24
Mar
22

Happy Anniversary, Sweetie

Earlier this week, we celebrated an anniversary.

It was the third anniversary of Joan joyfully and triumphantly ringing the brass bell that marked the end of her chemotherapy and the beginning of her remission from cancer.

It has been a remarkable three years indeed.

During that time, we have uprooted and moved our home 600 miles to the west, traveled the world, endured a global pandemic, remodeled a home, mourned a parent’s death, hiked, laughed, wept, and occasionally even acted like goofballs.

In the moment of Joan’s diagnosis… and in the immediate aftermath… our focus was on what cancer took from us. As we held each other and sobbed, we grieved the fact that;

  • Cancer took our composure. 
  • Cancer took our faith in the power of healthy habits to ward off disease.
  • Cancer took our peace.
  • For a time, cancer stole our sleep.
  • Cancer (well, chemo, actually) took Joan’s lovely auburn hair.
  • Cancer took our cherished visions for the future.
  • Cancer took just about every other topic of conversation.

But here, today, three years into Joan’s remission, we have been able to refocus. God has helped train our eyes to see the things cancer could never take. 

We now know, for example, that cancer could never take;

  • Our love for each other
  • The love and support of family and friends
  • Our gratitude for the gift of every new day
  • Our faith in the God who promised us – just as he promised Joshua – that, “… As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5, NRSV)
  • The beauty of this amazing world
  • The joy of simple pleasures like a good cup of coffee, a romp with the doggies, a stimulating book, a glimpse of snow-capped mountains, a FaceTime chat with grandkids, the warmth of a cozy blanket, a quiet moment of prayer, a freshly baked loaf of banana bread, or a sassy new pair of shoes.

Without a doubt, on this third anniversary of Joan’s remission we celebrate that cancer did not, could not possibly take from us; namely…

  • The “… peace of God, which surpasses understanding.” (Philippians 4:7). 

Besides cancer, the list is very short of the things that can so profoundly shake your foundations. It is one of those events that draws a big, bold “Before” and “After” line through life. And not just the life of the one who was diagnosed, but through everyone connected to that person. 

When it arrives, breaking down the front door of your life with an axe, like it does, cancer demands a top-to-bottom redefinition of What Matters Most. It smashes every one of the precious mementoes there on your shelf and laughs in your face. 

And suddenly, you find you have not one, but TWO battles on your hands. The first is the medical battle… the one you fight with the help of doctors, nurses, technicians, and researchers. 

But the second battle is the spiritual battle. It is the battle to hold fast to the purpose, meaning, and peace that was hardwired into you by God before you were even born. 

It is the battle for your soul.

I know there are some folks who feel as if we are at one of those “shaking of the foundations” moments in the world today. There is the political animus here at home, the brutal slaughter of the people of Ukraine, the slow degradation of our air and water supplies, the continuing COVID crisis, and the rise of rates of addiction and hopelessness, just to name a few issues off the top of my head. 

When THAT PICTURE is the one we stare at all day long, it is easy to conclude that all is indeed lost. 

But we have a choice. We can choose to focus on another picture. 

We can choose the picture Moses chose to see during his 40 years in the wilderness. We can choose to see the picture Jesus chose during his 40 days of fasting, or on the stormy Sea of Galilee, or in the Garden of Gethsemane.  

We can choose to see the picture of the God of All Creation, seated on the throne of heaven, holding each of us in his loving arms and – in the face of the storms raging all around – clearly speaking the words Jesus spoke to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27, NRSV).

Abundant blessings;


9 Responses to “Happy Anniversary, Sweetie”


  1. March 24, 2022 at 7:20 pm

    Praise the Lord!!! This is an excellent life story! God Bless You Both!!!

  2. 3 Bob Nolop
    March 24, 2022 at 7:50 pm

    Very good Russell. Thank you for sharing the wonderful gift of your writing.

  3. 5 caseysotr
    March 24, 2022 at 9:07 pm

    Congratulations on your third anniversary Joan and Russell.  It was so good to read that news in the blog today.  We still miss you as our Pastor Russell, but we have found a new church and Pastor that we like very much.  We are lucky to have found them 2 years ago because in that timeframe we have really had need of their compassion and friendship.  In the past 18 months we have lost 9 close family members and 4 long-time close friends.  Just this February we lost 4 in one month.  The worst for me was the loss of my sister who was 8 years younger than me.  I had to attend some classes at church on “Understanding Your Grief” and I am still seeing a counselor at the church.  Also during this timeframe Bill was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  A crippling thing for both of us.  We are in our 62nd year of marriage now, soulmates since high school.  I pray and pray that I will be strong enough to care for him always.Peace and Blessings to you both.  Joan, I pray that you will ring that brass bell each year for many years to come.Jeanne and Bill Casey

    • March 25, 2022 at 12:22 am

      Oh, Jeanne! I am so sorry to hear about all the loss and heartbreak you and Bill have endured in the last two years. Four in one month sounds unbearable! Thank God for friends and faith. It is so good to hear from you. I will pray for you and Bill as you go through the difficult passage of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is a cruel, cruel illness.

  4. March 25, 2022 at 1:47 am

    You say that at first cancer took about every other topic of conversation. But as I recall, that subject never came up as the three of us were sitting by the pool in Sanibel getting to know one another. I learned a lot about you two, but I didn’t know about Joan’s battle with cancer until today. I’d say cancer lost that battle – imagine losing so badly you aren’t even talked about. 😏

  5. March 25, 2022 at 8:08 pm

    Russell, please tell Joan Happy Anniversary on ringing the bell! May she ring it for years to come. This post touched my heart. I was nodding and saying “Amen” all the way through it. The faith that both of you have is a testimony for us all! You are so wise when you share of the choice we have each day. Some that have battled disease, like Joan, might give in and give up. BUT FOR GOD! May you both continue to be blessed and healthy as you serve as messengers for the love and goodness of Christ! Please give Joan my best and a hug for being such a positive overcomer!


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