by Elizabeth Burgard Fulgaro © 2014written Monday, August 25, 2014
Wednesday marks two weeks since surgery to remove my thyroid due to cancer. Tomorrow is the post op appointment with the surgeon for him to take a look at me and let us know how he thinks I am doing and where he recommends things go from here. It is at this time he will share with us the pathology report of how much cancer there was and if they think there is still anymore.
On the day of surgery the Lord laid on my heart specifically to wear a pair of pale pink flats He pointed out for purchase a few years ago, which had tickled my fancy because they had the look of ballet shoes. As a child, how I loved to dance!
Here in this season where we know for certain the only certainty is uncertainty, the Lord has made clear His theme for me is JOY.
JOY is not a new message from Him to me. In 2010 for the third Sunday in Advent, my friend Margaret gave me a special hand-made piece she had felt led by the Holy Spirit to crochet for me in a brilliant fuchsia color. The Lord had had her give it to me specifically that week because the third Sunday of Advent (Advent is the four weeks preceding Christmas where Jesus, His birth, the gift of salvation and His promised second coming are contemplated) is traditionally marked with the lighting of rose or pink candle, to signify “Gaudete” or Rejoice Sunday, where we are reminded the end of Advent (the coming of Christ then, now and forever) is almost here and we can hardly contain our JOY! Her hand-crocheted piece was to remind me to have JOY—the JOY of Christ which is not dependent on, nor the same as happiness. JOY goes far beyond happiness. JOY is not dependent upon today’s circumstances. JOY is a gift from the Lord, whenever we pursue Him and are willing to receive it.
Less than a month later in the middle of January 2011, another dear, constant, friend, Lori came over for our weekly Bible study and fellowship time together. We had not met during the final weeks in December and so she was bringing my Christmas gift. She parked, but did not immediately get out of the car and come to the door. She was asking the Lord to give her His words with which to write me a note to accompany the gift. Under the wrapping paper was a beautiful large teacup, saucer and plate with the word JOY sprinkled all over them in the reds and greens of Christmas. The note said:
“The Lord gave me the word ‘Joy’ for you before Christmas and I believe that Joy is your word for 2011. He says that you will not strive this year for every time you fall into striving, He will replace it with joy. You will experience joy as a covering….a blanket that lays on top of you and surrounds you. You have to choose to put it on but He will be faithful to fill you and cover you in joy!” (January 13, 2011)
Lori did not know that I had gone to the fabric store under unction of the Holy Spirit following Margaret’s gift, purchased fabric and made a blanket covering for John and my bed, sewing Margaret’s bright fuchsia crocheted border along the top edge. Lori did not know the Lord had me choose a fabric of wildflowers for the quilt-like blanket top cover and soldier camouflage for the blanket bottom underneath to symbolize the choice of joy in all circumstances—even when life seemed a battle. God was at work through Lori and Margaret to bring me cohesive, confirming pieces of His message for me.
That was the first season of choosing JOY. This is the second. When the diagnosis of cancer came and the surgery date had been scheduled, the Lord impressed upon me that His theme for me during this time was also JOY. Then He proceeded to shower me with ongoing confirmations.
First, He prompted me to procure a thinner copy of the NIV Bible translation for the hospital. I have many Bible translations. Amplified tends to be my favorite, but the Lord was clear. Specifically He nudged me on Monday evening the week before surgery to head to the local family-owned Bible bookstore to look for the exact copy He wanted me to have. On the shelf there I found three in the size He had shown me: black, navy and….bold fuchsia pink. It was the identical color as Margaret’s hand-crocheted blanket border for me. The pink seemed a little too bright based on what I would usually pick, but the Lord’s prompt was undeniable. To have me purchase this Bible was a confirmation that despite the word “cancer” which had entered my life so abruptly, it was to be a season of JOY. Once home, He also led me to pick up the new empty journal off my desk, which He had had me purchase a least a month earlier. Wow. It also was shades of pink. The Scripture embossed on the front by the publisher pointed further to choose joy because of who He is:
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I will give thanks to Him. (Psalm 28:7)”
Okay, Lord. I am listening….
He gave me an idea. Over the next 8 days whenever I was with a fellow believer, I would ask them to pray if the Lord gave them a particular Scripture for me and have them either write it in the Bible or mark it with their signature and the date. There was, however, one I was to mark in the Bible first:
…for the joy of the LORD is my strength. (Neh. 8:10)
How I loved and love this verse. It does not say, the Lord gives me joy. It does not say joy from the Lord is my strength. It says: the joy OF the Lord is my strength. His joy is the source of my strength.
Oh Lord, You are joyful, for joy is one of the fruit of Your Spirit. It is one of Your core, unchanging attributes. Oh Lord, through Your joy I have strength to endure whatever comes. And I know You are with me at all times. And I know You will use all, all, all things for eventual good in the lives of those who love You. And I know You will never leave me or forsake me, that You are my Dwelling Place, Refuge and Sanctuary. And I know You are my Healer, not just for now but through eternity. Lord, Your joy is my strength. Your joy is my strength. Your joy is my strength. Oh Lord, in trust born of faith, I choose to receive and dwell in your JOY!
