Count It Pure JOY!

Three weeks ago, when my ladies Bible study group, LAMBS, (acronym for Ladies AM {morning} Bible study), began studying the book of James, I had no idea what the Lord had in store for me.  Part of the assignment over the course of twelve weeks, is to hand write the book of James from the Bible.  After the introductory lesson, I went home and found a spiral notebook, my favorite black, roller-ball pen, my Bible, and began to write.  I had forgotten how difficult it is to perform the task of handwriting anything that is more lengthy than my signature, as I have become so accustomed to the computer keyboard.  What I considered the easiest part of the lesson, quickly became very laborious.  After writing out the first five verses, I placed my pen and paper down.  Obviously, this task would take longer than the designed seven week study.  “Consider it pure JOY my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-5 NIV.

Several days later, after walking away from my pen and notebook,  I received a telephone call from my Oncologist at MD Anderson.  She told me that she had me on the schedule for a biopsy based on the previous results of my mammogram and ultra sound performed only days before.  I tried to explain to her that I was planning to leave for Colombia in two days and would really need to reschedule that appointment.  My doctor, speaking in her authoritative doctor tone said that the biopsy could not wait and I would not be making the trip.  I would need to keep my appointment scheduled for the following Wednesday.  She apparently didn’t understand that I had work to do in Colombia.  I hung up the phone not believing what I had just heard.   I walked over to the counter where my spanking new spiral lay and began to read James 1:1-5 in my handwriting.  “Consider it pure joy my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds”.  I had to make a split decision in my heart to choose happiness and count it pure joy or anger and bitterness.  I  chose the latter and began to justify my anger and disappointment.  After all, the orphans in Bogota were anticipating my arrival.  What is God thinking?  Surely, He must have me confused with someone else!  I don’t have time for breast cancer!  These tantrums continued in my thoughts and actions, and at times, from my mouth as I helped Bill pack and leave for Bogota, two days later.

Several sleepless nights passed.  My daughter Katherine along with my sister, Jill arrived to drive me to the biopsy appointment at MD Anderson.  I thought, how fortunate I am to have my family living so close by, but Lord, they should not have to drive me this early in the morning into Houston!  And, not only that, Lord, I should be with Bill in Bogota or he here with me.  I determined not to count any of this trial as joy.  The tantrum continued as the nurse called me back to the holding area to check my vitals.  My blood pressure registered  high probably due to the battle going on inside but, I was not at stroke level so, she placed the skimpy gown in my hand.  I knew the routine as I have done this twice a year now for ten years.  I told the nurse that I did not want to watch the instructional biopsy video offered as I am never interested in watching re-runs.  I changed into the thread-bare gown, opened to the front with no tie strings in which to fasten it closed.  The nurse gave me a warm blanket which I wrapped backward around myself to cover where the gown was lacking.   I placed my clothes in the provided locker and took a seat in a ten by ten room with five chairs.  Sitting there alone, as at home in the silence, I could feel myself begin to whine once again.  The loneliness in the small, cold room was unbearable!  This was not the story that I imagined for my life.

The whining of loneliness and despair had increased to a dull roar when another woman walked in.  As she gathered her things from her locker, I complimented her on her shoes.  There is nothing like a great pair of shoes to jump-start a conversation between women!  The conversation progressed from shoes to cancer and then to God’s faithfulness.  After a few minutes, she walked out but not without first placing her arm around my shoulder and speaking blessing into my life.   As this kind woman departed, another woman walked in.  She sat down in the chair and like me, was trying to cover her bare chest with the tiny gown.  To ease her embarrassment, I asked her if she would like to share my blanket and if she was diagnosed with cancer before or if this was her first time.  She declined the blanket but, she had quite a cancer story to share.  She testified with boldness how God allowed her to have cancer first in her family so that she could encourage her sister and her aunt who were later diagnosed.   As we visited, a woman from China came in.  She was smaller than we were so she was able to double wrap her gown for cover.  Without much prompting, she began to speak in broken English.  She has a seven-year old daughter at home, and her cancer is malignant.  She told how she is writing letters to her daughter about the life experiences her daughter will have as she grows from year to year.  She said, “I may not be here, but my words will be here for her.”  During this conversation, a vibrant, older lady took a seat next to me.  She had driven to Houston from New Braunfels that morning.  Having part of her arm removed because of Melanoma,  she reassured us that MD Anderson is the place offering the best care and that we are all in this fight together.  By the time she finished, I felt as though I had been to a football pep rally.  As a grandmother of eight, she spoke such confident, positive words of living life to the fullest and not allowing defeat to reign victor.  I found myself listening intently with amazement as each told her story of trial and perseverance.

I ended up waiting for two long hours in the holding area due to some surgical emergencies and the will of God.  He left me there in the small, cold, room, bare-chested, listening to these precious women speak of His goodness and mercy.  I realized that God has given me my own unique story of trials and perseverance.  He is working in my life to show me that in my weakness He is strong.   I could feel my anger begin to subside as I recalled the words of James 1:2-4.   My faith is tested in order that I may persevere in Jesus Christ; that I may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  The surgical nurse called my name.   With a new hop in my step, a smile on my face and in my heart, counting it pure joy, I walked the long, wide hallway to the biopsy table.

6 thoughts on “Count It Pure JOY!

  1. Sandy, This is an amazing testimony. I had no idea that you have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. I was fortunate, because it was non-invasive. I had 7 weeks of radiation. I have just finished the tomoxafin and had the first “screening” mammogram in 6 years. I can totaling relate to your feelings from the phone call to waiting in that little room for your turn. I have felt a little anxious this week, wondering if the “phone call” was coming.
    God is so awesome, He puts the right people in our life’s at just the right time. Those ladies were angels in disguise put there just for you and you were the precious angel that they needed just at that moment. I will be praying God’s healing hand on you. I always think of the woman in the bible who reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe and by her faith was healed. Reach for the him if His robe, Sandy! Love you sweet sister and please keep us updated.


  2. Sandy, thanks for sharing! I did not realize you hadn’t gone to Colombia until I saw the post warning Bill about changes at home – that look like dietary changes… Love and prayers to you. I am a few months past due for my routine mammogram. Better schedule it for next week.


  3. Sandy, I am forwarding a link to your post to my Bible Study before our discussion of James tomorrow. You are in my prayers.


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