There are a lot of appropriate words you could use when filling in the blank for
[__________] by His Grace.
Maybe a word that wouldn’t come to mind initially but I think is a good one is mentored. I’ll come back to some thoughts on that after a quick health update on the past few weeks.
I continue to grapple with what to share in blog posts now — but for now I still feel like it should be a balance of regular health updates with some of the “lessons learned” from our experiences. I hope that I never come across preachy or even worse, non-authentic. I’m not trying to sugar coat anything here. Things are tough and I wish for a full restoration of health and my normal life on a daily basis. But I find that trying to glean some truth from this whole ordeal allows me to cope and carry on, and that is what I want to do. Carry on.
Three treatments of Taxol chemotherapy are now in the rear-view mirror and I won’t have another treatment until December 4th. We are taking the two weeks off of chemo to let my body recover and to fully focus on eating my dad’s amazing Thanksgiving spread of brisket, pork ribs, and smoked turkey. I’m all about the alternative medicine treatments and a 12 hour meat palooza feels long overdue at this point.
The Taxol really hasn’t been too bad. Blood work all looks normal, no mouth sores, no real nausea to speak of, and no neuropathy (yet). I even feel like there has been a slight decrease in the chest pain I’ve been experiencing. The fatigue has been heavy and the body aches last for 48-72 hours but both have been manageable.
The big challenge of the past 3 weeks has been shortness of breath. I never quite feel like I’m getting enough oxygen and when I try to breathe deeply it’s like there is giant rubber band around my diaphragm that is cheating me out of half of each breath. We have been testing my oxygen levels regularly and they are a little low so this week I started using some oxygen machines that have really helped. I have a machine that plugs into my wall at home and I can use at night and anytime I’m at home. And I have some portable oxygen tanks that I can take with me during the day and use as needed.
No lie, it is a bit sobering to go out in public dragging an oxygen tank and having my otherwise impeccable face framed up by cannulas in my nostrils and tubing around my ears. But if this were a 12 round beauty contest I would have lost by Knock Out in Round 1.
I’ve been using oxygen at night since Tuesday and during the day off-and-on since Friday and it has made a noticeable difference so I’m sticking with it. I no longer feel like I’m on top of Everest after climbing the stairs to my bedroom.
There are many variations to how the Christian world defines grace but one that I particularly like is that grace is the divine means of strength and help provided through the bounteous mercy and love of Christ. Christ’s grace is infinite and eternal and fills all of time and eternity. I know that I am saved by His grace which makes me amazed and overwhelmed by it. I’m also changed and empowered by His grace to become a new creature over time that will ultimately “be like Him” as it says in 1 John 3:2
What I’ve been feeling more and more lately is that while grace is a gift that Christ gives us, it also comes with an invitation to engage in a mentorship, or maybe better said, an apprenticeship. His desire is to have a hands-on experience with every aspect of our soul so that He can stretch and mold and shape us in every needful way. He gives us His grace, the power to make it through the apprenticeship, but He wants to personally teach us the lessons over a lifetime of experiences rather than like some one-time injection or magic pill.
His tutelage comes in many forms, including miracles and blessings from heaven that overflow our cup. But it seems like some of His most effective teaching moments come through our weaknesses and sufferings. Forget staying in the comfortable core of our faith where we might mistake what is really His grace for some of our own “developed strength”. Christ takes us out to the edge of our soul, often to a spot we didn’t know existed and where we can recognize in full humility that His grace is all that we have. And it is there where He does His best work because we are in our most teachable state (Ether 12:27), wholly relying on His merits to save (2 Nephi 31:19). It is there where “I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings” (1 Phillipians 3:10).
As the omniscient master craftsman, the Savior knows when his apprentices need His close presence wrapped around them in order to survive just like he knows when they need distance and silence to sort things out for themselves. He knows when to reward and when to discipline, when to use a warm blanket and when to use a fiery furnace. And His motive is always love. Love that has been perfected through His own earthly experience. Love that has been earned.
So as we all suffer through unforeseen and unwanted challenges, it feels natural to ask ‘Where is God? Am I now forsaken or forgotten by His Grace? When will this end? How is this going to be resolved?’ What Camilla and I have been learning is that Christ and His infinite love are always there and He never leaves our side, especially in the most bitter of times. Contrary to how it might feel in the moment, His grace is most prevalent and most effective in our weakness and suffering. And so we carry on…
“forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, press[ing] toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”