“Father, I feel you nudging me to write another post. I hear you and obey. Soften my heart and mind and help me to allow the Holy Spirit to speak through me, giving me the words and story you most want me to tell. In Jesus name, Amen.”
It may seem strange to see my posts now beginning with a prayer. For me, with the changes in my life, it makes more sense than ever. I want God to guide me and I want Him to know that I want his guidance. Prayer is my intentional way of letting Him know.
I feel compelled to write a bit about my story.
In 2014, I was diagnosed with breast cancer but prior to that I had been intentionally living a life that was taking me farther and farther away from God and my beliefs. My rational mind gave me all kinds of reasons which gave me permission to do this. The main reason was to satisfy my desire for happiness in my life. It didn’t matter where I looked, happiness was only temporary which just kept me searching for it until my life came to a screeching halt.
My diagnosis of breast cancer had not been a huge surprise. I had lived in denial over the lump for quite a while but life intervened in such a way as to make me finally take responsibility and have it looked into.
I handled this diagnosis like I did everything in my life. I got the information from the doctors I needed. Then I researched it to death. By the time the day of my first surgery arrived, I knew all the alternative treatments. What I could afford or not afford of those treatments and even knew the type of anesthesia and pain control medicines I should or should not take. This of course all happened after I was told by my surgeon who did the biopsy that I definitely had breast cancer but the most common and treatable kind. That day I sat in his office like a zombie, hearing and yet not hearing what he had to say and what he saw as my options.
You would think this diagnosis, the surgeries and treatment would have turned me back to God. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I prayed. I was angry. I was furious that this was happening to me when I had an 11 year old daughter to take care of. But it didn’t change my direction in regards to my relationship with Him. All it did was bring my life to a screeching halt. What I had been pursuing stopped completely. I had no direction other than to just get through this.
There were problems with chemo. After my third treatment complications threatened my life, so I stopped chemo and all treatments including their recommendation for radiation treatment. They recommended these things even though they had no proof I still had cancer in my body. The surgeries I went through and the tests they did of the lymph nodes and breast tissue indicated they got everything but they have no proof because there are no instruments strong enough to detect single cells of cancer. In fact, the devices they have today only detect cancer if it has begun to cluster where there are at least millions if not billions of cells. My last treatment was two days before Christmas in 2014 and since then there has been no since of cancer. This December will be 5 years of being cancer free. Five years seems to be a milestone for determining if someone is cured or healed from their cancer diagnosis. It doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t come back. It just means according to their statistics, the chances of it returning are lowered greatly. I don’t hold much stock in statistics. I seem to defy them all in some way or another, usually for the better.
In 2015, we decided to celebrate the end of my cancer treatments and started looking for a house to buy. We found one and bought it, moved in August 2015, and from all appearances it looked like life for me and my daughter was looking up. We were better off financially than we had been renting. Had a larger place than we had when renting. And we had plans to slowly improve our new home.
Then, January 2016 arrived in an unexpected and devastating way. I was informed that my position which I held for over 30 years was being eliminated and I was being laid off. This news hit me harder, much, much harder than my cancer diagnosis. It threatened the very foundation of my ability to take care of my daughter. I am the sole income earner. I get no child support. I have no other source of income. This news came to me and completely destroyed the foundation I stood upon that helped me feel safe and secure and positive in my belief that I could care for my daughter on my own. Every future my imagination could come up with ended up with us losing our new home and being thrown out on the street to live. I was terrified.
I had 8 weeks to find a job within the company but every job I looked into, I was told I did not qualify for even if I was willing to relocate me and my daughter using my own money. I came to realize this company had no intentions of keeping me on as their employee no matter how much they told me I could look for an internal job to transfer to. I started looking externally.
It looked like everything was falling into place with a new job I applied for. I was hired to start only 2 days after my layoff date. In a matter of 6 weeks, I had an emotional breakdown in the office and was unable to perform my job. At the advice of my doctor to take three months off, I had to quit since I was still in my probationary period. Prior to the breakdown, I was their top performer.
This breakdown added another layer to my terror. I had discovered the limit of what I could endure. My doctor prescribed medication to help. After three months I started applying for other jobs. I applied for all the jobs I knew I could do which were mostly a subset of the job I had been laid off from. I received no call backs. This went on for a year and in that time I had only two interviews. I lived that whole year in terror.
