A few years ago as Valerie Simonds was walking through her Dallas neighborhood, which is full of diverse, young professionals, she asked the Lord to somehow bring that community together in the fellowship of Christ. Valerie and her husband, Randy, a couple with four young children, have great vision not only for their church, of which I was the pastor, but also for their community.
And God answered her prayer in a way she and her family never would have fathomed. A little over two years ago doctors discovered a large mass in Val’s brain that required immediate surgery. Family and friends gathered in the waiting room on the day of the procedure. All the dynamics that distinguish hospital waiting rooms were there: laughter, silence, prayer, and of course, questions about the future.
The outcome of the surgery was positive—most of the tumor was successfully removed. A small mass was left because of the risks involved in removing it. The doctors chose to use chemotherapy to deal with the remaining cancerous growth.
The last two years have been challenging for the Simonds family. Randy is an executive with an oil company that requires him to travel around the world, sometimes for weeks at a time. Val has continued home-schooling her children.
Between Randy’s travels, an active home, and the physical effects of chemo treatments, this young family has been stretched in all areas of their lives. Nonetheless they have responded with faith, dignity, and humor.
I spoke long distance with Val the other day, and she told me that the oral chemo treatment she is taking is called Temodar.
“Sounds like a great Old Testament name,” she said. “And Ben Yamine took Temodar to be his wife, and together they begat many sons.” Laughter and joy are genuine in the Simonds household. So are the days of struggle.
Not many weekends after that conversation they went through another series of turns on the roller coaster ride that has marked their lives since the cancer was first detected. Val had just learned that the tumor had not grown, so she would not need to take chemo treatment for a while. This good news was followed by a weekend of small brain seizures. Her doctors told her that to combat the seizures she must now take strong anti-seizure medication. On top of this the family’s pet rabbit, Chloe, suddenly died. Val and Randy knew this was going to be hard on the kids, especially their youngest.
So that afternoon Val fixed herself a cup of tea and sat down to have a talk with her Lord.
“Father,” she said, “I have brain seizures and dead bunnies. What do You have to offer me?”
God’s response to her did not come with fireworks or visions but in a quiet whisper from His Word that has calmed her spirit and given her strength to continue to minister to her family: “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 acheiving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:16–17).
“I don’t know why we fight against being weak,” she said to me. “I am where I need to be in order to be used of Him.”
The women in her neighborhood have united in fellowship, each rotating days of the week for fasting and prayer on her behalf. They have found themselves growing in their own faith. And so in her weakness Val is seeing her prayer answered as “an eternal weight of glory” far beyond what she would have ever imagined. And I, who was once her teacher, now find myself learning from my friend whose faith continues to shine brightly, even in the days of brain seizures and dead bunnies.
Danny Houze (MA[BS], 1999) pastors Lakeview Bible Fellowship in Columbus, Indiana.