On October 1st, 2012, my parents drove me to Baton Rouge for my first appointment with Dr. Stephanie Cave. My appointment fell on a Monday following a very frightening Sunday--the Sunday Brandon frantically drove the two of us home from Houston in the pouring rain while I struggled for breath and gripped my EpiPen tightly. It was the Sunday I forgot or maybe momentarily disbelieved God's word to me that I would be healed. It was the Sunday I planned my funeral. My dietary health had bottomed out, and I was living in a constant state of emergency thanks to the severity of my newly discovered latex allergy. So, I was in a strange place emotionally and spiritually for that road trip, to say the least.
Many memorable things took place on the first October Monday of 2012, most of which were answers to prayers that had been prayed by many people for a long time, but looking back I believe the most important event which transpired that day was almost entirely overshadowed by my new, fabulous doctor and the much-needed confirmation that we were finally
on the right path. The weightiest, most significant moment of the day was as quiet as a whisper and as soft as an afterthought.
It happened in the car. Mom asked me if I had given much thought to naming the farm. I told her I had not. She offered her suggestion--Jubilee Farm. She said the name came from two sources--Sara Groves' song, "Eyes on the Prize"
and Leviticus 25. The Year of Jubilee was a Sabbath of Sabbaths for the ancient Jews. The Hebrew word translated into the English "Jubilee" means something closer to "a trumpet blast of liberty." Every 50 years, the celebration began with a blast of a ram's horn. During this year, the people rested from working the land, Israelite slaves were freed by their owners and lost property was restored to those who had fallen on hard times.
"And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap....You shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.
Mom explained that she believed the upcoming year was going to be special. It was literally to be her "Year of Jubilee." She would turn 50 on January 21st, 2013. It was also likely to be the year she and Dad would join Brandon, my sister and me on the farm. She further explained how she saw Jubilee Farm as being a place of healing--for body and soul--for our family and others God would send our way. I readily agreed to the name for the farm, and carefully tucked away the tidbit about her birthday. I had no idea that my mother had spoken a specific prophecy over me.
In December, I began planning Mom's surprise Jubilee birthday party. I studied Leviticus 25 so I would have a firm grasp on the appropriate spirit for the celebration. I prayed for guidance about everything--the kind of party it should be, the decorations, the food, who to ask for help, the timing, the guest list. I prayed God would send the exact people He wanted to be in attendance. I invited Him to be present among us. I asked Him to prepare special blessings for my mother. He answered all of those requests, to be sure, but I had no idea He had something special for me in mind as well. To my surprise and inexplicable delight, God included Jenny on the guest list!
God didn't send Jenny just
for me, but He did send her especially
for me. She made the entire celebration sweeter and brighter with her presence, for the girl unabashedly spreads sunshine wherever she goes. She helped me prepare for the party, which turned out to be an absolute success--
After the festivities died down a bit, I stole Jenny away to my mother's sofa so we could talk privately. It was so good to talk with her face to face. I love watching her listen, think and process. I like watching her face when she laughs. I adore the radiance of Christ she carries. Just being with her was bliss.
And then she spoke into my life. She was actually talking about herself when she did it. I observed that she had lost weight. She confirmed my observation, and told me that she had bought new clothes recently. She explained that most of her old shirts were V-necks which exposed her chemo port. Upon her last shopping trip, she searched carefully for blouses that would hide it.
With a glowing smile and her quirky, lovely laugh, she began, "I used to want people to pity me....to feel sorry for me, but God has been too good to me for me to play the victim anymore. With buying new clothes, I am throwing off the sick rags!"
She had no clue, of course, but as she spoke, I felt the rod of the Lord give my soul a giant jab; or maybe what I felt were reverberations from the "trumpet blast of liberty." God's voice formed words in my soul which pierced my mind--"That's for you."
