Deep Waters

Dear Faithful Praying Family & Friends,

Looking back on last weekend, I realize that I’ve lived a life [so far] that has been amazingly free of physical pain.  Of course, my two childbirths were painful [but of a short duration] and the positive outcomes swept away the memory of the pain of each labor!  

Last weekend, I was overcome with pain and I was decidedly non-heroic.  Let us have no illusions here, for I must create a faithful record of my journey.  Some people consider me heroic due to my decision to have a bi-lateral mastectomy with no reconstruction.  The decision was mentally agonizing for both Stephen & me but the post-operative pain was relatively mild and controllable.  The incision, which extends across my chest, rendered the surgical area numb.  Evidently, the surgery severs tiny nerves that may reconnect over time — or not at all.  My mood was elevated after surgery:  it was OVER and the lymph nodes were CLEAR.  Together, we all gave thanks and prayed that I would be spared further treatment.  If I appeared brave and strong [and even cheerful] it was because I held onto the hope that I was completely CURED and I thought I was through.  With both breasts removed, this seemed highly probable, right? 

I was shocked, as you were, when two oncologists told me that I must have chemo.  They said that maybe I was cured but could not say for sure!  Did the cancer spread through my bloodstream?  Will I have a recurrence of Breast Cancer?  Is chemo really necessary?  By what percentage will it decrease my risk of recurrence?  Will I survive it, as poisons course throughout my body, wreaking havoc with every system?  What will I gain with chemo?  What will I lose?  There are no clear answers!

After “running with footmen” [the surgery] came “competiting with horses” [the chemo] and on Day 6, I landed in ER.  I thought to myself, This is REAL suffering and I am not heroic.  That weekend brought me down low: physically and mentally. I have only six more days before I must submit to the next round.  Am I brave and strong? No, I am filled with dread, foreboding, and fear.

Where do you go when you are fearful?  I go to the Psalms.  The ancient Hebrews had a Psalter, a body of liturgical poetry, the hymnal of ancient Israel.  The Anglican Book of Common Prayer includes the Psalter and gives each of the 150 Psalms a brief title, in Latin, derived from the first phrase of each Psalm.  Psalm 46, for example, is Deus Noster Refugium:  God is our refuge and strength.  Verse 3 says, “Though its waters rage and foam, and though the mountains tremble at its tumult . . . “ 

These are some deep, turbulent waters I am in.  Yet  God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Coram Deo,




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22 responses to “Deep Waters

  1. Georgia

    Dear Margo,

    The Lord said unto the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

    Oh, if we could readily reply to this assurance as St. Paul did, rejoicing in our trials, glorying in our infirmities, but in our humanity we cannot do this without an act of God that imparts to us the grace of God. We cannot sing like Paul and Silas in the prison with our backs shredded by whips or sleep the sleep of the righteous like St. Peter who awaited death in prison.

    It is only HIS strength that enables us to ‘do all things’ through Christ, (Philippians 4:13) and it is His Spirit that keeps us in His joy and His peace that surpasses understanding through pain and persecution.

    As we have been privileged to be with you as you walk through this, we have seen His strength, courage, power, peace and even His joy prevailing for you, shining through your thoughts and words. As we have seen you endure these excrutiating circumstances in His honesty and love, truth and grace, abounding and rebounding life, we are being strengthened, encouraged and given hope for all our future sufferings.

    Let us join together in prayer, that:
    – that the Lord will intervene and take charge of the whole treatment and healing process.
    – that the Lord will magnify our limited and fallible, though heartfelt, prayers that they will avail for you mightily.
    – that for every side-effect and difficulty you have (thus far) endured in this treatment, the real target, the cancer, is receiving a 10-fold assault and complete destruction.
    – that the Lord will prevent further such deep suffering, danger and crisis in all future rounds of treatment.
    – that He will let the most bitter cup pass from you.
    – that He will direct all the destructive effects of the chemotherapy to be sent directly to any and every cancer cell that remains.
    – that as you are joined with Him and we are joined with you and thus with each other in the fellowship of His suffering, that you will receive innumerable prevailing consolations, graces, mercies, even His peace and joy. (Philippians 3:10)
    – that the Lord will draw from the prayers, intercessions and praises of innumerable fellow believers and sufferers around the world and throughout the ages, the spiritual power to see you and Stephen and your family through this every moment, every day.
    In the Name that is above every name, Jesus Christ our Lord.

