Wednesday, January 8, 2014

First I cried.

That’s pretty much my first response when I hear news that upsets me.

After the emotional storm had subsided and I could think...then I talked to God…well I talked to Him while I was crying but it was definitely not coherent prayer. 

It was emotional verbalization. 

Words like- 

Lord, what? 
Oh no!

Those are the kind of words I uttered after the news that Pam, my friend of 30 years had a brain tumor.

Pam and I in Salzburg Austria
She and I met in Germany.  Our husbands worked together in the Air Force.  Her husband was my husband’s boss.  We met at a cook out.  The first thing I noticed about her was her smile. She has a warm smile and there is an openness about her that encourages you to speak with her and draws you in.

I was a young wife and mother feeling like a tiny boat at sea in a new country surrounded by people who spoke a language I didn't understand.  Within this ocean was a small island of an Air Station where American’s lived and worked.  It was so small it was called an Air Station - not even worthy of the name Air Base. A lot of us lived in tiny villages in the surrounding countryside because there was not enough housing to house everyone assigned to work and live there.  Many of the people assigned there worked at other sites any where from a half hour to forty five minute drive from the Air Station.
Her farewell gathering when she left

We had one car at the time and my husband drove it back and forth to work most days.  Once a week I would get the car.  I would take my husband to the Air Station where he would catch the bus to work. On those days he had to leave home much earlier than if he drove himself so we would load our then- one year old son into his car seat, drive to the Air Station and drop my husband off then I would drive home and get ready to go to meet with the ladies of the Protestant Women Of the Chapel (P.W.O.C.) for Bible study or outings.  That was also the day I would run errands, do any shopping that I needed to do and stop for groceries just before the bus would return with my husband.  My husband would usually find us in the commissary and the three of us would load up and drive home.  I crammed a lot into my regularly scheduled day of freedom for the three years we lived in Germany.  It was also the day I got to meet and get to know some wonderful women, some I am still in contact with.  Of those women I got to know while living in Germany Pam became my closest friend.  When she moved I wondered if I would ever have another friend like her.

Ladies of the P.W.O.C.
Over the years we have remained close.  
We wrote letters and cards to one another.  
We spent more time and money talking long distance on the phone than our husbands liked. 
(I thank God today for unlimited minutes and text messages and email!)  
She lived in South Dakota and my husband was sent to UT when we left Germany.  Her parents lived in UT so we saw each other on occasion.  I went to visit her when her husband went to the Philippines for a year.  She came to see me when my husband was in Iceland for a year.

Pam holding our youngest.
Then one day she called to tell me they were moving to UT!  Our husbands would to be working together again and she and I were ecstatic! Even though her heart was heavy as her daughter stayed behind to attend college. When her youngest graduated high school and went to college she went to college too.  She tried to talk me into going with her.  When she called me the first day of classes in tears and overwhelmed with the amount of work the teachers had thrown at them for the first semester, I told her she could do it!  It wasn't all due right away.  We hung up and I whispered a prayer of thanks that God hadn't called ME to go to college.

We have shared trials, tears, joy and laughter.  
We have given advice, taken advice and ignored each others advice.  
We have cleaned and painted and crafted together.
One of her visits.
We have studied, discussed, and prayed over the Bible together.
We have discussed, debated, and disagreed or agreed on a million things.  
We have prayed for one another, for our families, for children's broken bones and broken hearts to be healed, finals and job searches, for weddings, and the birth of grandchildren. 
For our struggles, for our needs, and for God's blessings we have prayed and shared answers to those prayers. 
It came as no surprise when she called to tell me to pray about her brain tumor.  Of course I’d pray! 

Christmas visiting her parents.
So we prayed.
We prayed for miraculous healing.  
We prayed for there to be no tumor when the second MRI was done.  
We prayed for wisdom for the doctor, for peace for her and her family.  
We prayed. 
I asked friends and family to pray.  
We prayed the tumor wouldn't grow. 
We prayed the tumor would shrink.  
We prayed the tumor would be benign.  

She sent a text and told me surgery was scheduled.  
Again I cried.
I visited her two years ago.

I cried for mostly selfish reasons.  Every doctor doing a surgical procedure requires you read a paper listing all the risks involved in deciding to have surgery.  Always at the end of the list are the words: “…and ultimately death”.  So the idea of my friend no longer being here on this earth to share life with made me cry.  Another real possibility of having brain surgery is that damage to the brain can cause loss of memory; a stroke was a very real concern. 
She could come out of surgery and not have her memories.  
She could have suffered a stroke that might leave her unable to care for herself.  
So my most selfish thinking was I could very well lose my friend…even if she made it through the surgery.
I cried for her, her grand daughters, her children and her husband as well as myself.

I prayed some very specific prayers asking God if I could go be with her before, and during her surgery and He worked it all out.  The first week of December and only 10 days before her surgery tickets were purchased at a reasonable price, a friend offered her home for my stay, and dates for travel were between weather events…only God could have orchestrated that.  I had prayed for healing but I also knew that God's ways are not always what we would ask for. I wanted to be able to tell my friend I loved her one more time face to face. 
She went home 3 days after surgery.

The day of her surgery we had prayer around her hospital bed.
Her daughter, her husband, her sister, and a friend of hers were holding hands as I asked for God to direct the hands of the surgeon, bless us all with peace and through it all He would be glorified.

And then we waited. 

The surgeon came to us and told us the tumor was benign.  
Pam was doing well. 
It was the best outcome he could have hoped for.  
There were sighs of relief, smiles, a few tears and whispered prayers of thanks among our small group after the doctor left us.  
She was alert and talking to us half an hour later. 

After her family spoke with her and they had moved over to the couch to text and call other family members I went to stand by my friend of 30+ years.  With tears in my eyes and my voice thick with the emotions stuffed down inside me, I leaned over and whispered these words to her:

"I am so glad the surgery went so well."

"I am so glad you are OK."

"I am so thankful you are still my friend."

I share her story because God deserves all honor and praise for her healing.  I share because God showed me, again, how He answers prayer.  Rarely does He answer exactly as I ask but He does answer.  I am learning to ask and trust Him with the answer.  I have prayed for healing for someone and His answer was to take them.  I have asked for healing for others and they continue to suffer with poor health, pain, or disease.  I have struggled with my faith in those cases. 

But always we are told to ask.  So I ask

Always we are told to trust Him.  So I ask Him to help me trust him more.
My beautiful friend...she is doing so well! God answered so many prayers!
There are some amazing things I have learned about Christian friendships.  It is no accident when you meet someone; it is God who brings you together.  When God brings you together as friends then you will be forever friends because as believers we are promised eternity together in heaven.   

Sometimes friends are in your life only for a season, but occasionally God allows a friendship to continue to grow over time and distance.  

There is a level of friendship at which it doesn't matter how long it’s been since you were together, or how long it’s been since you talked, you can pick up with one another and it’s as though there was no time or distance separating you.
Those are the friendships that styles change...we earn silver highlights...our youth wanes...but our friendship endures.    

I have several friendships like that.  I am so very grateful for each and every one. 

Walk in love,