Under the glow of recessed lights in the bathroom ceiling, I stand in front of the mirror gazing at the chiaroscuro masterpiece: My new body. Light and shadow highlight the ripples on the terrain of my stomach. I imagine the surface like sand blown by the intense heat of the Sahara, from smooth to a miniature mountain range of muscles moved by the precision of a surgeon’s hands and stitched back together. You could say I’ve been searching for certainty since a young age and the wilderness has led me there.
In the center of my midriff is a pink, fourteen-inch (?) vertical scar edged on each side by fading dots where sixty-four metal staples held my flesh together. Evidence of the life-saving surgery to remove a giant sarcoma tumor in my abdomen. The scar resembles a zipper caught on my belly button; flesh zipped to the side instead of straight up. No longer bikini worthy but worthy of admiration for what it represents.
On May 6, I awakened from a physical and metaphorical sound sleep, lying on a gurney, grateful to be alive and translating life differently. Entering a new world where the false ways in which I have defined certainty were graciously wiped away like sweat on a mirror. Where I was blind, God blindsided me with the clarity of love and rescue.
In the same way a soldier carries a medal of honor representing valor on the battlefield, that scar is a permanent reminder that the fear of uncertainty is no match for experiencing the certainty of God’s presence. What are your scars telling you?
Are we ever fully ready to receive the surprise of God’s love and belonging through the offense of affliction?
Because the promises of God are rarely realized by traveling in familiar, straight, comfortable lines without inclines, roadblocks, or interruptions. Not one of us can claim the epitaph, All I envisioned for my life came to pass in exactly the way I planned it. Case in point: Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So, God led the people around by the desert road to the Red Sea.” (Exodus 13:17-18)
God often chooses the long way around over the easy, concrete shortcuts because wandering in the wilderness leads to Red Sea moments, those times when life becomes completely out of your control and under the control of God’s powerful presence.
While the Israelites wandered through the desert, hemmed in by unwanted circumstances, they cried out, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:11–12).
It seems laughable, being told you have cancer in the same month a pandemic is unleashed. Why now? Why must I be admitted to the very place every human being on the planet is avoiding—a hospital. At a time when closeness is not allowed, presence isn’t welcome, safety is in question, why must I endure the greatest battle of my life, alone?
Maybe you are asking the same questions. Why now? Why a pandemic? Where is God? When can we get back to life as normal? Why is it taking so long to find a vaccine? Why is my livelihood being compromised?
The questions I’m not asking? Why did the manuscript for my second book get rejected twice before getting it right? Why did God lead me to write a book called Searching for Certainty: Finding God in the Disruptions of Life? Why is my second book releasing now, in the heat of a pandemic?
Yeah, I’m not asking those questions anymore. Plain as the nose on my face.
In December of 2019, before I knew what was making my body hurt and why food became an enemy; before I knew I’d been walking miles of London with a pulmonary embolism and blood clots in both legs, I was finishing a book for you. A manuscript revealing all the hidden uncertainties I’d lived through from a young age. It was time to tell the truth but like you, I had no idea what was coming for us in 2020. I had no clue of the challenges awaiting me in three short months.
In the early stages of recovery—learning how to walk, dress, and bath myself without help—the questions that plagued me were this: Will the book I wrote before surviving a battle still be relevant? Will the spiritual practices I offer as help be practical amid dire consequences? Will the book need a major rewrite?
When the anesthesia wore off and brain fog lifted, I entered the editing process and thankfully, the manuscript provided healing and peace. The book I wrote in the months previous to the pandemic translated even more relevant than I had hoped. And influencers confirmed that with their endorsements.
We are not working from home, we are surviving a pandemic albeit living in lockdown, isolated from familiarity, and disoriented about the future. We await that miraculous moment of release when we can finally live in a land free from fear of sickness and resume a livelihood liberated from the gloom of death. But right now, much like the Israelites wandering through the wilderness, some of us are overwhelmed by circumstances and doubting God’s goodness. Holding onto concrete assurances equated with certainty rather than taking hold of the right hand of Certainty who parts the Red Sea.
Maybe you are in the middle of a Red Sea moment too? All you can see in front of you is what you don’t have. You can’t identify God’s presence while weighed down by a mountain of stress. Abundance seems like something you only read about in storybooks.