In May of 2017, I looked at my prescription and discovered what was supposed to be short term, I had now been on a year. I didn’t know where that year had gone. I couldn’t really remember it other than I had submerged myself into drawing, painting, mixed media, and ink. I loved that aspect of having all day to play in my art supplies. I went to my doctor, told him I didn’t want to be on the medication anymore but asked him to provide a prescription for emergencies when I felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. He did.
Finally, in July 2017, I was hired as a cashier earning minimum wage. My financial advisor said this would be enough to eliminate the shortfalls in my retirement. But I soon learned it wouldn’t be enough because of how much time it had taken for me to find a job. I lived that whole year off of my savings from my severance package. Working part-time at minimum wage also meant I would have to continue pulling money from my savings and reducing my retirement funds. I used the emergency prescription intermittently as I learned I could cope in my new job and then not at all when I realized I really enjoyed interacting with the customers. As a replacement I started to use GABA which was sufficient from then on when I needed something to calm my nerves, except in a few situations.
Almost a year later (April 2018, 2 years by now), I was still living in terror over my financial situation. I was still applying for jobs, hoping to find a full time job or a part-time job that would pay more but again no call backs or out of the one or two call backs I received that ended up in interviews, none ended up in any job offers.
I still could only see in my future, my daughter and I being thrown out of our house and living on the street if we couldn’t pay our bills. You might wonder why and think my imagination is extreme but it isn’t. Renting an apartment in our city isn’t any cheaper than the mortgage payment I have for our home, in fact it can be more expensive than a mortgage. Housing is in high demand in this fast growing city. Reasonable rent isn’t possible, at least not without ending up in some poverty ridden cesspool. This is the way I saw our life going and it was becoming more and more apparent that I had no control over this situation.
I lost hope.
I had no more dreams for our future other than just surviving from one day to the next.
Then on April 8, 2018, I heard very clearly that it was time to turn back to my roots but in a different way. Because, what I had relied on in my past had never worked for me. I had grown up in a Christian home, going to church each Sunday, and relying on Sunday school teachers, teen leaders, and pastors to tell me what I needed to know about God and the bible.
On April 8, 2018, I was told to pick up the bible and read it cover to cover so I could know the true God which was written about in His Word. I had nothing to lose, so I did it. I started at the beginning and started reading one chapter at a time. In time, I started to pray daily. I felt compelled to search for bible study methods which took me to bible study groups online and eventually to going to one church or another locally just to see if I would find any connection there. I haven’t really found any connection with a church yet. I have felt a connection to God during a Sunday service once or twice.
In my search to know more, I learned to turn EVERYTHING over to God. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Because my work schedule doesn’t leave very many Sundays available for me to attend church, when I pray to God I tell him, if he wants this to be part of my life, then he will need to make it happen. Which is how I usually approach everything, including my job/financial situation. If he wants me to have a new job, he will have to make it happen… and so forth.
It was interesting in regards to the job situation. I ran into some conflicting and aggravating situations with my manager at work some which caused me to take GABA. I let it go and let God take care of it. I saw her in turn have a situation happen which caused her to come to tears. This isn’t anything I wished for her, no matter how she treated me but I saw God’s justice in it. I desired another job, and so I would apply for job postings I knew I could do but always with the same result, no call back, or no job offer. All I heard was, “Stop, let it go. I’ll take care of it.” Everything pointed for me to just stop applying, to stop trying to force my way to a different job while I heard this voice saying, “if you do nothing, then you are proving you are just like all those people on welfare who just sit around, are capable of working but don’t even try. You are proving you are worthless.” It was hard to know what to do. Which one was right? I decided to trust in God (at least for a while) and see what he would do. I know that sounds terrible but that is what I decided to do. I was at the end of my rope.
I knew my trust would come slowly. I often felt like I was an awful child of God, or not truly a child of God. Did I have the right to test him like this? Was it a sin to do so?
Things happened in stages. First, I prayed, “God help me to become the person you desire for me to be.” I would pray this every day as I drove to work, and as I drove I would tell him how beautiful our world was that he had created. How amazing He is to create such a world where we can make so many things to help us to live more comfortable lives. The beauty of nature around me and how it all worked together. On and on, I would praise him.