Jenny and I talked about all sorts of things after that, but it was those words that continued to resonate in my mind when she was gone. After she left, I shared them with the remaining party guests, Mrs. Dixie (my mentor) being one of them. Dixie threw her head back, sending a smile to the Lord, and said, "Isn't it beautiful how the Lord uses things like illness to humble us so that we disappear and He is glorified?"
With what was almost an electrical energy, the Holy Spirit made an important connection in my soul between what Jenny had said and what Dixie had said. As I have pondered and prayed over these words for the last two days, the Lord has fleshed out His message to me. I pray you are able to follow my thoughts.
God reminded me of the section in Embracing Obscurity
in which the author reveals that we all possess subtitles by which we identify ourselves. For instance--Tom: The Adventurer or Stacy: The Creative Work-at-Home Mom or Charles: Youngest CEO in Corporation's History or Andrea: Pretty Girl. The subtitles aren't bad in and of themselves. They are only dangerous if we allow them to take precedence over our identity in Christ. When I read that chapter weeks ago, I didn't know my subtitle, but the Lord revealed it to me this weekend as I sought Him:
Melissa: Sick and Struggling Mother
How depressing is that?
Without realizing it, I have allowed my illness to become my identity. Facebook friends, think about it--how often do I air my woes for all of you to see? Pretty often, I'd say. Faithful readers, how many long lists of my various trials have you read on this blog? Too many. I have been "rehearsing [my] troubles [which] results in experiencing them many times....[This] multiplies [my] suffering!" (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling
) While I'm being brutally and embarrassingly honest, I'll add that sometimes I'm more conservative about sharing God's goodness than I am my hardships because I can't let go of my new (though admittedly sad) identity. And I can't let go because....well, I have believed the lie that it's the only identity I have left. "Sick and Struggling Mother" is the only capacity in which I remain known in the world at all. I have been afraid to let this last thing go because if I do, I know I might disappear completely.
But the commandment is clear--I am to join my sweet friend, and throw off these sick rags! If my girl with Stage 4 cancer can do it, by golly--SO CAN I! Tossing these nasty things into the garbage is simultaneously an act of "embracing obscurity" and an act of jubilee! My sick rags have been wrapped around me like ancient grave cloths, holding me captive. Spiritually speaking, I probably resemble a bizarre mummy who isn't dead but dresses like she is. Jubilee is about freedom from oppression. Ironically, I have been oppressing myself! I have allowed my illness to take the spotlight. On Monday (the day Mom turned 50, beginning her Year of Jubilee), I vowed to the Lord that I was heading to the back of the stage, dragging my illness along with me. This whole thing isn't about my suffering or how well I carry it. It is about what the Lord wants to do with it and what He wants to reveal about Himself through it! My story is about displaying the spirit of this passage from Luke 4 in which Jesus reveals that He is the fulfillment of the Year of Jubilee--
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has annointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
Jesus Christ is Jubilee! Since offering my declarations to Him, I have felt so free, so light, but my work is not done here. Throwing off sick rags is a process. Thanks to Jenny, I have a good start by realizing that truly "God has been too good to me for me to play the victim anymore." At this time, I don't know fully what not playing the victim looks like all fleshed out. I do know that it doesn't mean being dishonest or arbitrary about my trials. I know that I will not wallow in them either. I am not a victim. I am not a victim. For now, only one thing is for certain--no more lists. (Your loud "amen" does not offend, my friend.)
Jenny Arlene--my precious, covenant friend--thank you. God bless you, Beloved! In my mind's eye, I see two girls peeling away the ugly, rotting rags they have been carrying about them for too long. They are smiling and laughing as they pull away each piece from themselves and occasionally from one another, tossing them away forever. When the rags are gone, there is only a glow of Heavenly Light about them. The Light is so bright that it becomes difficult to see the girls plainly and impossible to see them apart from the Light. The girls join hands and grin conspiratorially at one another before taking an unbridled, running leap and plunging into the vast, deep waters of endless Jubilee.