What if the axis of uncertainty is a reorientation back to God’s love—stable, steadfast, and secure—preparing you to receive his promises? Could you wander with him through the wilderness if fulfilling purpose and claiming abundance is the point of the journey through uncertainty?
Back home, in the early days of recovery, that scar and the changes in my body freaked me out. But our chiaroscuro God, the God of light and shadow, is redefining hope through the beauty of imperfection. I discern compassion and kindness over a harsh, critical voice. Look at how I created your body to withstand trauma and heal! Look, I’m doing a new thing, can you perceive it?! See how much you are loved?! It is true, you are fearfully and wonderfully made!
Is uncertainty creating a barrier or a bridge to intimacy with God for you?
While we are waiting in the dark chrysalis of uncertainty called Covid-19, I’ve been preparing to release Searching for Certainty: Finding God in the Disruptions of Life. Weaving memoir with the story of the exodus, I share simple spiritual practices that transform the fear of uncertainty into peace that sustains amid the unknowns. it’s a reminder that you are not overlooked, unseen, invaluable or forgotten, even when the silence of unchanging circumstances feels deafening and the future translates as a foggy mirror.
He has never stopped thinking about you. He will never stop listening. He will never stop fighting on your behalf.
At the right time, light will appear and the way to freedom will be made infinitely clear. We are not trapped by uncertainty but being prepared to fly free into the certainty of God’s love. I know because I have lived it, and now I am sharing how you can experience that freedom too.
Searching for Certainty releases this October 2020 and is available for preorders now. Why pre-order a book? Your early purchase is a signal to Amazon and other book retailers that the book is wanted. And that’s important to the early success of a book for an author. I’m grateful for your support.
Pre-order Searching for Certainty and receive exclusive bonuses as my thank you gift, created to help you to find God in the disruptions of life.
- Phone Lock Screen
- Computer Wallpaper
- Hand Lettered Printable Quote
- Photo from Shelly’s Private Collection
- Plus a download of the first chapter of Searching for Certainty
I pre- ordered the book weeks ago. Am I still eligible?
Absolutely! Just follow the same instructions.
I also ordered weeks ago. When I click Access Preorder Bonuses, it’s a blank page…
Vicki, email me at email@example.com and I’ll send you the link. I’m sorry you are having trouble.
Same happens for me as Vicki
The button is fixed now! We found the glitch. Should be working so give it another go. Sorry about that.
Oh Shelly!! Your writing is beautiful. I am so sorry about this Red Sea experience. Hard hard journey. Your post made me think of a book I read recently by Robert J. Morgan called Read Sea Rules. It’s SO good and on point with what you’ve written.
Anyways, my prayers are with you.
Thank you Anna, your prayers are deeply appreciated. That book sounds interesting!
Beauty from ashes! I can’t wait for your new book!
Keeping you in my prayers!
Appreciate your prayers and support Tammy, that means so much!
I can relate to so much of what you have gone through. We have lived here in England for 6 years after years in Asia and the US. I had my cancer surgery in March just as the hospitals were getting ready for Covid. I came home to lockdown. My scar is not one I like yet it reminds me of so many ways that God is faithful and how he has provided even in the difficult days – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I just downloaded a copy from netgalley and am looking forward to reading the book.
As always, your words go straight to my heart. What a treasure. I am beyond thankful you’re on this side of your experience. Much love to you. 💜
Sounds as if we’ve been on a similar journey. My diagnosis came just as lockdown was mandated in London. In some ways, it was comforting to know I wasn’t missing out on much as I convalesced after surgery. I hope you are healing and resuming some activity now. Thanks for connecting!
Praise God you were got a diagnosis and treatment. Praying for you. Love the idea of God getting us ready to fly. This pandemic did not surprise him (though it did us) and he has plans for our good. Your new website is lovely. Take is slowly and make recovery your goal.
Hi Shelly, I pre-ordered through Amazon.ca and the page to access the bonuses is not available.
Aside from that, I am continually praying for you and a complete and total healing for your body, soul and spirit.
Hopefully you rec’d my email Diane but if not, the button to access the free goodies is working now. We fixed it. Thanks so much for your pre-order in Canada!