I slowly started humming as I drove back and forth from work. Sometimes I would even hum as I worked, and sometimes it wasn’t even the music which played over the store’s sound system. I hummed what came spontaneously upon me. Sometimes words would form and I would sing them. I found myself humming and singing in the shower or as I washed dishes or did chores.
Slowly, I learned to turn EVERYTHING over to God, and to ask for his protection from the enemy which was trying to take everything away from me that God had given me throughout my life.
One day, I realized worry and fear became less and less a part of my life. I started to truly believe God would take care of us. As worry and fear became less, anxiety and panic became less and less. I realized my humming was actually a sign of happiness and also praise to God for how he had brought change to my life in such subtle ways.
I still had concerns financially and couldn’t visualize how God could change my situation unless I won the lottery, which yes, I do play, just in case he would want to provide for me through it. (it’s okay to laugh, I do, I’m grateful the lottery here does help pay for health care, education and other services needed across the province)
Then during this time of not applying for jobs, and just letting go of it all, giving it all over to God, I prayed, “God, if you want me to have another job, then you will have to provide it.” I don’t know how long it was after that prayer, but I do know it wasn’t more than a couple of weeks when, at work, in our lunch room, there was a notice stating that the pharmacy was hiring, and no experience was necessary.
Should I? Shouldn’t I? What was I supposed to do?
I prayed. “God, do you want me to apply for this job? If so, you have to give me a sign I can not doubt. You know me. I doubt everything. I see both sides of any sign. A sign can mean, yes go for it, or it could mean, no don’t go for it and I could see the same message for one sign. I need something I cannot doubt.” The very next day was my day off. I woke up around 4:30am in extreme pain. It was the pain I had experienced from my 3rd chemo treatment that made me stop taking chemo. Well, it was part of the reason. The subsequent issues I had following that pain were the main reason for stopping chemo, that being, I was unable to eat or drink anything but tiny sips of water for a week.
Back to my story… I woke in pain. I knew it was from over production of stomach acid which was what was the issue before, so I took some tums, hoping it would help. Two hours later I was still in a lot of pain. I knew a walk-in clinic would open in an half hour. I woke my daughter asked if she wanted to go with me, no, she was too tired, so I went alone. I had taken two more tums hoping in that half hour it would help more. They did a bit but not enough and I wanted to make sure my self-diagnosis was right.
To make a long story short, it was the same, I ended up with a prescription which made me go to the pharmacy. I couldn’t deny the message. I put in for the job. I, of course, ran into some opposition. My manager wasn’t happy. She probably opposed it and discouraged me as much as she could without outright telling me she wouldn’t let me transfer. In the end, I gave her a copy of the transfer paper and handed the other copy to the other person in the office who was handling the process. Everyone else was excited to learn I wanted to work in the pharmacy. But I left the office feeling like it wasn’t going to happen.
The next day, circumstances happened where I ended up having a discussion with the store manager. The discussion had nothing to do with my transfer request but at the end he told me they were going to make my transfer happen. I was ecstatic!
The day after that I was told I would transfer officially on the 19th.
I have known my whole life that when things are meant to be, they happen quickly, easily and sometimes with the speed of a locomotive. That is what happened in this case. I handed in the transfer paper on 6May and on 12May the store manager came to me and asked if I was okay transferring that day (a week ahead of schedule) because the pharmacy was in dire need of someone now. I said, “sure no problem. I would be happy to.” And it was made so that very day.
I have been in pharmacy ever since, learning to be a pharmacy assistant. I don’t make any more money right now though the possibility does exist for getting more hours. Every day I work, I am filled with exceeding joy. I am left with no doubt that this is God’s plan for me. I am trying not to read into where this will take me. I am learning to let go of my financial concerns and just hold tight to God’s plan for me and always look to him in ALL things. In doing so, I get a sense of comfort I have never felt before.
I can see Him working in the background on other possibilities, they give me hope. Hope I have not had in over three years. I see his handy work in this new job. Since starting it I have worked only one Sunday. I work fewer days but no less hours than I did as a cashier so, it feels like I have more time for my studies and reading.
I continue to read my bible every day. I finished Zechariah this morning which means only 1 more book and I’ll have finished the Old Testament. I have been looking forward to starting the New Testament and learning about Jesus. I can’t tell you how excited it makes me feel.
Today or tomorrow, I will complete the “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way” bible study I mentioned in my previous post.
