Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Entry #2: Cancer - My Lips Shall Praise You

My Lips Shall Praise You
By Connie Stevens


O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name, my soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. Psalm 63: 1-5

When our son, Jonathan, was diagnosed at age 27 with stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain, we were blindsided. While the harsh reality attacked us with brutal intensity, we clung to the hem of Jesus’ garment to get us through each day. After two and a half months of treatment, the local doctors told us he had 6-8 weeks to live. It was then we decided to take him half way across the country to a cancer treatment facility in Tulsa, OK.

Over the course of our cancer journey, we experienced a broad spectrum of emotions, everything from overwhelming joy to crushing fear. But on one event in particular, God engraved His signature.

One weekend while Jonathan and I were at the facility in Tulsa, he began to experience a headache. I gave him some extra pain medication and watched him throughout the night. The medication did little to ease the pain, however, and early the next morning I took him downstairs to the Infusion Center where they also treated a variety of emergencies. They gave him IV medications to try to control the pain and treated him for a migraine headache. We returned to our guest room upstairs, where I sat with him for the remainder of the day. I tried in vain to get him to take a bite of cracker or a sip of tea, all the while praying he would keep his meds down, and that God would take away his pain and give me the wisdom to know what to do.

By 5:00 that evening, the pain and pressure in his head were unbearable, so I took him back to the Infusion Center. The nurses were concerned that the meds hadn’t worked and they called the doctor in immediately. He ordered a couple of tests that determined Jonathan did not have a migraine. His brain was swelling inside his skull. If the swelling could not be brought under control, he could die in a matter of hours. I blindly punched the buttons of my cell phone and called my husband, sister, and a friend to get a prayer chain started.

They admitted Jonathan to the ICU wing of the facility that night. The doctors told me they were giving him IV Decadron and Manitol in an effort to reduce the swelling, but they couldn’t promise me it would work. In fact, the doctor offered me little hope of Jonathan’s chances for surviving the night. If he did get through the night, it would be another 36 hours before we would know if the IV meds were working. I had just begun the longest night of my life.

The nurses allowed me to stay in Jonathan’s room with him, and I pulled my chair up to his bedside as close as I could get it. I held his hand and prayed as I listened to the IV monitor click and pulsate. I prayed over every drop of IV fluid that dripped into Jonathan’s veins that night. I prayed and cried, and begged God for a miracle. As the nurses came and went, checking his vital signs, I listened to Jonathan breathe, not knowing if the next breath he took would be his last.

Very late into the night, fear strangled me until I could barely choke out the words as I prayed. I desperately needed to know that God was near and He heard my cries. I remembered something a preacher friend taught me years earlier. He told me that God inhabits the praises of His people. (Psalm 22:3) That word inhabit grabbed my senses. It means to dwell, to take up residence, to abide therein. It’s not temporary. So there at Jonathan’s bedside, I began to praise God. I praised Him for who He is, and what He has done for me. I praised Him because He is worthy of my praise, because He doesn’t withhold His mercy from us.

Slowly, quietly, I began to sing praise choruses in a trembling voice. The words of the songs lifted me above the turmoil of fear and fortified my faith. I drew strength from the assurance of God’s presence, and as I sang, a metamorphosis took place. That hospital ICU room became a cathedral as I praised and worshipped God. He was there beside me, holding me and enveloping me in His comfort.

There in the presence of almighty God, I rejoiced. If God chose to take Jonathan to heaven that very night, I could rejoice in the knowledge that he was safe in the arms of Jesus. I celebrated the years God had loaned Jonathan to us. Gradually, every sound in the room dwindled into nothingness. I no longer heard the nurses coming and going. The clicking and pulsating of the IV monitor faded away, and the beeping of the heart monitor diminished into silence. The only sound I was aware of was Jonathan’s breathing, and God’s whispered promise of all-consuming love. At that moment, overwhelming peace filled me I gave my son over to God. I could feel His arms around me and His breath on my face.

And I rested.

Jonathan surprised the doctors by responding in a miraculous way. After he was released from ICU and later from In-patient, and we settled back into our guest room, I had an opportunity to reflect on the previous 72 hours. Jonathan hungered to hear what God had done during that time when he was unaware of the turmoil happening in his body, and we shared a precious time of testimony and praise together.

I realized that my faith is not the weapon of choice when I am battling fear. I am humanly fallible and my faith is weak at best. I could not draw enough faith in my own strength to tear away the stranglehold of fear from my heart. The only way defeat fear is through praise, because God inhabits, He indwells, He takes up residence within my praise. His habitation is not temporary. The more I praise Him, the closer He is, and the sweeter our relationship. Praise is an invitation asking God to join us where we are. Praise welcomes His presence, and where God is, fear has to flee.

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Submitted by

2 comments:

Tracy Ruckman said...

From Rose McCauley:

Dear Connie, thanks so much for sharing this memory with us. I remember praying for you and Jonathan as you went thru this as well as remembering you praying for my family when our daughter went thru cancer and radiation just a few months later. (March 2006) I agree that the best thing is always to praise our Father and to pray His perfect will be done. To God be the glory for how He worked thru Jonathan's illness and continues to do so! love, rose
Rose McCauley
stories of "faith, hope and love"

Anonymous said...

Dear Connie,
You have learned to use the Christian's best defense—praise. May it always be the first weapon you choose.
Love & Prayers,
Yvonne Ortega
Hope for the Journey through Cancer