God’s Story ~ Praising God in the Midst of Adversity

Feb 6, 2013

Hi Friends, God’s Story returns this month with the story of Jean Mullican. I met Jean at Quail Springs Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. During the last 9 years, she and her husband Lee have been such an encouragement to me and my family. They are some of the most loving, giving, Spirit filled people you will meet and surrogate parents/grandparents to many at Quail. However, as you’ll read, those characteristics come from a lifetime of walking with God.

I’m so excited to bring your Jean’s God Story today, and I pray it encourages you and give you hope just as much as it has me.

Intricately woven as golden threads forming a beautiful tapestry is my story of how the LORD has allowed me to praise him in the midst of life’s adversity. In preparation to share my thoughts, I found encouragement through a scripture found in I Peter 4:9-11. “If anyone speaks he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”  Thus, it is my desire that God alone be gloried as I pen the happenings of my life.
My husband and I were married over 51 years ago.  We began our lives together in Alaska – 5000 miles away from home.  After Lee’s military service, we returned to Texas for him to complete his college degree in geology.  We were blessed with a great marriage from the very beginning.  We were both raised in Christian homes and attended church regularly.  I had a good job that contributed toward our financial stability.  We had not met any obstacles and our future held much promise.
Soon after Lee’s graduation, at age 23, I encountered my first faith-building experience. We were expecting our first child.  The timing seemed so perfect.  Lee had a new job and our baby’s arrival had been planned with great anticipation after four years of marriage.  I had an easy pregnancy, however, at 7 ½ months, our tiny red-headed son, Todd Edward was born with a severe birth abnormality.  He was immediately taken into surgery, moments before I awoke from my emergency C-Section.  It was a very critical situation.  For over four days, Todd fought for life.  We prayed without ceasing.  But more complications occurred and in the wee hours of the fifth morning, I was told he had died.
I can’t explain it, but instantly I felt the presence of God with such inner peace.  I had prayed that God’s will be done and never questioned that it had been.  I’ve always believed that Todd’s life was perfect and fully complete.  As in the case of my grandfather, his full life span was 92 years.  God created Todd’s entire life cycle for a span of scarcely five days, but I know with blessed assurance, in God’s eyes, it was absolutely perfect!
The day following Todd’s death, the LORD gave me strength to go to the nursery to see all the other newborn babies.  My family protested and thought it would be too hard for me, but I insisted.  I remember the tears rolling down my cheeks as I watched from outside the nursery.  Still, I felt such joy for those precious babies.
In the days that followed, God continued to allow me to draw strength from him.  Lee & I grew closer.  When the tears were gone, Lee would just silently hold me.   We were full of faith that we would have other children, but we experienced a miscarriage six months later.  Again the tears flowed and we were shaken.  Even so, God was with us while we waited on him to reveal his plan.
Eighteen months later, our son, Timothy was born, healthy as could be.  Two years later, our daughter, Julie was born.  Happiness was ours to claim in a way we had never known.  During the ensuing years since, our hearts have been touched in such a way to offer comfort to other parents who have also lost a child.
Yes, our life was picture-book perfect.  Lee had a fabulous job.  I could stay home with the kids and watch them grow.  I was a volunteer in their schools.  True to our heritage, as parents we took them to church.  Quite naturally we were thrilled when they invited Jesus into their hearts and were baptized.  However, neither Lee nor I were growing in our personal walk with the LORD.  Quite honestly, our material prosperity nurtured our own self-sufficiency.
Like so many young affluent families, we enjoyed a typical “care-free life.”  But in January 1983, we exchanged “care-free lives” for “care-filled lives.”  Shockingly, at age 45, Lee experienced a heart attack and a quadruple bypass – much too young for heart disease.   Upon sound advice, Lee altered his life style & began jogging as daily exercise.  We both realized that even though his quality of life had been restored, no one could promise him longevity of life.  Through it all, we felt the intense presence of God.  Before long we were even able to see the blessings of being given a 2nd chance for life.  Lee’s wonderful job continued and in no time, it seemed our lives were back to normal.  Our children finished high school and went on earn their advanced degrees in education.   They were living their own lives, and we even had time to enjoy the luxury of a couple of cruises.
