God's Inside Out Peace

At our Oasis gathering in the city tonight, the topic is God's peace. After the message, we are going to have opportunity for people to share stories about experiences of God's peace in their lives. I thought I would post this story I wrote to share tonight.

It happened two weeks after I turned 16. My Mom usually picked my brother Scott and I up at the mission compound up the street when we got out of school at 3:30. This time it was only Dad, and he didn’t seem to be in a very good mood. He asked us to get in the car, and dodged our normal questions of where Mom was. As soon as we left the mission compound, he pulled the car over and parked. We both knew that something was up.

He told us as calmly as he could. Mom had found a lump in her breast, and that day while we had been in school, they had done a biopsy in our mission hospital, just up the street from where we had been sitting in class all day. It was not good news; the lump they had removed was cancer.

Never in my life had I experienced such blind panic. As usual, I contained my panic inside and tried to help Dad calm Scott, whose 13-year-old anxiety exploded out of him. That was his usual style too. We both tried to reassure him that this did not mean that Mom was going to die. Cancer could be fought. Inside, I shared his fear that we would lose her.

I can't remember exactly what happened then. I think we went back to the compound and then across the street to see Mom. I honestly don’t know if she was still in the hospital, but I think so. I do remember telling my Dad that I needed to go back down to school and get some things out of my locker. I stopped at my locker, although I don’t think I really needed too. Then I went to the library in search of my friend PJ. I opened the door on my panic for just a moment. I cried when I told her the news. She didn’t really know how to react. I couldn’t stay. I don’t remember the rest of the day.

I do remember the peace that mysteriously took over. Peace that allowed me to not live in that panic while we returned to Canada for a miserable Christmas away from home in Ecuador. Peace while my Mom saw top cancer doctors in Canada. When they found that some of her lymph nodes were also infected.

Dad and Scott and I returned to Quito so we could go back to school. Mom stayed in Canada to have radiation treatments and her first round of chemotherapy. God’s peace gave me strength to take Mom’s place in our home, planning meals, grocery shopping with Dad, doing laundry, watering her plants.

Mom came home and finished up months of chemotherapy. When it was done, peace returned again completely and we resumed our normal family life. I can’t speak for the rest of my family, but during those years, I was not afraid. God’s peace settled over me like a blanket. I graduated from high school, went to England for a year of school.

During my first year at Northwestern College in Minnesota, I called home to Quito one night on the spur of the moment. I half expected my Mom to say that she knew I was going to call (she always had an inkling when I would call, even if I did not.) Dad answered and I talked to him for awhile. When I asked to talk to Mom, the pause took me instantly back to that afternoon, sitting in the car after school. Mom was in the hospital. She had been crossing the street with our good friend Maria when she fell and broke her arm. It broke so easily because there was cancer in her bone. Well-meaning doctors told my Dad that she would be dead in 18 months.

We carried on. I went home as a summer missionary. Troy came to visit that summer to meet my parents. My parents went with him to buy my engagement ring. We bought wedding rings. We went back to school that fall and got officially engaged in November.

The cancer progressed. Mom fought bravely. There was more radiation and more chemo. I took a quarter off school and went home to be with her. One week, Dad and Scott were out of town and Mom developed a nagging pain in her hip. I took her to see her oncologist and he sent her for a scan. She had lesions in her hip as well.

That night, I sat in my bed and cried wild, uncontrollable sobs in the pitch dark. I had left my bedroom door open, something I never did, and Mom’s as well. Alone with her in the house, I knew that I was going to lose her. After the waves of despair, I felt again the unmistakable, unexplainable peace of God settle over me. That peace allowed us to enjoy the rest of my quarter at home with them. She seemed to get a bit stronger, and while I got ready to go back to school, she got ready to go back to work mornings at the hospital receptionist desk.

I went back to Minnesota and started third quarter. She didn’t stay strong, and Dad and Scott were left to bear the burden of her illness. Mom stayed at home and Dad was the one that bathed her, helped her to the bathroom. One Tuesday night, Dad called me. “Come home,” he said. Mom was dying.

I arrived home on Thursday. On Friday morning, I was showing Mom pictures of a couple of wedding dresses that I had tried on. Our friend Beth had come to give Mom a shot to help with some tremors she was having. As Beth leaned over the bed to give her the shot, Mom went into convulsions. The ambulance came and took her to the hospital and she died there three weeks later.

I cannot explain the peace that overshadowed the wild grief. I can’t explain the peace that permeated me as I sat in our school gym during her funeral, with almost 1000 people. As she had wanted, the good news of Jesus and his saving grace was shared very clearly. Her oncologist attended and was extremely moved by the experience.

I don’t know how God works His mysterious, full-of-grace peace. I know I saw it in my Mom as she died, and I could feel it at work in me. His peace did not mean that we did not grieve, but somehow wove itself in and around us even as we did.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

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