It’s 11:00 on a Friday night. I find myself in a drab hospital waiting room, hoping my turn on the MRI machine will arrive soon, as my appointment was for an hour ago.
I’m here to set up targeted radiation treatment for an unexpected – and unwelcome – occurrence of cancer. The hospital has phoned just hours earlier to ask if I’ll take a cancellation, and of course I said “Yes!”
Waiting impatiently, I almost laugh as I recall the loudness of the MRI machine, which I will now experience for a second time. It groans…it clicks…it hisses…it gives off a steady buzz – all at extreme volumes which require ear plugs and ear muffs.
Then suddenly, without warning, a snippet of an old hymn comes to me, loudly, insistently, then the whole first verse:
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul….”
When my turn finally comes, the song accompanies me into the room and into the MRI machine. In my spirit, When peace like a river drowns out that exceedingly noisy equipment. I’m so relaxed I nearly fall asleep….
I paid attention to that snippet because I always do when old hymns appear unbidden, believing they have something significant for me now (See Blog #1). I also paid attention because this seemed such a lovely counterpoint to “Michael above the Trumpets” (see Blogs #34 and 35). Music nourishes me both by rising to the heights, and by under girding me and sowing peace. When peace like a river is now prominent on my playlist when encountering diagnostic or treatment equipment, whether the machine in question is noisy or eerily quiet….
So, besides snippets of old hymns, what else has grounded and nourished me as my journey with cancer proceeds?
- Receiving short notes and prayers from many people, including a prayer circle at my home church the Sunday morning after my diagnosis. Ever since, that space feels different, calming me, embracing me with God’s presence, keeping me safe….
- Sitting before the Icon of the Holy Trinity (Blog #32) in the dark with a lit tealight candle. The candle illumines a circle which includes me facing Jesus as he points to the cup of blessing, whether that blessing may come in joy or in suffering or (most likely) in strange combination.
- Identifying with the butterfly (Blog #31) as a beautiful, fragile creature, soaring in flight, symbolizing transformation. Each day I colour one from Peterson Field Guide Coloring Books: Butterflies. I choose one in colours which fit my mood or the spirit of the day, and paste it into my journal at the end of my entry. And I cherish my Christmas present – a print of an illumination from the St. John’s Bible of butterflies feeding on milkweed.
- I also revel in the view outside our large tenth floor condo windows, whether of sunset or fresh snow on roofs or sun reflecting off high rises. Or, as we saw the other morning-into-afternoon, the beauty of hoarfrost on many trees, evoking a pure, white winter wonderland and these verses:
He sprinkles snow like birds alighting,
It comes down like locusts settling.
The eye marvels at the beauty of its whiteness,
And the mind is amazed at its falling.
Over the earth, like salt, he also pours hoarfrost,
Which, when it freezes, bristles like thorns….
We could say much more and still fall short;
To put it concisely, “He is all.”
-Ecclesiasticus 43: 19-21, JB
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I am now just past the halfway mark with the 70 weekly blogs I hope to write in gratitude to God for nourishing my spirit through 70+ years of life. My gratitude for this nourishment continues unabated.
I intend to keep writing these weekly blogs, but may adapt the form to something simpler from time to time or skip a week here or there as cancer treatment continues….
As we prepare to enter 2018, this quote from a colleague nourishes me daily:
“May you know that you are held in the great sea of Mercy where you cannot not be in the presence of God; where you cannot fall out of God’s care.”
Happy New Year!
Question for Reflection:
What spiritual practices do you keep which nourish your spirit in difficult times as well as good times?
Next Week: The Christmas Jigsaw Puzzle