It is supposed to be the month of LOVE. The month of roses and candy. The month of Cupids and Hearts and all things pink and red. To me, it is a month of change. A month of reflection.
To be honest, I am a pretty reflective person anyway. There is not a year that ends that I do not take stock of where God has brought me, who He has brought into my life and how He chose to weave it all together.
But February is different.
In February, 7 years ago now, my life changed dramatically. I found myself growing up fast, falling to my knees and screaming until I felt every beath had escaped my lungs. I found life being placed in my hands while death passed by far too close. I learned that faith was not an emotion I could hug but was a rock solid commitment to trust in God. I learned that in the most broken part of my heart, God could come in silently and begin to hear my silent screams and heal the fear.
In fairness, the changes took place from January to April…but in February it just seemed to be the peak of everything. January of 2004 came the news that my mother’s cancer had returned. Somehow, the sentence itself did not affect me at first. When I was 13 years old, my mother had first been diagnosed with Ovarian cancer. I was young but during that summer I learned to grow up quickly. I learned to take on the task of watching my younger brother and sister. I learned the art of keeping them distracted when my mother was sick from chemo. I found the ability to sit with my mother and brush her hair out as the effects of the drugs took over her body. I learned to trust myself in those months.
This time was different. I was a mom to an 18 month old little guy and I was about a month from delivering my second child. This time I could not be the protector for my siblings. I could not sit on her bed and hold her hand as she cried. For the first time, I was terrified because I could not trust myself to fix it.
Thus became the stage for the biggest faith moments of my life.
I sat in a small room with family as the doctor walked in that February day. I felt calm…as calm as an 8 month pregnant woman could be! I knew her doctor well. I flashed back to sitting on the couch in his office as a little girl. I asked the question ‘is my mom going to be alright’. I have no idea what his response was that day to this girl who desperately wanted things to be ok. In some ways, I felt like that little girl again, desperately wanting to ask if everything would be ok. But he wore the answer in his eyes before he ever opened his mouth. I found out in that little room that my mom was sick….very sick. I think I cried. I can’t remember. There was so many flashes from the past that pulsed through my head and heart that they both began to ache.
At first, I felt like we could plan our attack. Chemo worked last time so I felt sure it would work again. With a battle plan in my head, I felt sure we would see this through as just another bump in her physical history. I could not have been more wrong.
And yet, in all of this, God brought us Joel. This sweet little blonde haired, blue eyed boy who was innocent of all the fear and turmoil surrounding him. A little boy who was depending on me to nurture and love him. As it turns out, Joel became a reason for my mom to make it through each day. She only saw him in pictures during the first few months because it was too risky to allow her to hold him.I have a beautiful picture of her holding Joel when he was 3 months old at his baby dedication. It was maybe only the second time she got to hold him. She is in red with a straw hat on covering her head that was bald. And yet, it is the most precious picture of the two of them to me.
And it would be beautiful if the story ended there. It doesn’t. It involved many more months of tears and set backs. It would involve septic blood and blood transfusions. It would involve her losing the ability to eat solid food for over a month. It would involve a moment when the doctor came into the same small waiting room where my Dad and I sat alone and we would be told the chemo is not working like we had hoped.
It would involve me crying out to God to give me strength to love my mom and dad. It would be understanding the idea that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and reminding myself that He never takes a vacation…even when I felt alone.
Mostly, it involved me finding out that what I had believed in all these years (myself) was as solid as shifting sand.
Amazingly, my mom is still with us. And as hard as the months were, I would never trade them. I know that without them, I would not be who I am today. Without that time, I would not have learned to seek God. It wasn’t about asking God to heal my mom. It wasn’t about asking him to make things right. It was about learning to lean on him in my weariness and trust that He had a plan…even when I could not see it.
I expect that every February for the rest of my life, I will find myself reflecting.