I Choose Joy
Jan 20, 2019 | by Nancy Newbrough
In May 2017, my 90-year-old mother began to complain that she was not able to keep up in her aerobics class that met five times each week. She also no longer had the stamina afterwards to walk her daily mile and concluded she “was just getting old.” When fatigue and shortness of breath increased to the point that she had to give up singing in the church choir and with her ladies' duet and trio, we made appointments to have her checked out!
After having chest x-rays, she was treated for pneumonia. Then additional tests revealed fluid in one of her lungs. After nearly two liters of fluid were drawn off, she improved! We thought it was a done deal … until 30 days later when lab results on the fluid revealed stage 4 lung cancer.
What an unexpected, heartbreaking turn of events for me! Mother, however, seemed unflappable. The oncologist indicated that at her age and weighing only 90 pounds, chemotherapy would be devastating and was off the table. All he could offer was a referral to hospice!
Mother is a woman of faith who gave her heart to Jesus as a young girl. She responded by telling the doctor, “I have a better place waiting for me! Whether I am here or there, it is a win either way!” She later intimated to me that she had no dread of dying, but just did not want to “lay and linger.” I suggested we pray that she could continue to live a happy, quality life until God was ready to bring her home. Also, when that time comes, that she will go to sleep in her own bed and awaken in heaven. We both felt an immediate peace.
Mother has attended her church for 30 years and the Sunday she shared the news with her church family, the pastor anointed her with oil and the congregation gathered at the altar to pray over her. She has not missed attending Sunday services since!
Now, 18 months later, she sees the beloved hospice nurse only once a week and continues to do remarkably well. This includes cooking her own breakfast of biscuits, sausage and gravy every morning! She is as tough as nails, never complains, is always positive and optimistic, and insists that “every day is a good day and I am doing great!”
Seven years ago, my husband and I built a second home in southern Florida and each year look forward to spending winters in the sunshine state. This is our second winter staying in the Midwest cold to enable me to care for mother -- with him by my side giving loving help and encouragement. Mother lives only five minutes away and I make several trips back and forth daily helping out.
One thing I look most forward to each day is clearing my head while walking my little cocker spaniel. She often takes me by a yard several blocks away that has a lawn sign reading: “I Choose Joy!” Some days I find myself grasping for a ray of sunshine or happiness, particularly on cold, gray winter days when I am homesick for sunshine, sand and palm trees. I am a “fixer” by nature, and it is so difficult being confronted with something like cancer that I just cannot fix. The lawn sign has been a constant reminder that being joyful is a choice!
So many days that realization has turned my whole outlook around and I am able to exhale and find peace and joy in the tasks ahead. Some days are more difficult to maintain that commitment than others, but if I can take a breath and repeat those words, I can usually get centered once more.
Upon hearing the diagnosis all those months ago, neither mother nor I could have imagined God would be so generous with our remaining time together! I often think of the divine timing of the lawn sign, undoubtedly a nudge of encouragement from God. Along with my mom's inexplicable quality of life (that leaves even her hospice nurse in awe), that can be nothing short of sweet miracles from above! As I thank God for these blessings and for all our answered prayers, I vow that again today -- “I Choose Joy!”
The Lord is my strength and shield.
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
Psalm 28:7 NLT