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“Sometimes God opens a screen door, only for you to smash your face on a glass one…”

Gail's Journey

This is a recent quote from our daughter, Lauren. She had just experienced a situation where she thought God was opening a door for something she had been praying about. But after she walked through it, she hit that door of disappointment when the next door didn’t open. Face smashed!

A friend of ours was explaining today how hard it is to go to work right now, as thousands of people at his workplace are losing their jobs. Even though he still has his job at this point, he is hurting for those who are being let go and morale is extremely low. Not only are they losing their jobs, but they have to train people in another country who are taking their jobs. So the company is saying, “There’s the door! Oh, before you actually leave you have to train the person taking your job if you want your severance pay.” Face smashed!

I’ve always been fascinated by Milton S. Hershey, the inventor and maker of Hershey’s chocolate. I have been a chocolate lover ever since I can remember. Of course, my dad is a chocolate lover, and my mother made her famous chocolate cake almost weekly while I was growing up. It was our favorite dessert (and still is)! While working in Hershey for the last 11 years, I was often able to smell the chocolate from the factory. The spiritual gift of self-control has to be exercised frequently when you love chocolate!

Hershey was a very successful business man and philanthropist, but it didn’t start that way. When he was only 9 years old, his only sibling, his 5-year-old sister, died of Scarlet Fever. Then his father left the family (face smashed). At age 14 he dropped out of school, but began an apprenticeship with a candy maker. Four years later, he set up his own candy shop in Philadelphia, but within 5 years the business failed (face smashed). He later tried his candy business in Chicago and again in New York City – both times he failed and ended up penniless (face smashed). But he did not give up.

He finally had success with making caramels, then learned about making chocolate at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and began to experiment until he created his famous recipe of Hershey’s chocolate. He sold the caramel business and opened a chocolate factory in the town that now bears his name. He not only built a business but he built a town. All seemed to be going great!

Milton and his wife really loved children and wanted to have a family, but were never able to have a child (face smashed). But out of this adversity, they started a school for orphan boys, which later was also opened to girls and still continues as The Hershey School. However, 6 years later, his wife died suddenly, and the Great Depression of the 1930’s hit (face smashed). But Hershey cared deeply for his employees and the people of his town, so he started a campaign of constructing community buildings to keep the men working. He did not let adversity stop him, in fact, he grew stronger through each struggle, not only in developing a successful business, but in growing and caring for a whole town of people – including the children. I believe he was successful in business because he was successful in caring for others.

Our family has had its ups and downs through life also, but I can say that this cancer has been the biggest adversity we have ever faced. I was enjoying the holiday season last November and December, one of my favorite times of the year, until I walked into a glass door that I never saw coming. That was December 16th, the day I received this diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I won’t go so far as to say that God opened the screen door first, but he did allow it to be opened. We were in a constant state of feeling overwhelmed with trying to grasp what was actually happening, what we had to do next, and trying to help others deal with the shock. The overwhelming days are becoming less frequent as we are growing through this and God is walking with us.

Through this adversity, God has been faithful. I have shared before that God had impressed the word “trust” on me multiple times in the previous year, and after the diagnosis, I knew why. I am standing on His Word and the many references to trust in the Bible. There are days that this is harder than others, like when I’m not feeling well, and when we are trying to make plans for the future, not knowing what it will look like and when it will change.

Don and I have always enjoyed adventures together, whether it be going for a hike in the area, having fun with friends, trying a new restaurant or traveling. When it came to traveling anywhere, we have always enjoyed the planning and anticipation as part of the adventure. Now everything has to be planned around my chemotherapy schedule and the uncertainty of the future (face smashed).

Yesterday, I went to the adolescent clinic where I have worked for 11 years and cleaned out my office desk and files (face smashed). I was feeling pretty emotional before I left the house. I talked to Don and texted my daughters, parents, sisters and brother, asking them all to pray for me and they did. I enjoyed getting caught up with my coworkers (who have been wonderful) and cleaned out 11 years of paperwork, educational materials, etc. I kept thinking, if God heals me, I will just start over. I listened to some songs about trust and keeping God first on the way to Hershey and on the way home, and God gave me peace. I do realize that God was able to use me to help many young people who have had many face-smashing situations and deep struggles in their lives. It has been rewarding to see progress in their lives, even just baby-steps at times. It has been particularly rewarding to have conversations with various patients about their faith and their questions about God. I have watched these patients make the most progress.

The days I can work intermittently, even at the adolescent drug and alcohol rehab, will be ending by the end of this month as I near the end of the FMLA days allowed since I am unable to go back to work full-time due to my health (face smashed). Hershey Medical Center has been very good to me over the past 11 years, and have been particularly helpful and caring through these changes. I will miss this part of my life.

Even though it has felt like many doors have been closing or won’t open, God is still working. Many people have been expressing their own growth through our struggles. As many have been walking with us and reading our blogs, praying for us and reaching out with cards and notes of encouragement, God is working, not only in us, but in others! I never would have expected that!

For years, I have wanted to write a book on “Colorful Parenting”. Since developing a tool while finishing my master’s degree to help parents understand the different personality traits of their children and how this greatly affects how they should be parented, I have periodically taught parenting classes. I felt it would be helpful to put this material into a book. I have had parents asking me to do so. But with my job that often involved long hours, over an hour of commuting time every day, and being very involved at church, I never found the time. Maybe God is opening a door now for me to do so?

God is also opening another door that was totally unexpected that I will write about soon. Stay tuned…

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

So through adversity and face-slamming moments into closed doors, we are growing. I’ll admit it’s not fun! We are still praying for a miracle of healing. Even though God has not yet granted that prayer fully, He is working miracles of growth around us. I also know that He is giving me physical strength to press on. One day this week while I was praying and enjoying the beautiful sights of spring, I felt He was saying, “Trust me. I am the God who heals. keep moving.” I know that doesn’t mean I won’t have more face- slamming moments, in fact, I am expecting them. But I know God is in control. I know His plan is much bigger than my understanding, although I keep trying to understand. He is the God of all that is, from each flower we see blooming to the most distant stars in the universe. I can trust Him. He is not just Almighty God, He is our Father, our Savior. I know He loves us and is walking with us. I am looking forward to celebrating the resurrection of Jesus this Easter Sunday! I hope you are too!