Unknown to us, another chapter of adversity was about to unfold.  During all our years of marriage, Lee had always known long-term job security, but suddenly the oil company sold out and Lee was forced to make a shift in his career.  During Lee’s sabbatical from employment, he began to deeply search for a closer walk with Jesus Christ.  With new eyes, God’s grace was made known to both of us through the working of the Holy Spirit.  Through God’s leading we found fellowship with a new church family.  We were like sponges soaking up the living water, and we were eager to serve in God’s kingdom work.  What blessings!  What happiness!  Even still, Lee had no job, but the edification we were receiving each Sunday was carrying us throughout all the weeks’ trials.  Indeed, we were learning to praise God in the midst of adversity and it was heavenly.
As autumn leaves turned to gold, Lee planned a big party for my 50thbirthday.  Long before, I had joined Lee’s enthusiasm for jogging, so as part of my celebration we found a 5-K race to enter, along with other relatives & friends.  Surprisingly, I had a PR & got first place in my age category.  Knowing my love for running, my mom had written on my cake, “Jean’s on the run; the best of life as yet to come.”  It was the best party ever!  Family and friends saluted me with special accolades and reflectively, I shared all the joys of my life.
Little did I know two days later, a mammogram would reveal a suspicious area inside my right breast.  The surgeon explained my options, should cancer be determined.  That night Lee & I lay in bed and talked about the wonderful love we had always shared.  We talked realistically about the possible effects of a mastectomy.  We both acknowledged how my body would be with only one breast.  Lee assured me it wouldn’t change his love for me and then he prayed the sweetest prayer ever, as he held me in his arms.
I must share with you that at 5:00 am the morning of my surgery I stood before the mirror and literally told my right breast “goodbye” as I closed my eyes and captured the image of my body in my mind.  I can honestly say I’m very thankful I can still claim that memory, even to this day.  Minutes later that same morning, Lee and I went out to run three miles before I checked into the hospital.  I did not want to miss a single day of running because I had a running streak of “1648 consecutive days” and I wasn’t about to miss out on a good run, no matter what was about to happen.
During surgery the malignant mass was confirmed and the doctor performed a radical mastectomy.  The pathologist also reported metastasis in four lymph nodes.  I can’t explain it, but from the moment I was told, there was an immediate acceptance.  My first concern was for Lee.  He was alone & I knew he needed someone, so I asked the nurse to call our church while I was still in recovery. She was very sensitive to my request and called.  In a matter of minutes, the nurse reported to me that friends were with him.  I was amazed at how quickly the LORD worked to ease my concerns.  From the onset, Lee, our children, and friends surrounded me in support.
Within a few days I returned home and on the very first morning, I surrendered my life over to the LORD.  I had been restless, so I finally got up before dawn to walk in the neighborhood since I wasn’t able to run.  As I sat on my front porch, I began to sob.  It was just too big for me to handle alone, so I began to pray.  I revealed my entire heart and fears to the LORD, and asked Him to bear it all for me.  And then I began to walk.  The first few blocks, I cried.  The next few blocks, I began to pray again.  The last few blocks, I began to sing spirit-filled praises to the LORD.  By the time I got back to the house, I had a beautiful inner peace of mind and when I entered the front door, I knew my life was in God’s hands.
Six months of chemotherapy was required.  I thought of it as one of my 10-K races.  In the beginning, you’re always anxious to get started.  But then you hit the wall at the mid-point.  Mile 4 is really tough & you ask yourself, “What am I doing in this race?”  But you press on, to cross the finish line and finally claim victory!  The analogy gave me encouragement that I could make it through all the chemo.  I also learned that while I had moments of despair, God never left me there.  He always took me to prayer, and from my prayer, God always gave me a song of praise to sing.
Many psalms, hymns, & spiritual songs have helped me advance beyond life’s adversity.  Too many to list herein, but a few are etched forever in my heart.  Psalm 42 says in part, “…As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” “…Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” “…By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life.”  The most strengthening scripture to which the LORD directed my eyes during cancer is found in II Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Twenty-one years have now passed since my cancer journey began and by God’s grace and mercy, I am a survivor.  Along the way, new career paths have been blazed. While it is true that Lee & I have faced numerous chapters of adversity, in the midst of them all, God has granted us an abundant life in Jesus.  Praise his holy name and to God be all the glory!
For it is written of David the servant of the LORD.  He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.  He said, “I love you, LORD, my strength.  The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise…”  Psalm 18:1-3 (NIV)

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