As a kid I loved reading mysteries. I would curl up with a new Nancy Drew novel, break open the pages and speed through the chapters. Of course, the first few chapters read quite casually as the author set the scene and developed the characters, but as the plot line thickened and events turned suspenseful, I couldn’t read fast enough. So I would conveniently place a book mark where I was, flip a few pages ahead to see how things turned out, and then resume reading from the bookmarked place. Somehow knowing who-did-what-and-how gave me the endurance to read through the middle suspense chapters with peace and calmness.
What if you could read the story of your life backwards and see how everything turned out? Would it make enduring through trials and tribulations easier, knowing the end result?
I knew Micki Green from serving on staff with her at Grace Community Church. I watched her walk through this journey with cancer and cling to her faith in God. Her sense of humor and homemade melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake made the church office a little slice of home.
As I sat down to write her story, I read much of her Caring Bridge entries with the end in view. I knew after chemo she was declared “cancer free” and spent close to five years that way.
So as I read her day-to-day journal of those days at MD Anderson, it was like I had skipped ahead a few chapters and then resumed my reading. I knew God would hear and heal. The chemo that produced painful side effects would work. The pain would subside. She would have a normal or “cancer free” day (as she called it) soon.
I knew she would get through it.
Life makes much more sense when we look back on it than it does living in the present tense.
As you’ll see, Mick and Gary now face a new challenge, and it’s my hope that through the stories of God’s faithfulness in the past, they will anchor their hold on to that same hope for the future.
Susan Elizabeth Green began her journey with cancer in October 2010 when she was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in her neck. Her peaceful life at Hide-a-way Lake was disrupted with abrupt travels back and forth to MD Anderson in Houston. She and her husband Gary traded the windy, country back roads for stacked Houston traffic and long hallways of the giant hospital. As if that wasn’t hard enough, Micki also had to leave her desk at Grace Community church where she faithfully used her gifts in administration.
Amid the uncertainty, she wrote on the homepage on her Caring Bridge website, “I place myself in God’s loving hands every morning. I know that nothing touches me without first going through His hands. He is in control of every big and little thing in this world. I pray He is glorified with each breath I take.”
In November 2010 Micki began chemotherapy once a week for six weeks, took two weeks off then had radiation for six weeks.
God’s timing is always perfect and Micki is thankful God waited to place this trial on her after she got to Grace Community. When she accepted Christ eight years prior, she prayed for Christian friends. God answered, and blessed her “beyond her wildest dreams.”
He knew she would need each and every one of the staff members and friends she found there. Friends proved their lifeline, cheering Micki and Gary on spiritually, emotionally and mentally by decorating their house at Christmas, constantly bringing food, whisking Micki away for some retail therapy or pampering her with manicures.
As she says many times through out her website, “I am truly blessed.”
During chemo treatments Micki began each day by spending time with Lord. She said, “When I don’t have my quiet time first thing in the morning, the whole day stinks!” But when she did, the Holy Spirit would keep her mind focused on what God was doing in and through her. She stayed hopeful He would use her journey through cancer to help others. As long as she stayed focused on that, peace remained.
“This cancer journey is truly a test of complete and total surrender to God and His will,” she said.
A test she often felt inadequate to take. On her website she honestly penned, “I did not sign up for this! I know God is in control, although this afternoon I was wondering if He was taking a coffee break. I think God has me mixed up with someone else who’s equipped to deal with this!”
Micki is in good company. The Bible overflows with people who didn’t feel equipped for the job they had to do. God loves our honesty with Him, and if we will trust Him, He replaces our fear and doubt with reminders of His sufficiency and faithfulness.
“God’s always taken care of me in the past and I know He will take care of me now. What matters most is not so much my circumstances, but my response to them. I know that God will cause good to come from this trial of mine, I just can’t see it or understand it. Again, God is in control.”
A good example of God’s faithfulness in small ways is when the hospital staff switched Micki’s chemo room from a “chair room” to a “bed room” without asking her first. She was puzzled and nervous, not knowing why or what the difference was. The “chair room” was really comfortable and familiar and she didn’t want to move. To her surprise, the move proved positive. In the “bed room” she was met with a friendly nurse and for the first time she genuinely laughed while receiving her chemo.
