December 10, 2010

Give Praise Where Praise is Due

On Friday I had another doctor's appointment. There have been a flurry of them recently because my doctor is anxious to get me back on my chemo regimen. However, the platelets in my blood count have not been cooperating. It would seem that they hate the chemo as much as I do. I am on a significantly lower dose of chemo than they want me to be, and I have had an extra week to recover from the last round - but my platelets keep dropping, which means they cannot treat me.

This could be frustrating, especially if Krang were to take advantage of this respite to grow larger and take over my brain. Nonetheless as I sat in the doctor's office I felt joy washing over me like a flood. This might sound twisted, but I don't really care. As I received bad news my whole body felt alive and my spirit was overwhelmed with the goodness of God.

I ended up spending close to half an hour sitting and waiting in that office by myself, watching nurses pass in the hall. But as I waited the joy in me grew and grew. I said numerous times lately that I have been waiting for some kind of confirmation of what to do with myself in this season of my life. As I have waited I have pondered a number of different options that interest me. Here are a few:

- focus on music using the "unprofessional" route and taking piano lessons again - then going on to teach (a few months until I'm certified)
- study music professionally by going back to school for a Bachelor of Music (four years...ahh, too long!)
- I already have a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition so I could go back to school and get a Bachelor of Education to teach science (two years... easier, but do I really want to teach?)
- I could work at some job (endless...sigh!)
- I could get my Registered Dietitian status by doing an unpaid practicum at various locations around Winnipeg (nine months... do-able, but I have a strong dislike for the way nutrition is applied in North America)
- I could go for my Masters in Nutrition (two years... but the idea of doing research on a single compound or body system for two years makes me shudder. My university doesn't work on development issues so much as scientific research - not my cup of tea)

As you can see, I feel a bit like I just graduated from High School, except that now I know more about myself and my interests.

On Friday as I sat in the doctor's office, something came to me and an overwhelming peace came with it. Something that seems impossible, but would be a step of faith.

Before I go there, let's just step back a minute. I don't know how many people remember the blog entries I wrote back in July and August, shortly after we discovered I have a "Krang". But there was an entry back on July 29 called What is it like to be Grieved? In that entry I outlined the approach James and I felt God was asking us to take. We felt strongly (and have continued to feel), that to deny the presence and (according to medicine) the inevitability of death in my situation would be to deny ourselves the opportunity to uniquely experience God. I believe that if we will seek God, even on the road to death, he will meet us in amazing and unexpected ways that are not open to us in a life filled with health.

This is not just physical death. In the last few months I have seen much death in my life. Death of my dreams and ambitions. Death of my self-confidence and my physical appearance. Death of my likeable personality. Death of "meaningful" occupation of my time.

One of the most difficult deaths in my life has been the death of incorrect beliefs. For example, I see now that I have subconsciously believed that I somehow need less of God's grace because I am a good person and have "succeeded" in life. Well, my "success" was taken away in the blink of an eye. What does it matter that you have University education, a happy marriage, wonderful children, fulfilling work etc, when death looms at age 26?

Other than some nice sounding obituary and a teary funeral, who will think of my successes after I am dead? Will I go to heaven and appear before God and hear him say, "Good job Jessica, you got an A+ in Human Anatomy and Physiology back in 2002." Or how about, "Jessica, because you bit your tongue and did not scream at James when he made you angry, you will make a wonderful addition to heaven." No. None of it. When I go to heaven, God will see me standing before him with my Death Warrant stamped "Paid in Full by Jesus", and that will be my ticket in.

I now realize that I have believed I need less of God's grace than others I know because I have spent my life making the "right choices". I never would have been able to recognize this in myself before. We all know people whose lives seem hopeless because they have made bad choices. It just seems like some people have so many problems that nothing could ever help them. The stripping away of all my "rewards" has shown me that nothing makes me good enough for God--not even spending a lifetime making the right choices! It was altogether too easy to strip me down to the same "level" as those people whose lives seem hopeless. In a matter of moments I had as many problems as they do, despite 26 years of making right decisions. All the things that I worked so hard for have no meaning when death feels so close. I have received many "rewards" for making good decisions, but the I may not have the lifetime I need to enjoy them.

Anyway, all of that was a side note to what I am trying to say (I haven't had a good rambling blog in a while!). If James and I had not chosen to embrace the potential that death lies at the end of this journey, I would have missed out on the Death of Me, as well as the deep revelation that my salvation lies only in Jesus Christ, in whom I live and move and have my being. Life does not come from my successes or my obedience. Life comes from Jesus Christ.

So far, Death has been a huge part of my journey. But in that blog entry back in July, I wrote that there were two aspects to this journey. Death was one aspect that could not be denied, but the other aspect was Faith, Hope and Love. I have talked a lot about Faith and there is a lot of Love, but there has not been much for Hope in my life. As I have walked through the "Valley of the Shadow of Death" these last months I have never been able to bring myself to think about the future.

Friday as I sat in the doctor's office, with sudden and unexpected feelings of joy, peace, and gratitude, I felt as though God had suddenly given me the gift of Hope. He brought to my attention a dream that I have had for the last eight years. I have written it off as impossible, and therefore not pursued it. Naturally, it seems even more impossible now than it did before...

I want to be a doctor!

This is long goal - so long that it exceeds the 4.5 year life expectancy that has been thrust upon me by Krang. This is more ambitious than any of the other options above that I have considered (and I wrote most of them off as too ambitious). But having seen so much death in my life, I see this dream very differently now.

It doesn't matter if I succeed or not - if I become a doctor or not. It doesn't matter if I die somewhere in the process or if medical schools don't accept students who have a "Krang" that might kill them before they graduate. Pursuing my dreams is not what gives meaning to my life. Jesus gives meaning to my life. Whether I believe it or not, he is the force that sustains me. I think that the purpose to pursuing this dream would be to provide a crucial balance to my life. So far it has been important for me to walk the path of death and allow myself to be prepared for death. However, pursuing this dream would be to walk the other side of this journey and allow myself to be prepared for LIFE. Physically speaking, I don't know which one lies around the bend in my near future, but I realized on Friday that I need to ready for both.

I also realized that this is not something that is unique to me. In the Christian life we are called to walk both in death and in life. To die with Christ so that we can live with Christ.

Practically speaking, my Nutrition degree can be used as an undergrad to enter Medical School. However there are a few courses I need to take to get in that were not required for Nutrition. So, we'll leave medical school for later. For now, I will get those courses. When I finish those, we'll look at the next step.

In the meantime, speaking of encouraging developments, some of my hair is starting to come back. Slowly but surely a soft baby fuzz is coming back in the less radiated areas. It is extremely soft and I find myself wanting to touch it all the time. But then I get scared that I'll make it fall out again if I touch it too much. Its like receiving a symbol of restoration. What a beautiful thing.


Sue said...

I am excited about your plans, but I have to admit I was hoping you would say you want to write a book--The Death of Me could be the title. You have learned so much on this journey, and have written so well about it on your blog. I think a book would be well-received in Christian and non-Christian communities.

derrydown said...

Good, good, good!

Cindy said...

Wow! That is exciting!

Larissa said...

good for you!!! so very happy for you and your decision! and thank you for once again being open in your faith (and hope!)!!