and a couple of her friends. I actually reached the point where I was annoyed at talking about it. I even told my mom one day, "Mom, I know you would love for me to move back and work at the church, but I really don't want to, so I'd rather not talk about it anymore. Sorry." I'm not normally a snobby, rude little girl, but I kind of let that one slip, and I felt bad saying it, but I still meant it.
Well, that summer (still 2010), I got to fulfill one of my biggest dreams... I went to Niger, West Africa for 2 months. I was BEYOND EXCITED for this opportunity. I couldn't wait to get over there and meet and minister to all the precious little children and make a big difference for Jesus! But....well....to make a really long story short.... it was one of the most miserable two months of my entire life. I mean really.
It. Was. Awful.
I won't go into all the details, but I have never felt so lonely, so purposeless and so unloved in all my life. My heart ached to be home and to be with the ones I knew loved and cared for me. I missed hugging the people I loved. I missed familiarity. I missed true friendship. Oh, I couldn't wait to get back to the place I called home. I couldn't wait to hug my mom and Tony.
While there, I skyped my family every single day - they were my sanity. One day, I tried to skype my mom while she was at work, but she wasn't there. So Hutch answered. (You can read details about my job and who Hutch is here). In this conversation, Hutch briefly talked to me about working at the Studio for a short period upon returning home. I'm sure I almost interrupted him before he could finish with a resounding YES! Oh, how the Lord had worked in and changed my heart those couple of months after graduation while I was so far away from home.
He knew I needed to be home for what the next three years would hold.
He knew I needed to be with my family.
He knew I needed to be right by her side.
Thank you, Lord, for making me so miserable and confused while I was in Africa so that I would be eternally grateful and so excited to move back to my hometown to be with my mom and my family these past three years. There is no place I would rather be.
Jump ahead about a year to probably about May 2011 when my best friend, Jessica (a different Jessica than the one who worked at the Studio before me) also moved back home after getting her Master's Degree. Jessica and I went to high school together, but didn't become best friends until college. She was my roommate for two and a half years. We were attached at the hip, and quickly became known as "Jorsica."
Well, for some reason, Jessica and I, in our many conversations together, would always end up talking about our moms and how much we love them and how we couldn't imagine our lives without them. It was "bizarre" how often this same conversation would take place. Really, I can't tell you how many times we talked about how wonderful and awesome our moms are and how much we looked up to them and adored them. Let me say again, we talked about our moms a lot. And for some reason, around this same time, I would find myself stepping back and just staring at my mom a lot. This may sound super creepy, but bear with me. I would be standing right with my mom watching her and listening to her conversation with someone, and it's almost like I would step out of my body and just gaze at her, like I was soaking in every second and just adoring her - thinking, "My gosh, I love her so much. She is so beautiful and such a godly woman. I want to be just like her." And then there were other times when I would find myself "randomly" thinking/praying to God - "Oh, God, if you were to ever to do anything to me, I just ask that you would please not take my mom. Please don't take my mom from me." I really had these thoughts and prayers come to mind often! I'm not making this up. And I had no reason to be thinking such things. My mom was perfectly healthy. No signs of any sickness or disease. It really was so strange.
And then we roll ahead to about December 2011. My mom starts experiencing some pain in her abdomen. Nothing major, but painful enough to get it checked out. The doctors thought maybe it was just a kidney stone. Nothing serious. So we went on our usual yearly trip to Passion - a huge Christian conference in Atlanta, GA where some of our favorite bands and speakers lead thousands and thousands of college students in worship and teaching.
My dates from these pictures might be throwing some of you off. So let me restate the timeline:
December 2011 - pain in abdomen - might be kidney stone
January 2012 - go to Passion conference
...Now we are back home. She still has pain in her abdomen, and they continue to run tests to try and figure out what it is. Doctors came to the conclusion that it was her gallbladder, and decided it best to have it removed. About a week before her surgery she started experiencing severe pain in the other side of abdomen as well. Long story short, doctors said it was diverticulitis, put her on an antibiotic and called it good. You can read all the details about this on my mom's blog here.
The morning came for her surgery. It was supposed to be a routine outpatient surgery - no big deal. So I woke up that morning, spent my usual time with the Lord, and as I was wrapping up I realized I almost forgot to pray about my mom's surgery. And I remember so clearly these words went through my mind - you can't just assume everything is going to be okay. I mean, those words were so vivid in my mind. I stopped and prayed for her immediately.
I went to work, and that morning we were having a prayer meeting with some moms. I kept my phone near me in case Tony needed to call for any reason. And then my phone rang. It was Tony. And somehow, before I even answered, it's like I was almost expecting the bad news. I don't remember all that he told me. I just remember him saying there had been some complications with the surgery, and it might be more serious than we had originally thought and that I needed to head their way. I dropped what I was doing, left the meeting immediately, and Maegan drove me to the clinic. I remember sitting in silence in her passenger seat thinking "What is going on?!"
We walked in, found Tony, and he broke the news. The doctor went in with a scope to check the diverticulitis and found
her intestines had adhered to her abdominal wall. The doctor wasn't even able to get to her
gall bladder and said that she could tell that there was a cyst on one
of her ovaries and she couldn't visualize the other one and that her
ovary looked abnormal. So she closed her up and transported her to Mercy hospital to
have some more tests run. She had some more blood work and a CT scan
and then we WAITED, and WAITED for 24 hours.
The doctor had told us initially she thought it might be ovarian cancer - I'll be honest, I had no idea what that meant. My life had been so wrapped up in this safe little bubble. I had heard of cancer, but apparently was too consumed in my safe little life to know just how serious and evil this thing called cancer really is.
The results finally came back, and I had to come to terms with the fact that the following statement was a reality in my life...
My mom has cancer.
No one ever expects to say those words. For those words to be their own reality.
But those words uninvitedly and unwillingly became my reality.
It is so strange to look back on all the events and thoughts leading up to that moment. How God sovereignly ordained my placement back at home. The frequent conversations I had with Jessica about our moms. My pleading with the Lord to not take my mom from me. The times I stared at her with such endearment and love. The voice that warned me, "You can't assume everything is going to be okay." It all led me to this very moment. I can't say I was prepared. Nothing can prepare you for when your feet are about to be knocked out from under you. I can only say He ordained it all. He led me home. He led me to my job. He led me to appreciate my mom for the woman she was. And for all that, I am so, so thankful.
Again, this post was really for my own remembering. I don't even know how to wrap it up. Thanks for bearing with me through all of this.
"This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it."