The Light Above

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It had been a rough couple of weeks.  One long string of activities flooding my calendar like an overflowing bathtub. The activities, the obligations, the appointments – they all kept coming. Maybe it was because I felt a little ‘waterlogged’, maybe it was because I didn’t have any time to think, to reflect, to ‘just be’, that I felt so overwhelmed.  I am a person who likes to be busy but who also appreciates the quiet times and the luxury of an idle mind.

Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Aside from all the activity, I had a lot of medical stuff going on over the last month.  I had some pain in my knee that prompted an MRI and additional testing. My tumor markers had increased and my blood counts had decreased.  As a cancer patient, my ‘numbers’ were all carefully monitored.  In some ways, it was a blessing.  If this cancer decided to start growing again, the doctors would find out quickly and I would start new treatments. It was also a curse. With every scan, with every blood draw, with every new symptom – that pit in my stomach started to churn.  Was the cancer back?  Was it bad?  Would radiation, new meds, IV chemo be necessary?  So much stress and anxiety creeped in when I had to schedule yet another procedure.  Feeling like a pincushion, like a guinea pig, during those tests and procedures – that was nothing like the waiting for and the fear of hearing those results. It could be great news, or…it could be devastating news…there was no in between.

Do not be anxious about anything. Philippians 4:6

I was going through a lot of emotions. I was missing my Dad.  He left this earth in 2004 but I still missed him every day.  I missed his unsolicited and bold opinions, his heart that was as big as his laugh, and I missed his smiling face. I wished that I could just talk to him, one more time. In a way, I am relieved that he never had to know me with cancer – that would have broken his heart, though I know that he would have been right there beside me, cheering me on the way he always did.  I took comfort that he watched me from heaven, but I was still so incredibly sad that he was gone. Even all these years later, I may have adjusted to living without him, but I couldn’t say that it had gotten easier.

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

I often did a lot of deep thinking.  When you have a cancer diagnosis, you tend to trade in all that clutter people usually fill their head with for much more meaningful thoughts. I thought about my future. I thought about how much future I was going to have.  I thought about my past and all the things that I have done in my life.  I tried to live with no regrets but sometimes when I thought back to all the things I wasted so much time on, regret started to fill my heart. I was mad at myself for spending so much energy on my career, for sacrificing so much of my time for other people who didn’t appreciate it and who would have never done the same.  I was sad that I didn’t savor those youthful days of good health and good times. I was always looking ahead, concentrating on a goal, and often completely missing out on the ‘right now’. I had learned that lesson well, but I learned it late.

But I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. Philippians 3:13

Over the last few weeks, I had felt let down by people – loved ones, acquaintances, strangers.  I watched people be unkind to each other, say hateful things to each other. I watched people turn their backs on friends over difference of opinion.  I watched a man speak disrespectfully to his mother in public.  I had to fight once again to get my cancer meds from the pharmacy.  I watched loved ones being treated poorly.  I watched people say one thing and do another. I watched people do everything but the right thing. I was let down by important people in my life. It was hard to see the light that you once saw in someone suddenly go dim. Even as a positive person, the negativity around me was bringing me down.

Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Proverbs 3:3

With everything going on, I found it hard to breathe. I was fighting a disease that was trying to take my life. I was pushing through side effects. I was trying to keep up with my family’s busy schedule. I was trying to stay calm about my lab reports. I was missing my Dad.  I was growing tired of all the negative energy. I could typically shake off anything that came at me … but for some reason, it didn’t seem easy this time.  I wasn’t sure what to do but I wasn’t going to let myself spiral down that bathtub drain. I wasn’t going to let my past darken my future. I wasn’t going to let the actions of others enter my heart. I did the only thing I could do … and that was to pray.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23.

I prayed for God to grant me peace, to slow my mind.  I prayed for God to sustain me, to heal me. I prayed for God to comfort my grieving heart, to shield my eyes from the bad things going on in the world, and to help me extend the same grace to my loved ones that God extended to me. I prayed to God to allow the sun to set on the anxiety, negative energy, and sadness that seemed to be hanging over my head. I prayed … and I kept praying.

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Then one night, after a sad day for my community and a busy day of appointments, after a day full of continued prayer; I remembered I had to run an errand. I was exhausted but I pulled myself together, grabbed my purse, and jumped in the car. The store was only five minutes away but I soaked in the sweet silence and enjoyed the few minutes alone. I cleared my mind and started to feel better. I quickly grabbed my things and left the store. Peace started to fill my heart but I wanted to go home, say my prayers, and put an end to that stressful day.

Truly my soul finds rest in God; My salvation comes from Him.  Psalm 62:1

As I walked to my car, the evening skyline splashed before me. I was struck by the beauty that was stretched across the whole sky.  The skyline was dark, very dark, blacker than the night sky. It echoed my feelings. I couldn’t see the trees, the houses, the buildings.  All I could see was the edge of the darkness that settled onto the ground.  It looked heavy, just like the emotions I had felt over the last few weeks. It reminded me of how when I lost sight of what was in front of me, how when I let the darkness in; the darkness blurred the lines, and I could only see the dark forest but not any of the trees. Then, just above that dark skyline was a breathtaking sea of color, a kaleidoscope of blues and pinks and oranges. The colors were a stark contrast to the heavy darkness below. The sun had cast its light above the darkness.  The light was projected above the skyline and with it, the light projected hope in my heart.

My God turns my darkness into light. Psalm 18:28

Over those last few weeks, I had been hit from all sides.  My head and my heart were heavy with worry, grief, and restlessnesss. My head and my heart were exhausted, overwhelmed, and defeated. I was a positive person but when I became weak from the fight and I allowed that darkness to seep into my cracks; I had to fight my way back to the light. After a little patience and a whole lot of prayer, God did what He did best.  Just like He promised that joy would come in the morning; that light came at the end of the dark. In James 1:17, the Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.”  Funny how God chose the most unlikely places to remind me that He had me in His hands the whole time. For me, the light above shined down on me right there in the parking lot of a local department store. I closed my eyes, said a prayer of thanks, and knew that everything was going to be alright.

In this world, you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Author: Jennifer Lilley Collins

I'm a Mom, wife, daughter, and friend navigating life with metastatic breast cancer while finding joy in the everyday and spreading hope, love, and inspiration along the way.

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