Still Standing

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4, ESV

The storm wasn’t visible from shore, but it swirled over the ocean miles away. Growing bigger and stronger, threatening everything in its path as it edged closer. Steadily closer. Meteorologists watched it, looking for changing patterns and shifting winds. Predicting exactly when it would make landfall, and determining how strong it would be when it hit was impossible.

No one really knew for sure.

When it did hit, there would be no shelter strong enough, no preparation guaranteed to protect. Shutters installed, sand bags placed. Evacuation wasn’t an option. All that was left to do was to wait.

When the winds raged and the rains attacked, the shore was all but swept away. Homes, twisted and torn from foundations, seemingly evaporated into debris. The storm took out anything and everything.

The noise deafening. The darkness overwhelming.

Open tightly closed eyes, catch a breath, and see utter devastation.

Look down, the floor remains.

Look around, the walls upright.

Look up, the ceiling overhead.

Wait … 

What? How? Why?


I am that house.

I sit in wait, knowing the storm is coming, but not when?

So thankful my treatment is working, but for how long?

The storm takes down those around me.

Yet, I’m still here.

When I was diagnosed in 2015 with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, statistics said I would be gone within 3 years. I refused to believe that. I trusted in God. I wanted to be here for my children and my family; and I had faith that God would take care of me.

He has.

But over the years, I have said goodbye to so many…

Debbie, Angi, Terri, Melanie, Cathy, Ellen, Crystal, Beth, Laura, Deena

The storm came fast, and they were gone.

They wanted to stay. They did everything. They held on tight.

They thought they’d make it.

They didn’t.

But I’m still here.

We had the same dreams. We had the same hopes. We had the same desire to live.

They had children and husbands and families and friends.

They thought they would beat it, defy statistics, prove the doctors wrong.

They thought, “It won’t happen to me”.

It did.

But I’m still here.

Last one standing.

Spared.

Relief … and guilt.

Grateful … and undeserving.

Full of questions.

I’m here .. why aren’t they?

Why did God take them

And allow me more time?

Why do their families have to endure such grief?

Why not mine?

If I had work left to do on this earth, what was it?

Am I worthy of the extra time?

How much time before the big one hits, the one that will shake me from my foundation?

I can’t think like that. I can’t wrap my head around it. I can’t answer those questions.

I can only be thankful and rejoice in God’s mercy.

 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5, ESV

 

I can’t pretend it isn’t hard to say goodbye to friends traveling the same road as me. I can’t pretend that I am not scared when I hear about their bad scans, deteriorating health, and ultimate passing. I can’t pretend that my heart isn’t heavy.

God reminds me that their story is not my story.

God reminds me He doesn’t want me to judge, to orchestrate, to question.

God reminds me that until he calls me home, He calls me to live.

I must accept the gift, and not miss the blessing.

 

Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 5:19

 

Though saddened, I will stand straighter.

Though scared, I will stand taller.

Though battered, I will stand stronger.

I cannot weep today over what may come tomorrow.  I must find the joy right now and not give life to sorrow yet to come.

I cannot weep for my friends; for their work was finished, and their reward was won.  No longer in pain or suffering, their walk was not mine.

They fulfilled their days on this earth, and I have not.

I can only move forward and share the love and mercy God bestowed upon me.

I promised God years ago that if He let me live, I would spend the rest of my days serving others and sharing His Message.

I have kept that promise.

I pray for God to make me a better version of myself, to become the person He made me to be, and to use me as a vessel for His Works.

I will not fail Him.

 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I Corinthians 13:7, ESV

 

On those days when I miss my friends, when I feel alone in this walk; I will look to Him.

He will console my heart and guide my path.

I will be grateful I am still here.

When there is a house left standing in the middle of so many others that didn’t, engineers study it to find out why.

The report usually reveals that the home was built on a strong foundation with quality materials, according to specific codes and building standards.

Funny, I think the same goes for me.

I was fearfully and wonderfully made.

I was knitted in the womb by my Creator.

I am rooted in my faith.

No study required.

 

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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