Today is my 46th birthday. And it's a very special day for me . . .
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of this year, I was 45 years old ~ the same age my husband's mother was when she died of a brain tumor in 1984.
This was shocking to me for two reasons. First, I realized how young Greg's mom was when she died. I never met my mother-in-law, but through the years I've heard many stories about her incredible life. And I'd always pictured her as an older woman: she'd given birth to seven children, seen four of them graduate from highschool, and watched them begin lives of their own by the time God called her home.
But suddenly I realized how much she must have still dreamed of seeing: graduations for the last three, weddings, grandbabies, and years of empty-nesting with her husband. She never got most of that; she got Heaven instead. But she was so young.
My second shocking realization was that I might not get to live as long as I had planned. "I was going to live to be ninety," my bewildered soul kept repeating, "I'm only halfway there." In horror I watched the second half of my life disappear ~ evaporating like so much mist.
Less than two weeks after my partial mastectomy, we drove to North Carolina with our four children for March Break. It was the most difficult family vacation I'd ever been on; I couldn't stop thinking that it might be my last.
One morning, as we were waking up in our rented cottage, I tentatively voiced my fears to Greg in words something like this: "The hardest part is not knowing how much time I have."
His very Biblical answer was, "Well . . . you're just going to have to trust in the sovereignty of God."
He was right, and he was kind ~ but I was mad. And I spat back: "That's easy for you to say! They're not your hopes or your dreams or your plans."
My dear husband didn't argue. He thoughtfully replied, "You're right," and quietly got up to fix us some breakfast.
I rolled over, bundled in my despair. As I stared past the room into a future that I couldn't see, my own words echoed back through my heart and I heard, really heard, what I had just said. In essence: my hopes, my dreams, my plans. Where was God in all that? Did I have any thought for His hopes, His dreams, His plans? How often were even my good and godly goals wrapped in self-gratification and self-preservation?
And in that moment, it hit me: cancer was going to kill me.
Either the cancer would take over my body and I would die physically; or I would survive the cancer ~ but the old, self-centered Anne would be gone. At least, that was my hope.
So here I am. After months of chemotherapy and radiation, my treatments are behind me. It's my 46th birthday, and I feel like it's the first day of the second half of my life. Or the first day of my new life.
I feel like I'm poised on a ridge. Looking back, I can see all that my first 45 years have held: a wonderful childhood, a relationship with Jesus Christ, a solid Christian education, a degree in teaching, opportunities to write for magazines and Sunday school papers, the privilege of being a teacher, marriage to the man of my dreams, four children who continue to amaze me with their uniqueness, spending time overseas, a church plant growing in our home . . . and if that's all I ever got from life, that would be enough. Just like my mother-in-law, my life has been full to the brim.
But when I turn and look ahead ~ Lord willing, there's more! I don't know what it will be ... that mist still covers the hills and valleys ahead of me. Mathematically, the second half of my life may not be as long as the first half. But I trust that it will be even better, in so many ways. And when this half is done, there's still eternity with God to come! Who could ask for more?