Last week I told you about Laura, my inspiration for doing the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure walk. With her permission, I'm going to tell you our story....
I met Laura and her son Samuel, then three years old, on April 11, 2010. Our first words were about the devastating diagnosis she'd recently received: the breast cancer that had been in remission for 20 months had metastasized to her lungs and brain. "I'm so worried for my son!" she said.
At that moment I had no words of encouragement for her. In fact, I immediately started to cry because Allyson was the same age as Samuel, and I couldn't fathom the thought of leaving her and Ethan behind. I held her hand and prayed with her through my tears, but I just didn't know what to say. I'm sure I prayed something involving Psalm 139, and I don't know how she reacted, but I walked away feeling that I'd failed her.
Thankfully, God had other plans for us. When I got home from church, I started to sit down to lunch, but I just couldn't eat. I couldn't think about anything but Laura. Bill had taken Allyson with him to do some work at my sister Emily's house, and Ethan was in his room playing a computer game, so I had the house to myself.
On my closet floor, I poured out all the words that I wished I'd been able to say earlier. I prayed for her healing and her comfort. I prayed every scripture I could think of relating to healing, blessings, and love. Still, I felt no relief from the burden that had settled on my shoulders.
I laid my face on the carpet and wept. "Oh, God!" I cried out. "What can I possibly pray for her? Please, Holy Spirit, tell me what to pray. Pray through me."
Almost immediately, I thought of laughter. "Laughter?" I repeated. "How could she possibly have laughter right now? That doesn't make sense." But I felt a certainty that laughter was exactly what I should ask for.
"Okay, God. Please give Laura laughter. Let her be so filled with joy and peace that she can laugh in the face of her enemy. Let your joy be her strength." As I prayed, my own tears turned to laughter. I laughed out loud with joy. It was crazy! It was beautiful!
I laughed until I was gasping for air, and then I realized that the burden had lifted. I got up off my creaky knees and walked down to the kitchen to do what I usually do after I pray for someone: I got out a card and wrote down all the verses I'd prayed for her, and what I'd felt God telling me. But when I started to write about the laughter, my pen froze over the paper. How could I write that? What right did I have to tell her she needed to laugh when I couldn't possibly understand what she was going through? Would she be offended?
I shook my head and plowed on. I had to tell her what was in my heart. After I'd addressed and stamped the card, I hesitated again, seized by an anxiety bordering on panic. Don't send it! She'll be angry. I set the card aside. I'll pray about it, I decided.
At our home group meeting that evening, I shared my dilemma--not the details of Laura's situation, but my indecision about sending a card that could be misunderstood, that might even cause offense. Their response was unanimous. "If you feel God leading you, you have to mail it," they said. And we prayed that God would help Laura to receive the message as it was intended.
The next morning, I handed Bill the card to mail on the way to work. That evening, I called Laura to see how she was doing, and to see if there was any way the church could help her--bringing meals, running errands, etc. I was so terrified about calling that my fingers shook when I dialed, but the conversation was actually very enjoyable. We talked for maybe 30 minutes, and I promised to arrange some meals for her family and to stay in touch.
The next day, Tuesday 4/13/10, I received an email that changed my life:
You have no idea how you have made a difference to me. Last night after we spoke on the phone I felt an amazing feeling of peace, and somehow I felt empowered. I had not had a night of peace like last night. I felt this calling from God, so much so that I actually moved out of my bedroom and into the guest bedroom, where I have on a shelf and walls various images of angels and Jesus. I felt this was my safe place, closer to God. I then read a comic book (from page 1 until the end) called Cancer Vixen, a gift from a co-worker who is also a breast cancer survivor. I had not read the comic book, it had just sat on my table for weeks, because I felt too depressed and didn't feel right reading something funny. But, last night was different. I couldn't put the book down and read it until 2:30 this morning. I laughed out loud like I had not done in years, and ever with a book. Then, I woke up this morning happy, upbeat, not dragging my self to work, and for the first time in two weeks I actually got to work on time, not 1 hr late. I had a good day today. I came home to realize my son doesn't have school tomorrow, so we played all afternoon. Then I got your card in the mail, and it made me weep, for I now know why I felt so much joy and had so much laughter last night. Thank you for praying for me, and for asking God to bring me joy and laughter! I have no doubt your prayers and sacrifices for me have moved the holy spirit within me. There are no words to express my gratitude. I trust in the Lord that he has a plan for me, and will pray for healing.
I fired off an ecstatic response the moment I finished reading. "I believe God is using this experience to call both of us to a closer relationship with him," I said. "I don't think I have ever prayed so fervently for anyone, but I've believed for a long time that God is calling me to intercession. This certainly inspires me to heed that call."
I wanted to call her the next day, but she phoned me first. "We attended a training seminar at work today," she said. "You'll never guess what the topic was... It was on the power of laughter!" During the seminar, they had shared a case study of how laughter improved the recovery in cancer patients.
"I think God is making sure His message gets across!" I marveled.
Since that time, Laura has become one of my closest friends. I've enjoyed spending time with her and her family, and getting to know her better. The more I learn about her, the more she inspires me with her courage and her strength.
You wouldn't have time to read about all the other amazing things God has done in us and through us, so I'll just say that God has given us a very powerful connection. When she needs me, I always seem to KNOW. I'll pray for her, and then I'll send her a card or a text message, or pick up the phone. The timing is always perfect.
God has answered many of our prayers, and He's given me an assurance that she is already healed. Once, while I was praying for her, I said, "I'm going to dance with joy when Laura is healed." Immediately I heard a voice in my thoughts: Dance now! She's already healed. So I danced for joy, all alone in my closet, and then I ground her defeated cancer under my feet.
Now I'm just waiting for her body to come into alignment with that spiritual reality. In the meantime, I can't believe how much my faith has grown through hours spent on my knees--and more recently, miles of prayers while I'm walking. I'm so thankful God brought us together, and I look forward to years of fellowship between us and our families.