“Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it,’” (Malachi 3:10).
The Lord gave me this verse when I was diagnosed with Stage Almost-3, particularly aggressive breast cancer. I scoffed. Facing a full mastectomy and a grueling course of chemo, I was more than a little skeptical that there could be any blessings coming my way. But I said, OK God, I’ll take you up on that challenge. Go ahead, shower me with blessings.
The next day, up popped the faces of five men on Facebook (a group called Veritas, I later learned) singing a stunning arrangement of It Is Well with My Soul. I was stopped in my tracks by the reminder that not everything may be well with my body, but it certainly can be well with my soul. My choice.
Flowers were delivered immediately from Alvena, who knew I was struggling with the diagnosis. Important to know: I love flowers.
COVID-19 had put the kibosh on anything but urgent surgery, and my hospital of choice had closed off wings in order to keep their census down. My surgeon convinced them my case was urgent, and a whole hospital wing was opened for me. It was so peaceful and quiet.
The day of surgery, a rainy April morning, was dismal to match my mood, and my husband could not even enter the hospital with me to check me in. But there in the parking lot, standing in raincoats and galoshes, at 6:00 in the morning, were Mark and Cindy with a big cardboard sign wishing me well. Really? Who does that? Were those raindrops or tears on my cheeks?
Upon returning home from the hospital, I was delighted by the balloons and hand-lettered signs lining the driveway, ala the Burma Shave signs on Route 66, the handiwork of my grandchildren and neighbor kids.
Enough bouquets of flowers arrived following surgery to cover every surface. I loved it!
Marilyn sent a card every few days until her stash of get well cards was depleted. The unexpected part was that enclosed in each card was a photo of something fun we had done together over the years—a parade of happy memories.
Krystal came to the door with her three small children in tow and two quarts of Cherry Garcia ice cream, my favorite. There will surely be Cherry Garcia ice cream in heaven, won’t there?
Celeste, a high school friend I hadn’t seen in 40 years, somehow learned of my illness and knowing I would lose my hair, ordered two head scarves for me and sent them from several states away. They were the perfect gift, except that the revival of our friendship was even better.
Judy, a long-lost childhood friend also in another state, started texting me a flower every single morning without fail until the final chemo treatment. Did I mention I love flowers? Even virtual flowers.
Vicki began encouraging me each day via text by sending the first line of an old childhood chorus. For example: “The birdies in the treetop sing their song.” To which I replied: “The angels chant their chorus all day long.” This charming ritual continues to this day.
After each chemo treatment when the cave days came—those miserable days when I crawled into a cave and pulled the darkness over me—meals arrived in abundance, feeding my husband and my soul, if not always my squeamish stomach.
My neighbor, Kay, is a year or two ahead of me in this cancer journey. We shared, laughed and cried together. We had always been cordial, but now we are best friends.
An old Tabor friend, Carol, thought of me one day for no apparent reason except the nudging of God. She picked up the phone and called from Virginia. We talked for an hour.
Jan from my tennis team called because she is also a cancer patient. We discovered we have more than tennis in common; we are sisters in the Lord, often sharing mutually meaningful Scripture. Ann and Cathy, also from tennis, called regularly to check on me and my backhand.
My Bible study group assured me of their prayers.
I didn’t darken the door of a store for months. My four children, who all live nearby, never went to buy groceries for themselves without calling to find out what I needed. Pretending it was Christmas in July, and August, and September and October, they gifted me with items from the really thoughtful to the really ridiculous.
My husband, Al, has been stellar, performing a thousand acts of tenderness and love, not the least of which was going to the grocery store almost daily to buy me a green banana when nothing else would go down.
Phone calls, texts, prayers, contact with distant relatives, edible fruit bouquets, warm cookies, cards and more cards, love in so many forms showered down upon me, topped off with a huge vase of white roses from the young couple across the street to celebrate the final chemo session. They were keeping track all along, imagine that.
Surgery was successful; chemo has been completed, and the side effects are fading into memory. The future looks bright. Was I blessed? Abundantly. But what if the rigorous treatment hadn’t produced the desired results? What if the future didn’t look so rosy? Would all the blessings along the way be any less significant? Absolutely not.
Regardless of how God chooses to send them, his blessings permeate your crusty exterior, percolate within you and become a part of your whole. They are not dependent on the final outcome. Sounding something like the Apostle Paul, I would say that whether I live or whether I die, I have been outrageously blessed.
Did God meet the challenge of Malachi 3? More than my storehouses can ever hold.
Dotty Penner Warkentine is a native of Fresno, Calif. She enjoys gardening, reading, traveling, tennis, music, quilting and, of course, her family of four children, 10 grandchildren, and the precious littles—five young great grandchildren. Much of her reading is done via audio books so that she can multitask with her other activities. Dotty is a retired freelance harpist and considers herself a lifelong learner. She and her husband, Al, are members of North Fresno MB Church.
Dotty Penner Warkentine is a native of Fresno, California. She enjoys gardening, reading, traveling, tennis, music, quilting and her family of four children, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Warkentine is a retired freelance harpist and considers herself a lifetime learner. She and her husband, Al, are members of North Fresno Church.