Four years ago I was on staff at a church preparing for the celebration of Easter weekend. Each year from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday we would hold Forty Days of Prayer in a Prayer Room that had been built in the back of our sanctuary. During that season of Lent someone would be praying in the room twenty four hours a day. Some would sign up for an hour shift, some two or three. Some would sign up as individuals, some in groups.
The room held various stations to help facilitate your time of prayer. One could write, listen to music, paint or draw. There was a map on the wall to pray for different places across the globe, an entire wall where you could pin your own request for others to pray for. There was a desk, an alter and the place I always found myself, a cozy couch tucked away in the corner. It was home to soft fluffy pillows and fuzzy throws and had a space heater right next to it. I would often snuggle up with a devotional or my journal and spend moments in my own thought and then wait for Him to speak.
That year I found myself in the prayer room on March 14th. Towards the end of my hour shift I gravitated towards a table in the middle of the room that held a large bowl of note cards. Each little card had a verse on it. I reached in and pulled one out that read, Isaiah 43:2. I pulled out my bible and read the verse.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
I made a notation in my bible that I had found the verse on a card in the prayer room that day. That night at home I would also make a note in a devotional, adding I didn’t really want that verse and had looked at some other verses and wished I had pulled out one of those instead.
That would be one of the last times I was ever in the Prayer Room. Three months later Izzy would have a followup scan and the next day I would walk in requesting a leave of absence. That leave of absence would turn into the inevitable resignation I would require to care for Izzy during treatment.
Last Sunday, March 13th, I was reading before bed and I came across those notations on the March 14th page in my devotional. “In the Prayer Room tonight found card with verse Isaiah 43:2. Wished I would have gotten a different one like…” So, I grabbed my bible and flipped to Isaiah 43:2. Sure enough, there was a similar notation at the top of the page. As soon as I looked at Isaiah 43 I wondered why I had not spent more time in it for the title of the passage is: Israel’s Only Savior. I started reading and instantly my heart began to grow with excitement. Verse One: “…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Why have I not been reading this everyday of my life? Then as I read the passage given to me four years ago my mind instantly flashed back to the drawing Izzy had done of the leaf that never burned.
In the fall of 2013 while still in treatment she drew this image. She told me it was a leaf next to a bonfire and she was so excited about it. And then she told me that the leaf never went in the fire NO MATTER WHAT.
The more I remembered and the more I read the more excited I became. I kept reading. Chapter 44: Israel the Chosen. For the first time in a very long time I had hope.
The next morning, March 14th, I woke much like I do everyday but there was a little deposit of something new in me. We got Carter on the bus and then Izzy and I headed to her regular pre-chemo appointment in Cincinnati. I drove through the rain in silence as she slept and my mind wandered back to all the things I had seen over the years. Questions that have no answers raced through my head and by the time I pulled into the parking garage I was a nervous wreck. It was as if I had re-accepted that the doctors had told me my daughter had a cancer with no cure and she would be on chemotherapy all of her life until it no longer worked. As if the hope from the night before had been washed off by the rain during the two hour drive.
We walked down the long corridor of the hospital, got checked into our room and soon they accessed her port and drew her labs. The nutritionist stopped by, our care manager and finally our oncologist made his way in. After a few minutes of chatting he got serious.
“I want to talk to you about something,” he said sitting on his stool, spinning from Izzy back to me. I didn’t like it when he got serious. I just looked at him and he continued. “I think we might want to consider stopping chemo.”
I. Froze. He had said we never would. He had told me she would be on it forever. “I don’t understand. Why would we do that?”
“Well she’s doing really well and she’s stable. She’s been stable since we started,” he said building his case. I just stared at him blankly with shock and fear and joy and more fear. He could see the uneasiness in me, “Why do you hesitate to stop, Molly?”
I started putting pieces of words together that I’m not convinced only made partial sense, “You said we would never do that. I said I wanted that and you said we wouldn’t. And the spot is inactive but there are nodules and and no one seems to know what these nodules are. I’m worried about the nodules.”
“I’m optimistic. I have to be optimistic in what I do and right now I don’t have any reason to believe those nodules are of concern,” he said.
“Well I’m pessimistic and you know that,” I said laughing. He laughed too but then he said the thing I wasn’t prepared for. The thing I could have never been prepared for.
“Aren’t you a person of faith?,” he asked and there was silence. Did my doctor just ask that? What was happening? But I continued breathing.
“I am,” I said without hesitation.
“Well I know you have way more faith than me. So maybe with my optimism and your faith…”
March 14th 2012 the Lord gave me a verse. I’m not so sure I would have been ready to step out in faith like I was on March 14th, 2016 without it. Or without the picture that Izzy drew in the middle of it all. Perhaps the Lord knew that and perhaps that is why He allowed for it to play out like this. Because now these pieces that have been lining up over the years have prepared me to step out to a place my emotions would have otherwise prevented me from going.
Izzy did start chemo today but in two weeks she will go back for quarterly scans. If those scans show that she is still stable we will stop chemo and just wait and see. I will tell quite honestly that I am terrified. But I will also tell you that I am hopeful.
Blessings on you today and LIFE for Izzy.