“Miracles never cease!” she said. “God was in my bed unit yesterday. He sent His angels around to check on me and gave me little gifts of encouragement.”
On June 8, 2011 Micki’s prayers were answered and doctors declared her cancer free!
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” (Psalm 100:4)
However, in late 2015, Micki developed pneumonia and started experiencing severe throat pain. She went to MDA for a lung biopsy. There, doctors found a spot on her right lung that proved to be a rare type of squamous cell carcinoma that was “not curable but manageable.”
She was one month shy of celebrating 5 years cancer free.
Upon hearing the news Micki felt numb and afraid and started thinking about cancer more than God. Driven to God’s Word once again she says, “I was able to read Philippians 4 over and over until God’s peace finally took the place in my head that the cancer had been occupying.”
One of the sweetest elements to this story is how Gary stood fearlessly by his wife the whole time. Micki says she would have given up on MD Anderson long ago if it weren’t for Gary. But Gary drove them back and forth to Houston, hauled bags down the never ending hospital hallways, changed her PICC pump line and fixed the beeping when the batteries died in the middle of the night.
On Thanksgiving Day 2016, Gary wrote, “I praised God for another glorious day. Twenty-four hours that Micki and I got to do life, to share and experience Him together. This morning I prayed for another glorious day.”
I wish we could flip through the pages of this book and see what happens in Micki and Gary’s life a couple of chapters from now. I wish we knew the outcome of this cancer, for it sure would make enduring through the middle suspenseful chapters easier to read.
But we can’t.
We do know, however that regardless of the trials they face here on earth, their hope is anchored in Jesus Christ. He alone brings the peace and calmness when the plot thickens and we don’t know what will happen next.
Gary and Micki, I pray that the stories of how God cared for you in the past, coupled with the following testimonies of friends will encourage you to keep fighting the good fight. Keep the faith. Finish the race.
“I know what it is like to care for a wife who is suffering at the hands of a cruel disease. My late wife was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) when our youngest was 2 weeks old. She lived for just over 6 years before going to heaven. During that time it took all my energy and effort to care for her and to keep our family functioning. It’s been an inspiration to me to not only see Gary continue to serve others during this trial but even Micki continues to serve God. It would be much easier for them to become self-focused and to think of nothing else but their own needs and wants. But that is not what they do. It really is true that one’s true character is revealed during great distress not in times of abundance.” ~ Jimmy Smith
“I have been working with Micki via prayer requests. It is has been an absolute pleasure to get to know her! I lost a niece recently to cancer, and what I have observed is that God gives those suffering an extra dose of humility and love of others. God has showed me that humility and love of those around us is so very important. Also God gives those suffering a special glow of beauty, and a kindness that surpasses anything that I have ever witnessed. What I have seen with Micki and Gary is they are truly devoted and deeply in love with each other, which should teach us how to love our spouse like they do.”
~ Earla Bryant
“Gary’s obvious walk with the Lord through these unbelievably hard times is so encouraging and inspiring. I know God is smiling at them so much through this, and when the time comes for them to go home to the Lord, He will be waiting with open arms and praise on his lips for his faithful servants.” ~ Brandon Ryan
“Both Micki and Gary absolutely amaze me. They remain an encouragement and godly example to so many even in their trials. When it would be so easy to focus on the trial before them, they continually shine the light of Jesus, point to HIM, and encourage others. We all find reasons to be “busy” in life, yet they fill in as leaders at the Lead Generation dinner/fellowship gatherings on occasion, coordinate greeters each week for each service at GCC Lindale, attend and lead Band of Brothers, and encourage us all with leisurely motorcycle rides. I hear countless stories of people who go to Micki to encourage her, but the table is always turned, and the person is blessed by Micki. Micki is a giver with a strong heart for the Lord. We know the Lord looks at our hearts, and He has a crown jewel in Micki. ~ Janine Smale
Thread of Redemption
Hope When Life Unravels