You guys, you are going to be blown away by God’s nearness, faithfulness, steadfastness, care and love. My sweet friend, Jenny, shares her story in a way that will cause you to rejoice in our Lord and Savior. Read and be blessed!
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I have always loved a good story, especially those with a great and dangerous adventure, where the road seems hard, even impossible, but in the end good conquers evil. It’s easy to forget that we are all a part of an amazing story. As a follower of Jesus and an adopted child of God, the neatest thing about all of our stories is that they are connected through Him. The main character in our stories is Jesus: the Hero, the Author of our lives, our Redeemer and Savior. He is weaving our stories together to accomplish His plan and purpose. And in the end, He wins.
Today I am humbled to share a part of my story with you. A time in my life where God met me right where I was in my struggle and He always provided. It was not necessarily what I wanted but what I needed, helping me overcome my fears and shining His light into my darkness.
In June of 2017, Alex and I had been married for two and half years and we lived on the family farm. This big city girl turned farmer’s wife had just turned 30 and I was enjoying a career as a pediatric nurse. We were expecting our first child and planning to announce to our families soon. Everything was going smoothly until one day it wasn’t.
At 8 weeks pregnant I was diagnosed with cancer. Shock and disbelief quickly took hold. What was happening? How was this possible? Surely this was a bad dream I would wake up from at any moment. All we knew was that I was pregnant, there was a tumor in my lower large intestines (located behind my uterus), and standard treatment required terminating the pregnancy.
It was about mid-week when fear had all but consumed me. I was at the brink of complete panic. I couldn’t function, I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t breathe. My mind was quickly spinning out of control with all the unknowns and possibilities that lay ahead. I didn’t want the next day to come. I didn’t want to move forward. I wanted to crawl under the covers and not come out until it was all over. I was drowning underneath the weight of what was to come. I was so afraid. Afraid for our baby. Afraid of dying.
The night before my appointment with my surgeon a book arrived in the mail from my aunt. It was a celebration of our pregnancy. A children’s rendition of Psalm 23, Found by Sally Lloyd-Jones. As I read the familiar words, I stopped at the page that had a small lamb, standing alone, surrounded by complete darkness. It read,
“Even when I walk through the dark, scary, lonely places….”
Like the lamb, I felt like I was surrounded by darkness feeling alone and without hope. There was no light, no hope. I felt only fear and death ahead. But there was another page so I turned it and read,
“I won’t be afraid. Because my Shepherd knows where I am. He is here with me.”
The illustration was of Jesus running towards the lamb. I knew He was running towards me, towards my fears and doubts, into my darkness. At that moment, because of Jesus, I saw a flicker of hope. Although I still had to face what was ahead, I wouldn’t be alone. I had Jesus. He was my hope. I was still scared but I knew where to look. I could breathe and I could take that next step. I could come out from under the covers and walk into the light.
The next morning, I woke up remembering a hymn that I hadn’t sung since I was a little girl.
“Because He lives I can face tomorrow. Because He lives all fear is gone.”
To this day I still tear up when I hear this song. It brings me back to the moment God began to teach me more and more about Himself, about His character and that I didn’t need to fear. Even if the appointment ended with the doctors telling me I had six months to live, Jesus would be enough! He was with me. He was my strength. He would be faithful. I could trust Him and He would walk this path with me.
At the appointment, the doctors told me that I had stage 3 (advanced) cancer. God had not miraculously healed me over night. I still faced a long journey but Alex and I would continue to move forward, walking with Jesus and trusting Him. Alex and I wanted to give our baby a chance to live even if that posed a greater risk to my health. In faith, we pursued a customized treatment plan. The doctors would perform major abdominal surgery to remove the tumor, and they would place an ileostomy at nine weeks pregnant. At the start of my second trimester, I would begin three months of IV chemo.
Those 4 months of treatments came with many ups and downs, good days and hard days. Pregnancy brought us joy even despite the complexities and uncertainties. Alex and I didn’t know if we would ever be able to hold our baby in our arms but having something to celebrate during the trial was still such a gift from God.
On February 5th 2018, I delivered a healthy baby boy. We named him Alex Carter Foltz. Our hearts were full of gratitude as we took Carter home to begin life as a family of three. We breathed a little easier. We felt like the worst was behind us.
