In Quietness and Confidence

My family received an email from my sister this week after she came face to face with a serious medical issue that was fraught with questions that could not yet have answers. After talking with her on the phone, wishing we weren’t 350 miles across the state from each other, I found myself typing furiously as God reminded me of a similar time in my own life. It was not so much that I thought it would comfort her to read this piece of my life history (she already knows it), but it comforted me to write it…to remember the unending, ever-present grace of God in my own life…as I ached for assurance that He was in control of hers. That piece of my life history happened like this…
“In quietness and confidence…shall be your strength.” The words from Isaiah 30:15 wafted down and landed at my feet. I reached down and picked up the paper…the front of a church bulletin that I had attached to my refrigerator many months before. Sometimes I wonder why I feel the need to plaster my refrigerator with photos of friends and family, pictures of beautiful things, sayings that resonate with me in the moment, and an odd collection of magnets from every vacation I have ever taken. Needless to say, it would not matter what color the refrigerator is, no one can tell if it matches the rest of the kitchen appliances anyway.  But that day I knew why I had posted at least one thing on that cluttered door…so God could send me one of those flaming arrows I’ve mentioned before…a message right from the bowstring of The Almighty.
A few months before this arrow arced its way to my feet, Justin and I were goofing off…making muscles in the bathroom mirror. I was thirty-eight years old at the time, lean and strong…and he was a strapping seventeen…also lean and strong, and it was May. Our arms were happy to be out of sleeves and we were happy to be silly and show them off to each other. Both looking in the mirror, flexing our biceps, we noticed it at the same time. Justin was the one to address it; he’s so much better at addressing things than I am. “Mom,” he said, “why does your right arm have an ‘extra muscle?’ Maybe you should get that checked out.” It was one of those awkward moments that starts with joking and laughter and ends in confusion and silence. Later I looked again…I did have a very noticeable “muscle” on my right arm, that I didn’t have on my left arm. It didn’t hurt, it wasn’t tender, but it didn’t belong there either. I called my doctor to make an appointment, but wouldn’t you know, he was out of town. His PA, however, could take a look at it. That was fine with me; I just wanted someone with some medical expertise to give me an opinion.
So, a day later the PA did look at it, and reassured me that it was probably just a fatty lipoma. (Can I ask right here…who names these things? Could anything give a worse visual than “fatty lipoma?”) She said not to worry about it, and that it didn’t need to be removed unless it bothered me. Fine by me. I had had a lipoma removed from near my spine a few years before, because it was in a painful place…but it wasn’t anything serious, so I was sure this wasn’t either. I was heading into the busy season at work, and it was the summer before Justin’s senior year in high school, and I had a lot of things to do. I didn’t need anything more to think about so I quite simply didn’t…until September.
Things slow down just a little at work in September, and Justin was situated in his classes, and I had more time to notice things…like that lump. Sometimes I would lay my cheek against that arm when I slept and I noticed how feverish that place felt. The lump seemed to be getting bigger too, and it was kind of tender to the touch at times. It started to worry me and I decided I had time to have it removed after all. The surgeon who had removed the lipoma on my back was in Atkinson at the time, and I called him up and asked him about it. He said he would look at it and see what needed to be done. He ordered an MRI so he could get a better look at where it was, and surgery was scheduled for a Monday morning.
I woke up from that surgery to find the lump still in place but a very nice incision in my arm, all stitched up. Still groggy from the anesthetic, I was told that I was heading to Omaha and a doctor there was expecting me. Evidently that “muscle” was ominous and angry looking from the inside, and the surgeon didn’t want to cut into it without knowing exactly what he was cutting. That night I was checking in at Creighton University Hospital with a throbbing headache and a sore arm. After several days of tests, I was sent home to wait a month for the surgery to remove whatever this thing was. It was too close to my brachial artery and the main nerve in my arm to take a biopsy…so I would have to wait until I woke up from the surgery to know if it was cancer, as the doctors suspected, or something else. The word “amputation” even popped up a couple of times…if it was something really aggressive. I tried not to think about that…I’m big on hugs and wondered how one would do that with only one arm.
The flaming arrow that landed at my feet came about a week after I got home from that first stay in the hospital. I had been managing pretty well, focusing on what I needed to do to be ready for whatever was coming…to have things in order at work and at home for what might be an extended hospital stay, or trips for radiation or chemotherapy. That day, however, fear started to creep in. I could feel it rise in my throat, steely fingers wrapping around my neck. I understood for the first time the terrified look in an antelope’s eyes when the lion goes for the kill. I knew I was going down. Then heaven’s bowstring released its arrow, and knocked that specific piece of paper off my refrigerator so that it landed directly at my feet. “In quietness and confidence…shall be your strength.” Even though I was the one who had posted it, I hadn’t really looked at it for months. Now I clutched it to my chest and let that heavenly arrow pierce my heart and destroy that fear. If I was going to get through this with any kind of peace, I had to “let go and let God.” I had no understanding of what was growing in my arm, but He did. I could do nothing about it, but He could. I had no idea what lay ahead, but He had it all mapped out. I had to be still on the inside… quiet. My confidence would not come from my own strength, but from humbly waiting before God. Peace washed over me like rain over parched earth. I decided to take this verse to heart, and whenever fear tried to creep in for the kill again, I quietly remembered, held up my arrow for protection, and chose quietness and waiting.
The month before surgery went surprisingly fast, and I felt surprisingly strong. This was a new kind of strength for me. Though I was a helpless antelope and feared a fierce lion, I slept through the nights, and grazed peacefully through the days…being quiet and trusting that God had things under control. Surgery day came and I still remember the peacefulness of going under the anesthetic. As I woke up I found myself in a confused state…I heard a baby crying. Did I just have a baby? What was going on? It took just a bit for a nurse to realize I was waking up…but she was quickly by my side. “It’s okay,” she whispered, “it wasn’t cancer.” Then I remembered why I was there…and thankfulness fell over me as I drifted in and out of consciousness for a while. (I found out later that one of the OR nurses had had a baby a week or so earlier, and she was there to share this precious little bundle of joy with her coworkers.  That dreamy notion in my drug-induced state that it was my baby still makes me giggle.)
As it turned out, that “extra muscle” was an inter-muscular hemangeoma…a mass of tangled blood vessels in the muscle itself. The doctors were surprised and pleased, but it was still in a very precarious place between the large artery and main nerve and there was genuine concern over nerve damage to my hand…but all was well. You have to understand how important this was to me. I am the most right-handed person on the planet, and I love to do things with my hands…sew, crafts, write letters, chop up stuff in the kitchen…it’s a long list. God was not only generous to spare me from cancer, but He preserved my hand and arm so I could eventually do the things I loved to do.
I now have a nice indention and a wonderful “Zoro-esque” scar on my right arm to remind me of God’s never-ending faithfulness and care. And that piece of paper?…that front off of a church bulletin?…that precious arrow? It still hangs on my refrigerator as a reminder…when things get a little scary there is a source of strength that is found only when we admit our own helplessness and choose to rest quietly and confidently in God’s strength. Watch for the heavenly arrows in your life; they are there. Train your eyes to see them and you will, because God is the Mighty Archer in the life of every believer. In Psalm 145:20 it says, ”He watches over those who love Him,” and in my heart I am sure that He does so with a whole quiver full of arrows!

By | 2017-02-20T04:50:58+00:00 September 11th, 2015|Over Tea|1 Comment

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