Eggshells in Cookies and other Lessons I Learned From Cancer

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When I was diagnosed with cancer, I got a reality check. I felt as if my body had betrayed me, but what’s more, I felt as if I’d betrayed my life. As a typical Type A personality, I always felt compelled to try to tackle EVERYTHING at once. I scurried through life at a breakneck pace in an effort to give 200% to far too many things. I completely overlooked the small things. 

As I waited for surgery, I feared that my cancer had spread. I was terrified that treatment wouldn’t work. I let my mind entertain irrational thoughts, the biggest of which was my children living without me. That thought consumed me like a wildfire. It was scary. Really, really scary.

What would they remember about me if I was gone? Did that match what I’d hoped for?

I made a mental list of the things that really mattered. The list was surprisingly short: my family and my faith. 

No size 4 jeans. No big house with a pool. Not even a fancy minivan with a vacuum system. 

Family. Faith. That’s it. 

Then, why did my time go elsewhere? Why did I mentally rush through the two things that mattered most? Was I really fulfilling God’s purpose for me as a mother, wife and friend?

Yeah, I know that last question was a heavy one. It hit me right in the gut.  More to the point, When I arrive in Heaven, will God be pleased with how I used the gifts He gave to me? 

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Matthew 6:20 focused me on my heavenly treasures. Upon reflection, the “important things” that caused me to run myself ragged didn’t matter at all. What really mattered were the three little treasures that God gave to me right here on Earth. I realized that I needed to be present and spiritually intentional, because long after I was gone, that’s what they would remember.

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
— Matthew 6:20-21 (KJV)

It was at that time that I promised myself I’d store up my heavenly treasure by being the person God made me to be. It’s such an awesome thought that God created me to be the mother of these precious children—and He created them just for me! Even my “shortcomings” were glorious opportunities presented for a purpose, though they don’t always feel that way. They aren’t failures. They are gifts. 

So was my cancer. It just took me a while to understand that.

I remember how tightly and tearfully I held my babies on the night before my surgery, desperately praying that everything would be OK; I wondered why I didn’t hold them that tightly every night. 

I do now. 

I promised myself that I’d tuck my kids in every night and earnestly pray with them. For them. Even when I felt drained. I’d let them see me engrossed in The Word, rather sneak away to the quietest spot in the house, because when I’m gone, I’d like them to have the visual snapshot of me to gently remind them to read the Bible.

I promised myself that I’d stop rushing them. I’d have more (gulp!) patience. I’d stop wishing for one phase to end, because with each ending phase, another begins—and then I’m stuck ugly-crying as I look at TimeHop’s daily deliveries. 

I promised that I’d focus my attention on the way they look at the world each day, so that I could appreciate what makes them unique right now. I’d stop looking at how they “should be” or making a standard from which they could fall short. God created them exactly as they should be. Appreciating that connects me to Him in the most awesome way. 

I promised that I’d hold their tiny hands at every opportunity and memorize how they felt intertwined with mine. I’d let them help me bake, even if it meant eggshells in our cookies. I’d laugh at their jokes and tell them how much I love seeing their eyes light up when they laugh. I’d pay attention to the big stuff in the small moments. 

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I’m in charge of creating the memories that will bring them comfort long after I’m gone. I want them to remember that I was never the first to let go of a hand or a hug. I want them to know that I love them exactly as they are, even as they change. 

I want them to remember that I loved them when they felt most unlovable. After all, they do the same for me.

As I was stuck in the hospital after my surgery, I promised myself that I wouldn’t try to do it all. Instead, I’d do what really matters and trust that the rest would take care of itself. 

And I can tell you honestly, friends: it has. 

edited by Becca Robison


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Jeanie Whinghter

Jeanie is a funny, energetic, Southern mama of faith. She is a working psychologist who also homeschools her kids. We are thrilled to welcome her as our newest Contributing Writer at The Small Seed.