I picked up the Bible the next morning, August 5th, after my name and a Holy Spirit symbol were embossed on it and went straight to Andrea’s house for a Bible study. Attending this Bible study was a surprise for me. Only God had known that on this morning Andrea, a dear, dear friend and sister-in-Christ who is also going through cancer, would invite me to a special monthly Bible study cancer support group to be held at her home and hosted by Geri and Marcia, faith-filled cancer survivors.
All the others in the group had met before and so in addition to massively powerful prayer for one another that morning, Andrea shared certain Scriptures to which the week’s Bible study lessons had led her. The first Scripture she shared was one of the first the Lord had had me memorize when I came back to faith in Him over 20 years ago.
1 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-3)
Next Andrea brought forward verses from Romans which expanded on this:
1 Therefore, since we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and to enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). 2 Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God. 3 Moreover, [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. 4 And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. 5 Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5 Amplified)
I had shared with no one yet God’s word to me that this was to be a season of JOY, where I chose JOY and endeavored to understand His JOY more. Another verse kept repeating through my mind.
2 For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)
I had sung about this JOY for which He had endured the cross in the song, “For The Joy” which is now recorded on the RESURRECTION JOY worship CD. This verse along with Nehemiah 8:10 stating His JOY is our strength seemed so key to me.
I continued to read on my own in Hebrews, remembering that discipline frequently refers to training, not necessarily punishment:
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all…10…God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. (Hebrews 12:6-8,10b-13)
All right, Lord. I do want to be closer to You. I do so desire to reflect You more, because my eyes are on You and Your way alone. Have Your Way, Lord. Have Your Way.
Following the amazing Bible study time, I traveled to Placerville and had a wonderful time with my cousin Loretta at Holy Trinity Church, followed by the blessing of spending that evening with Lonnie and Angela. Lonnie gave me the following verse:
The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still. (Exodus 14:14)
This also had long been one of my favorite verses. Given the significance of the number 14 in my life this past year, this verse from Lonnie was really cool! I began to page through the Bible for what Angela had put. The Lord stayed my hand. NOT NOW. Rats! The little girl in me wanted to find it like a gift at Christmas! I obediently though reluctantly closed my Bible and my eyes for the night.
Several mornings later, I stumbled upon her message and highlighted Scripture:
You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. (1 Thess. 1:6 NIV)
To this Angela had written in the margin: “Keep in the joy!!! J Have FUN in IT ALL!!”
JOY….again, JOY. The Lord was amazing me with the clarity of where He wanted my focus to be.
It struck me that God and thus His Spirit are consistent in all circumstances. When there is a hard time, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the character of the manifestation of His presence in our lives does not change. And one of these fruit is JOY.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control…”
My husband entered the hospital room where I had been moved following recovery on the day of surgery with a bouquet of flowers festively packaged in a bright yellow mug with a smiley face on it. JOY! The flowers I have received from friends in the Lord since the surgery are all shades of pinks and red. I did not tell them the color the Lord has given me for this season of JOY, but the Holy Spirit nudged them each in just the right way to unknowingly re-affirm His message.
And so proceeding to this appointment, I do not know what the future holds. Yet, honestly nothing has changed. Before the cancer diagnosis I did not know what the future held either. It is God in my life from now through eternity, Who is my certainty. He has always been the only certainty for He knows all and we do not, have not, will not and have never been in control. Thus He is the One upon whom I have relied for years and He remains the only One upon whom I can rely. He knows the plans He has for me and these He promises are for good and not for evil all the days of this mortal existence until He calls me home. (Based on Jeremiah 29:11.) This is not an empty-headed joy which I force upon myself with imagination, but a JOY given by God, which I choose to receive, because I choose to trust in God and His promises. This does not make me brave or courageous or even strong. His JOY is my strength, remember? It means I know all I can do is lean on Him and trust in Him.
Several of the verses the Lord gave me on this journey affirm this. First from Danielle:
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:5-6)
1 In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. (Psalm 25:1)
And one He brought me to right after diagnosis, while spending my private morning time with Him:
Because You are my help; I sing in the shadow of Your wings. (Psalm 63:7)
Therefore for this appointment I choose once again to wear my rose-colored top and my light pink, ballet-styled dancing shoes. I choose to count it all JOY for the JOY of my Lord is my strength now and forever.
May you also feel His blessing upon you at all times no matter what, and as you lean on Him more and more may you be filled with and strengthened by HIS JOY!!!
Elizabeth Fulgaro is a wife, mother, writer, inspirational speaker, worship leader, composer, singer & recording artist. She is also a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Financial Counselor with a heart for helping Christians understand and steward their finances God’s way.
For books, worship cds, Bible studies and teachings written by Elizabeth Fulgaro or to schedule her to come speak to your group please visit www.holyspiritpress.org Worship music audio clips can be found at www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ElizabethFulgaro and on itunes.
Elizabeth is the Founder of Eagles Nest Foundation which provides spiritual support & encouragement to military and military families as well as those in physical and emotional battles (such as cancer, long-term illness) as well as those grieving a loss. For information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.eaglesnestfoundation.org