When Carter was only two months old, my doctor called with the results from a recent scan: I still had cancer in an area that would be hard to remove. As I listened to the doctor explain the risks, I felt the darkness pressing in around me. I would need another surgery, more chemo, and radiation. What was needed to hopefully eradicate the cancer would most likely eliminate the ability for me to have more children.
This was devastating news that brought me to yet another place of fear. Ever since I can remember, I have loved babies. Alex and I dreamed of having a big family together. As I held my two-month-old son in my arms, my future with him seemed even more uncertain. Would I be here to watch him grow? Would I be able to be his mother? Fear and heartbreak began to creep in, but this time I knew where to go. I ran to Jesus and into His light.
Soon after, I was rocking Carter to sleep. Holding my baby, not knowing what the future would hold, I cried and prayed. Above Carter’s crib hung this Scripture:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
I wrestled with these words as I prayed and asked the Lord for healing. I wanted to live! I wanted to be here to care for Alex and Carter! It was then that Jesus helped me see that my future and hope was not found in a long life and in a big family but in Jesus and only in Jesus. I had heard this all my life but it was in that moment He helped me understand and believe it. If I died, I knew that I could trust God to take care of Alex and Carter. I could trust God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, with my family.
In April of 2019 I had another abdominal surgery to remove the cancer and in May, I began radiation treatments. These 5 months were filled with battles against fear and with many, many tears. I sought His strength and comfort when my body was weak, frail and in pain. I felt discouragement and grief as friends, also battling cancer, went to be with Jesus. As days and months past, my heartache and sorrow grew as I began to realize that I would no longer be able to bare children, coming to terms with a shattered dream. I wrestled, and questioned, and doubted – a constant pull between what I was feeling and what I knew to be true. Jesus helped me during my wrestling, questions and doubts and He is still helping me. He was faithful every step of the way. His presence, provision, and power sustained me through it all.
I remember reading that there are 366 verses in the Bible where God tells us not to be afraid, one for every day of the year plus one. I have never counted them myself, but I know there are a lot. As I look back over those days and months, I needed every one of them. I needed to hear every day that I didn’t have to be afraid because Jesus is with me. Pastor Timothy Keller, who recently went to be with Jesus said, “When you look at what Jesus has done for you, then by the power of the Holy Spirit, you will change.” Over these two years of cancer, treatment and recovery, God was slowly but surely making His Word come alive in my heart, producing deeper meaning, deeper understanding, and deeper love for Him. He reminded me of who He is, and He is much bigger than my fears and my circumstances. When fear started to come back, I would name them. I would recall God’s character and the promises from His word. I would stand firmly on them. Each time He faithfully provided the strength to move forward from darkness into His light.
That August, I had another scan. This time they were clear – “crystal clear,” as my aunt had prayed. In September, I had surgery to reverse the ileostomy. Today, I have been cancer free for over four years. I love being Alex’s wife and Carter’s mom. Every day is a gift bringing more opportunities to trust Jesus.
I don’t know what you are going through and of course, no two stories are the same. Our stories are different but our God remains the same. His presence and faithfulness will meet you uniquely in your circumstance. Whatever you are facing remember, [He has loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), [He] has chosen you (John 15:16), [He] will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and He will walk you through (Psalm 23:4). As John Newton said, “All [our] concerns [are] in His hands and therefore safe.” Our stories are in His hands and our future in Him is secure.
Carter, now five, is starting to tell me he is afraid of things like the dark, of being alone, or getting hurt. Because of the journey I have walked with Jesus these last six years I can tell him with confidence that he doesn’t have to be afraid. I can teach Carter what God has taught and continues to teach me. I can remind him of the verse we say each night during Advent when we light the candles, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.” (John 1:5). I can take Carter’s hand and together we can walk towards the Light. As we walk together, I pray that one day he too will follow Jesus and trust Him so that when He walks through the mountains and valleys of life, even through the valley of the shadow of death, he need not be afraid.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned”… (Isaiah 43:2). “We [walked] through the fire and through water; yet [Jesus has] brought us out to a place of abundance” (Psalm 66:12b).
Abundance in Him with hope everlasting.