Forever grateful to Shirley Jones for this likeness.


It’s been a sobering day for me. A day for remembering. A day for grieving. A day for gratefulness. A day for tears. 

Five years ago. I remember it well. Most days I don’t … remember it. Most days I live beyond it. But today I take time to remember the impact and the forecast of those words spoken over my life on that day:

Mrs. Olsen, you have breast cancer.

One doesn’t forget a day like that. This is my “I remember where I was” moment that folks often speak about when recalling a turning point in their history.

A two-hour trip home from Dr. Habal’s office in Greenville. A phone call to family. A phone call to Judith. A detour to Campbell University to find my first born and a detour to Methodist University to find my second. And then home to loving arms – to a mom and dad and children not quite ready to absorb the news. And then, that trip to Arby’s with the living tree growing next to our table. If you’ve read my story, then you know about that tree and those surreal moments surrounding that hallowed meal.

And here I am, five years out—a benchmark for cancer patients I’m told. Survival rates for us are measured in five year increments. By the grace of God I’ve made it to this milestone. Soberly, I await the next one, whatever that might be.

This is my one life, from start to finish, this is it. And while I’d like to say that I’ve masterfully handled the five-year journey toward this milestone, I won’t because I haven’t. Truthfully, I haven’t understood most of it. It’s been mostly a limp toward the finish line.

But there is something – a pretty important one thing that has emerged in these past five years:

My obedience to the day in front of me.

Not tomorrow’s obedience. Not next week’s. Not next year’s. Simply (and I think rather profoundly) an obedience to the unfolding of life in a single day and my participation therein. It’s an obedience that offers more personal yeses and fewer nos; more open hands than clinched fists. Just an obedience to the day – to live it, come what may, knowing that I am deeply loved and sincerely safe.

If we know this, friends, truly understand in the marrow of our bones that we are loved and that we are safe, then we can remain obedient to the day we’ve been given. Five years ago, I didn’t know this kind of security. I didn’t recognize the depth of God’s love for me, and I didn’t always feel safe in his arms. And so he gave me the love and the arms of others, and through their touch, God got bigger for me. In his bigness, I understood (maybe for the first time) that I was covered, completely and certainly safe in the shadow of the Almighty Father who calls me his child.      

And that’s something – a pretty important one thing that has trumped the scars required to get here.

Today is the day that the Lord has made. He has given it to me. In return, I yield my obedience therein. Come what may – a tomorrow, a next week, a next year, or maybe even five.

Today I raise my glass and offer a toast to August 23, 2015. I am loved, and I am safe. It is good to be here and to be sharing this day with you. As always …

Peace for the journey,

14 Responses to 5

    • I feel so blessed to have you on the journey with me, Cheryl. God has definitely used you to show his love to me.

  1. I remember when you wrote about first being diagnosed. Amazing that it is now five years later. Praise God! And to know that you are working full time teaching little ones is amazing. High five Elaine!!!!

    Blessings and love,

    • Thanks, Debbie. I never could have imagined (5 years ago) my life at this point, and teaching children certainly wasn’t on my radar. Funny how God moves our seasons along, speaking new strength in each one of them and challenging us to grow therein. Thank you for joining me on the road of grace and peace.

  2. Although it has been from a great distance, I am honored to have prayed for you and watched you live out grace and love these five years. You are always an inspiration and a blessing to my heart! Here’s to another ‘5’~~

    • I receive that toast, friend! It’s been a blessing to me to have support from all avenues in life. The blogging community has been a rich source of inspiration to me, especially in that season when I felt so alone, cloistered off in my new community where I really didn’t know anyone. You all rock!

  3. “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. ” Rev. 3:21 Winning the battle of cancer is fantastic and has been quite the journey for you…But you have been so much more for so many, and continued to offer hope, grace, and peace for the journey even through your own sturggles and pain. Now THAT’s an overcomer!

    • In looking at pictures, I ran across one of me in the beautiful hat you knit for me. And while I hope to never have to use it again for “bald” purposes, it’s so soft, I keep it out in the winter for my outdoor walks. Love you, friend.

  4. Oh my friend, I celebrate 5 years with you. This>>>>> “If we know this, friends, truly understand in the marrow of our bones that we are loved and that we are safe, then we can remain obedient to the day we’ve been given.” How true this is! There is such comfort, such peace in that place of knowing. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I’m blessed to call you, ‘friend’.

    • You are a great friend to me, Leah. I am glad I have walked these steps with you. Your study “From the Trash Pile to the Treasure Chest” came to me at just the right time – in that season of great searching and need. Thank you for your faithfulness to the Gospel and for always lending your heart and your prayers to me.

  5. I remember that day well, too! I have your watercolor card in my cabinet – every time I open it and see your ‘scarfed’ head and beautiful face I pray for you! God is faithful in all His ways. His Presence with you is beyond cancers scars. Your story (His Story with you…) reminds me of a bookmark I have in my Bible which says:
    He has promised to go with you THROUGH life’s journey, whatever it may bring. And to that HE HAS been FAITHFUL! Peace in full measure. You are loved beyond measure!

    Choosing JOY, Stephanie
    Psalm 126

    • Amen, Stephanie! God is faithful and has proven himself over and over again to me in these past five years – none more so than in the past year, stepping back into the classroom and daily depending of God’s amazing strength and grace. I pray you are well. Thank you for your love and support.

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