I am expecting the Lord to rescue me again, so that once again I will see his goodness to me here in the land of the living. Don’t be impatient. Wait for the Lord and he will come and save you! Be brave, stouthearted, and courageous. Yes, wait and he will help you. Psalm 27:13-14
No one strategizes a seating chart like a group of girls picking a table for our high school prom. The hours spent discussing first, who will be at the table and then second who sits next to who rival planning of any major corporate Christmas party. Factors such as how long the couple has been dating to who irritates who the most all play in to the discussion. Throw in a last minute date change and things can get real spicy, real quick. It is no surprise that when given the opportunity to exert some type of control on a night that holds such high expectations for possibly the best night of their lives, 16 year olds will take it.
And wouldn’t we all.
Nothing spoils a good dinner party like the unexpected, sometimes uninvited annoying guest. If given the chance to keep all uncomfortable conversation at bay I will certainly take it. I naturally seek out those that I know and love when put in a situation where I have a choice.
When given the choice between……
People that irritate, have caused or are currently causing pain. People that make me feel unsafe and unloved.
People that celebrate, welcome and even challenge me (in a good way) .
I would pick the second group 10 out of 10 times.
One bad guest has the potential to ruin the night. One disturbing presence and all the fabulousness of the event can waft right out the window.
Lately it feels like those folks from choice number 1, or in my life, those circumstances, diagnosis, keep showing up, pulling up a chair, raising their voice with their glass and proclaiming in a loud voice….
Look at me!!!!
The morning was cold and dark and I was groggy and thirsty as my husband and I began our trip to the medical center 40 minutes from our home. My mind was darting between the thought of my upcoming surgery and the funeral of a young man taken too soon. Both happening on the same day, at the same time. Both uninvited guests to my personal table and the ones of a family living in the same small town that I do. Going into a procedure requiring anesthesia, rest, followed by the possibility of several months of treatments when everything in me felt Just. Fine…..
Did not make sense.
Just like the thought of a young wife and mother attending the funeral of her husband. What in the world?
No invitations but both clearly present.
Both boldly proclaiming that they would now be taking all our joy,
all our peace
all our power.
Gosh I want the imagined control of the 16 year old picking a seating chart for the prom. I want to dismiss the obnoxious boy that will ruin the night and only include my favorite people. I want all of life to be instagram post worthy with warm filters and smiles on faces that make all want to trade places at the beautifully decorated table I have set.
But they show up. Those uninvited guests. Enemies to our soul.
And yet, in this season …. I am reminded that their presence does not have to steal my presents. The gifts of a good dinner party that can remain when I choose to shift my focus. When I intentionally move my eyes from the uninvited guest to the generous host that has a glorious banquet prepared in their presence. I sometimes believe that the enjoyment of the dinner party will only come when the irritating person or circumstance leaves. These words from Psalms 23 remind me this is
You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest, blessings overflow! Psalm 23:5-6 The Living Bible
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed and refreshed my head with oil. My cup overflows. Psalm 23:5-6 The Amplified Bible
You become my delicious feast even when my enemies dare to fight. TPT Psalm 23:5-6
You prepared a meal for me in front of my enemies, You welcomed me as an honored guest. ERV Psalm 23:5-6
You are making a table of food ready for me in front of those who hate me. You have poured oil on my head. I have everything I need. NLV Psalm 23:5-6.
You prepare a banquet for me while my enemies watch. Psalm 23:5-6
Verses 5 and 6 are the answer. The key to navigating our run ins with lifes uninvited guests. They remind us :
- Enemies or uninvited guests are, have and will come.
- The banquet will go on.
- Our enemies will be watching.
- We can enjoy the feast while they are seated at the table
- While at the table with my enemies, I can be treated as an honored guest, my blessings will overflow and the food will be delicious.
“What can we do?”
Isn’t that the question we ask of someone navigating a particularly challenging dinner guest?
As we stood in the entry way to my home, I paused before I answered my 2 friends that had asked if they could stop by ‘real quick’. They wanted to present me with a sweet gift that reminds me every day that faith as small as a mustard seed is all that is needed to navigate the mountainous challenges that arrive in our lives stories. I’m so grateful for the tribe that God has so graciously placed in my world.
My diagnosis came as a total surprise. Even now as I type this from my view from the middle of my treatment plan I have a hard time remembering. Remembering that just 2 months ago after my yearly routine mammogram I was summoned to return for a second look with both mammogram and ultrasound leading to a request for an even closer look which comes from a needle biopsy. All these looks …. revealing…
Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
A Very Uninvited Guest.
And an opportunity to make a decision, to shift my gaze to the author and perfecter of my faith, to the artist of my life, the host of my dinner party.
“Beth, what can we do?”
In the moment I answered this question my future was so unknown. How would I recover from the diagnosed lumpectomy? Would my follow up include both chemotherapy and radiation? If it included both and I lost all my hair – would it grow back curly like all my friends that have attended this same, damn dinner party before me? Gosh I did not want curly hair. (No offense to my curly hair friends:) At least I would have a reason for investing in cute hats???
“Be excellent. Be the best you that you can be. Play big as a wife, as a mom, as professional, as a volunteer. Don’t shrink back. Don’t let doubt, discouragement, despair sneak into your heart, mind or soul. What the enemy wants to use to increase his territory… God promises he can use for good. Good. The last thing I would want is for the hard that is happening to me to cause others to stop showing up in the way that God wants and needs you to. Right. Now.”
This is what I said to my friends. This is what I said to my children, my husband, the team I lead. This is what I say ….
To you the reader.
What I know now, that I did not know when I was chatting with my friends in the entrance of my home is …
That my cancer is Stage 1. That my lumpectomy was a success, revealing no spread of cancer to my lymph nodes and a negative margin surrounding the large, buried tumor that was extracted from my body. That I will not need chemotherapy (no hair loss, no curly hair, no cute hat collection – well maybe I will still buy some hats). That in January ’23 I will begin 21 consecutive radiation treatments to reduce my risk of cancer return from 20% to less than 5%.
What I know now is that in the midst of this season my dinner party is not ruined. I have seen God show up in a gazillion amazing ways to show me his love, his provision, his strength, his joy. I have felt the warmth of the glow that rivals the feelings from the very best gathering surrounding the perfect collection of 16 year olds around a beautifully decorated prom table.
As I look around my world I observe so many enemies showing up to my friends and families tables. Just when I feel like I’ve completely turned my eyes off of my own uninvited guests I see them popping up at another table in another life. It is then that I stop attempting to arrange the seats around my table and theirs and trust the abundance that comes when I rest in the plans of the very best host.
I pray that your hope in 2023 rests in our God Host alone. I pray that the enemies at your table grow smaller and more insignificant as your hope, trust and real experience of your Savior grows bigger than ever before.
“Certainly, goodness and mercy will stay close to me all the days of my life, and I will remain in the Lord’s house for days without end.” Psalm 23:6
Yes and Amen.
Enjoying my birthday with friends was an important celebration at the beginning of my cancer journey:)