I started Proverbs 31 & Bible Women from Robin Sampson’s bible study and journaling class. I start lesson 3 today or tomorrow. In just the first two lessons, I am finally connecting with how I can study and journal about the Word of God. It is exciting to use my artistic skills along with my studying the Word.
I am still handwriting Psalms. I’m up to Psalm 103. I don’t just handwrite it. I, also, type it out in a digital journal using the NLT version and the CJB version. I learned about the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) from Tom Bradford’s Old Testament Survey class on Torahclass.com. When I read the CBJ version, I get a more positive feel from scripture than I do when I read the KJV, NIV or NLT versions. I type the NLT and CJB versions side-by-side, sort of creating my own parallel version. I like being able to compare the two versions side-by-side. I have room to add graphics so when something grabs my attention and I feel called to add something visual, I will insert graphics which helps me to connect with the scripture. Nothing too elaborate because with everything else, I don’t have the time. My plan though is to go through each book of the bible, creating my own digital version which I can then use in my deeper studies, probably using the inductive study method.
I don’t know if you caught on to what happened over the past month. I have had two major prayers answered for me:
1. a new job
2. more Sundays free for attending church, God’s way of letting me know he does want me to attend church, I just need to find one that fits
There are numerous other prayers which have been answered so indirectly, I have yet to really recognize all of the ones which have been answered. I feel God working towards transforming me into the person he desires for me to be. I also feel God working towards transforming my life into what he had always intended for it to be.
He is building my trust and faith and not demanding it be given completely or fully upon his demand. I think this is important for me, as well as, others to understand. God wants us to willingly trust him and have faith in him. He isn’t about forcing us to do what we don’t want to do. I just had to see that he will be who he says he is and do what he says he will do. This is what builds my trust and faith in him.
I also have to be willing to let go of MY expectations of what he will do. In other words, I can’t make him or demand he provide the results I want. I have to be willing to accept his choices for me. For instance, if I could only visualize myself in an administrative job and that is the only job I wanted, it doesn’t mean that is the job God wants for me. I had to let go of all job possibilities and let God choose for me. This really was the hardest thing for me to do. I don’t relinquish control easily. God knew I needed time to learn how to do this and I think too he knew I would need extreme circumstances to get me to the point where I could.
There is one thing that comes to my mind periodically, these past few weeks. As I was reading the last two chapters in “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way”, it came to mind again. Sometimes, we are so focused upon ourselves that when things happen we perceive them as a personal affront to ourselves. That God, or the enemy is doing this personally to us. If we step back, we may discover what is happening is a side effect of something someone else, someone who is close to us, needs to learn. I find, I am often so focused upon my own suffering I don’t see someone else standing right next to me is suffering too or that what I’m going through effects them too.
When I was going through my cancer treatment, dealing with the pain and discomfort of the surgeries and the chemo treatments, my daughter was right there beside me. I knew she felt helpless and didn’t know what to do for me but what I didn’t know until much later was how afraid she was to go to sleep at night. That something might happen. That I might need her at night and she not know it. She felt safe to sleep in the day when I was awake. She suffered through this time with me but in such a different way and so silently on her own. When I look at it now, though I was the one diagnosed with cancer and felt this was happening to me, it might have happened to me in order for my daughter to learn something she needed to learn. Yes, we both had something to learn from the situation but maybe my suffering was required in order for her to learn.
When you find yourself in a difficult situation, look around, see who is standing next to you. Maybe your suffering is what the other person needs in order to learn something God needs for them to learn. Maybe it will lead to their salvation.
Wow, Patti, I’m always amazed at your eloquence and at the power in this story. Grace humming through your life. Thank you for your generosity in telling it.
Much love, Barbara
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Hi Barbara, Thanks for stopping by and reading and for your wonderful comment. I hope you are well.
My mom just went through the same thing with breast cancer. She is 75 though and can’t snap back. She is making it. I am writing out the Psalms too. Not as far as you! I have a problem with being faithful to the task. My salvation story is on my blog if your interested, watching the Gospel of John saved me. I’m so glad I got to meet you!
I will go check it out. I just got home from work, 8 straight hours of non-stop, on my feet, pharmacy assistant position and never feeling like I was getting ahead. I’m exhausted.. lol I took a break from writing out the Psalms and want to get back to it. I’m glad to meet you too!