I am raising my hands, but they are shaking.
I am trying with all my might to pray, but through my lack of words, God tells me to rest.
And tonight, I am reminded of two friends who told Moses to rest and held his arms high when he could not do it for himself.
Late Night Thoughts
It is 4am as I write this post, and I have been up all night thinking about what is on my heart to say. My plan was to write it out during a normal hour of the day. However, my body had other ideas.
After a 10-day break from treatment due to my crazy liver numbers, tonight was my first injection of my chemo drug in over a week. In the past, my side effects have worn off after several treatments. But with my body getting back to normal during this break, the drug hit me really hard tonight. I have not slept at all, and I have been shaking with fever (I am seriously considering going to get gloves to warm my hands while I type! Please excuse any typos… it is hard to use a computer when I can’t hold my hands still!)
Tonight as I lie in bed, wishing I was asleep and ticking down the hours until I need to get up, God is speaking to me through a lesser-known story from the Old Testament. I have not thought about this story in years, and I know that God whispered it into the darkness of my room (and the darkness of my “bad days”) for a purpose.
This story often gets overshadowed by the story just before it. You see, earlier in Exodus 17 is the famous miracle of Moses striking a rock with his staff. Water began to pour out into the desert, giving the Israelites the means to survive that harsh environment.
Ok, I get it. That’s a big deal, and it should get a lot of attention. But right after it comes another incredible story. The Israelites were at war, and things were not going well. Moses trusted God (who had performed several miracles through that man and staff) so much that he and two friends stood on a hill looking over the battle, and Moses raised the staff high in the air. He trusted completely that this would aid in the fight.
The tide began to turn, and the Israelites could taste victory. But when Moses lowered the staff, they were pushed back. He raised the staff once more, deciding he would not lower it until they had won this battle for the Lord.
As anyone who has done an arm work out can understand, his arms grew weak and shaky. He couldn’t keep this up much longer! This is what happened next…
Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle. (Exodus 17:12-13)
People often call the fight against cancer a “battle.” I committed from the very beginning that I would fight this battle without losing sight of the goodness of God and the power of prayer. It was easier in the beginning. Surgeries and appointments were happening so quickly and frequently (Thank you, Jesus! That quickness may have saved my life!) that I had very little time to grow tired.
God Sent You
I am in a different phase now. I am tired. I am weary. I mentioned in my last post that there are some chemical imbalances that are causing depression on certain days. On these dark days, I sometimes sit before the Lord and can’t come up with words to say.
So many of you have held my arms (and my family’s arms!) throughout this season. When we were shaking and our strength was waning, God sent you. I am overwhelmed by this reminder, and I have cried quite a bit tonight. I’ve cried over my same fears that have haunted me since September, but I’ve also cried tears of overwhelming thankfulness as I’ve remembered each of you.
It started with my family and closest friends (ok, these friends might as well be family… from now on they are included!) on the day a doctor took one look at my arm and told me, “You need to prepare for melanoma.” The praying began, although often in secret since I did not go public for quite a while. While I was not weary yet, my family stood ready to lift my arms. They lifted their arms as well, praying on my behalf, fighting the battle with me.
Next came the incredible staff of the Department of Student Life at Anderson University. I shared with my team of RDs, then my RA staff, then the broader student life community. They prayed. They lifted their hands and prepared to take over for my trembling arms whenever I needed it. It’s like I was surrounded by countless rings of raised hands, ready to take over at a moment’s notice! And to be honest, I’m sure they were supporting me much more than I even knew.
One of my RAs played collegiate volleyball for AU over the last two seasons. She asked if she could share my news with the team so they could pray. Soon the sweet and fierce volleyball team was lifting my arms. They were some of the first students (other than my RAs) to know, and they came alongside me just when I needed it.
Next, the Vice President who overseas both Student Life and Athletics shared the news in a meeting with the coaches of all of our NCAA teams. I have been incredibly blessed with friendships with this amazing group of people. It is so clear when you are near them that they share the same passion for loving students and helping them grow that we have in Student Life. We are truly one team (at least most of the time! ha!), and I love working with them. As soon as Dr. Baker told them the news, my email and text inboxes filled with messages of concern and promises to pray. They began to lift my hands.
**It is now 4:45am, and my fever just broke! I have never been so thankful to be covered in sweat! No more shaking (hopefully!)!!**
Around the beginning of October, after we received the news that the melanoma had spread to my lymph nodes (but we didn’t know to what extent yet), I went public with the diagnosis. I shared with the RAs of all the other buildings at AU, the residents in my particular hall, and then posted my first blog to social media. There was such an incredible outpouring of support, and I felt truly loved. So many people joined the task of holding up my arms. Thank you!
About a week later, our women’s soccer team surprised me on Faculty/Staff appreciation night. I was invited to join one of my residents who plays soccer. Usually each player selects a different faculty/staff member. As they called my name over the loud speaker, ALL ELEVEN of my residents who play soccer linked arms in a line with me in the center. Overwhelmed does not begin to describe it. Thank you, soccer girls, for surprising me, praying for me and holding up my shaking arms!
When I came home from my next surgery, I was welcomed by this sign hung in my apartment (those sneaky RAs with their master key!!) Thank you to Martin Hall for leaving me so many words of love and promises to pray! You held up my tired arms!
Just before Christmas Break, there was a knock on my apartment door. I was escorted into the lobby, and standing before me was our baseball team! What an incredible surprise! They presented me with a signed jersey and bat, but even more special to me was their promise to pray and offer any support they can. THANK YOU, baseball team! You are another ring of raised hands, helping me through this time! I couldn’t do it without your prayers!
Also right before break, some more of my favorite guys in the world joined in to help raise my arms. The Avanti Boosters Social Service Club contacted me to ask if they could help. Back when I was a student, I loved serving as an honorary female member of the otherwise all-male club (a “Booster Belle”). I loved the Boosters when I was a student, and I still love them now. At their recent event on campus called Encore, they took up a collection to help pay for my medical bills. HOLY SMOKES. What an incredible blessing!
As I began my chemo treatments, my sister put out a secret plea on Facebook, asking for her friends to send me notes of encouragement in the mail. My sweet friend Gayla spread the word through the AU community as well. Imagine my surprise when, as I sat in my chemo chair, my dad showed up to the cancer center with a massive stack of letters and cards. I wish I had taken a picture!! There had to be more than 25 cards that first day… and the next… and the next… you get the idea. These cards have continued for nearly two months now! I am so grateful! Each time I open one and receive your blessings and promises for prayer, my arms rest lighter and lighter on the support that you have sent.
And the incredible thing is that I have never met so many of you. Cards poured in from all over the country and world, from close friends and complete strangers. Once again, I am overwhelmed. So many of you are battling with and for me… “Thank you” is not enough!
One group that blessed me in particular in this time was our men’s basketball team. About a week into my chemo, as my liver numbers started to go crazy, I received this stack of letters, one from each member of the team and the coaches:
They were incredibly sweet, from the guys whom I know well all the way to young men I’ve never met. More promises of prayer. Offers of support. Thank you for lifting my exhausted arms for me!
One more time… THANK YOU!
These words are not enough, but they are all I have: Thank you for fighting for me and lifting my trembling hands when I cannot.