Congratulations Shelly! What a beautiful book!! I’ve just preordered a few copies and was able to read your 1st chapter in the link!
It’s fabulous Shelly!! Can’t wait to receive the book and read it from cover to cover!! Love the thought provoking questions at the end of the chapter.
Thanks Gwendy! I appreciate your pre-orders. Included throughout is a photography theme and some of my photos. In the back of the book, there are photography prompts from each chapter for taking the content deeper. Because we all have a camera in our palms on the regular! I’m hoping that readers will enjoy that creative element.
The link for ACCESS PRE-ORDER BONUSES doesn’t seem to be working? I pre-ordered the kindle version through Amazon.ca – not urgent, just wondering. thanks very much.
Tamzen, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the link. I’m sorry you are having trouble accessing the bonuses.
Vicki, email me at email@example.com and I’ll send you the link. I’m sorry you are having trouble.
God bless you, Shelly–finishing a book while recovering from surgery! No doubt the theme will minister to MANY men and women, as uncertainty stares at us from every side. May your healing be rapid and even surprise the doctors, my friend!
Still praying that prayer, even in the wake of my latest prognosis. Thank you Nancy.
Hi Shelly, your beautiful words always resonate so deeply in my soul. Thank you!
I have followed your journey from “afar” in the past few months and am in total awe of your unfaltering trust in Jesus, no matter what. Thank you for sharing your life, thoughts and struggles with the rest of us. Your well-lived life and insirational words give me so much hope. I truly can’t wait to read the new book.
With so much sisterly love, blessings and prayers for your ongoing journey,
PS On another note, I was hoping to pre-order Searching for Certainty but it would seem that Amazon.com doesn’t deliver to Australia. Is the book available in Amazon Australia?
Hi Satu, thank you so much for connecting here and following along, I’m grateful for your support. Searching for Certainty should be available in Australia shortly after it releases in the US. I will check on that though to make sure.
Thanks Shelly 😊 I was able to preorder an e-book through Amazon Australia. Looking forward to reading it!
Much blessings and ongoing prayers ❤️
I just finished reading your excerpt from your book and of your experience, we are both in the same boat on the Red Sea! I was delayed due to COVID-19 twice for my breast cancer and lymph node surgery that finally occurred on 22 May 2020; the loneliness and isolation was almost unbearable, but I found my peace knowing that God was right at my side fighting with me and cheering me on along with very dear friend, my prayer warriors and my dear family. I have just completed my radiation treatments and am starting the long haul of anti cancer drugs that have some pretty wild side effects, Lord willing I will experience few to none.
I plan to order your book as well. May our God continue to heal and hold you til your whole once again. I heard you the first time at All Saints Church Dallas, where I worship and I was automatically hooked. Blessings friend.
Dree, thanks for connecting with me here on the blog. It’s lovely to know you have followed along since I spoke at All Saints. I pray that your cancer treatment has very few bad side effects and you will have a clear report in the coming weeks. Lots of love to you!
Thank you Amanda!
Hi Shelly, l am so sorry to hear your news. My heart goes out to you and your family. As l write this l’m looking at a painting of the Prodigal Daughter by Charlie Mackesy and it reminds me again that Gods arms are alway there to comfort us, surround us with his love and protection whenever we need it, always. My pray is that you know his arms are around you now and always offering all that he gives so freely. Bless you.
I have preordered your book and am looking forward to reading it, thank you.
Thank you Sue. I love that painting my Charlie Mackesy, know exactly the one you are looking at and I’m grateful you brought it to mind. It’s such a lovely picture of God’s love and care over us when we are completely dependent and desperate. Appreciate your prayers and pre-order!
Hello Shelly – your message today about the advanced cancer in your body is very sad. My thoughts and prayers are for you and I will share this news on my facebook page – Women of Faith and Excellence – where nearly 2,000 women belong. You have been featured there a number of times and brought much blessing to many. Thank you for your inspirational posts, books, blogs and words of wisdom. May God be very near and dear to you as you face the days ahead – confident that He is with you at every step.
Thank you for sharing my hard news with your group. I’m deeply appreciative and grateful for your prayers.