    • margopayne

      Dear Georgia,

      Once again, you overwhelm me with your insight into suffering and your discernment regarding how we should pray. You have been a constant friend to me through this trial. Thank you for being a bulwark of faith to me.

      Coram Deo,

  2. Kris Bowers

    Dear Margo,

    What beautiful words Georgia shared. And you are so brave in sharing with honesty.

    We love you so much and will continue to lift you up throughout the day.

    Lord, let Margo experience that Your perfect love casts out all fear . . .

    Kris, Phil, and Maddy

    • margopayne

      Dear Kris,

      I am so grateful for friends like you, who remind me of the grace & truth of the Holy Trinity. At times when we are weak and in pain, we need someone else to think and pray for us!

      Coram Deo,

  3. Meredith Fishback

    Dear Margo,
    I read what you are going through and can only guess how you really feel. Pain is so relative. Some of us are so strong and some of us so weak. (I remember pushing on that morphine button for my leg!) But in our weakness He is strong. He doesn’t always remove the pain and stress we face but He is always there to help us through it when we focus on Him. You are doing that, as are your friends through their wonderful prayers! I am glad you are being honest with us and Him. Ask Him to move your mind to a point where you are able to think about other things, times, people, so that the pain is removed long enough for you to remain calm. A little break can be great! I wrote notes about everything that was going on with me each day. I kept my mind busy and it helped me. I want so much to be able to help you, so I pray. It used to make me mad when people would say, “well, at least I can pray for you”. That is not the least…it is the greatest gift we can ever receive.
    Much love,

    • margopayne

      Dear Meredith,

      Thank you for the greatest gift: that of prayer! I know I can always depend on you for that and I am very grateful. It is true: He does not always remove the pain but He is with us, within the time of suffering & pain. Thank you for that reminder!

      Coram Deo,

  4. Carole Stewart

    Margo, I would think there was something wrong with you if you weren’t experiencing “fear” and “foreboding”. Remember, the apostle Paul prayed for his “thorn” to be removed and even Jesus prayed for the cup to pass from him. But I believe you will find peace as you saturate your mind and spirit with His Word and as the prayers of your friends and family are lifted up on your behalf. Praise be to the Lord God Almighty…He is able when we are not.


    • margopayne

      Dear Carole,

      Thanks for your encouragement to me to be “honest.” I have been given a break from the pain and it does seem wonderful to have a “normal” day, once again: A day without pain seems like such a gift! Thank you for reading, writing, and praying!

      Coram Deo,

  5. Betsy Poepping

    Dear Margo:

    I was glad to read the previous post where people told her “all I can do is pray” and to know that I am making a difference by praying is a blessing to my heart! I am reminded of a song our mutual friend, Kim Hughes, used to sing (I haven’t heard her sing it in a very long time!) called “Resting in You”:

    “Resting in You, precious Lord,
    Trusting in You…
    I’m safe in Your hands, You understand,
    So I’m resting in You.”

    As you face another treatment and you are fearful and unsure of the outcome, letting Him hold you in His arms of grace is my prayer for you.

    I am reminded of another song that Annette Maloney wrote about 20+ years ago, based upon that wonderful and familiar scripture:

    “His grace is sufficient for me,
    For His power is perfected in my weakness.
    I will glory in my weakness,
    for there He gives me strength to do His will,
    and equips me for every good deed.

    I will rejoice in the God of my salvation and give praises to Jesus Christ my King.
    I will glorify the LORD, for He alone is King;
    He alone is worthy of all praise … He alone is worthy of all praise.”

    When we are weak, He shows Himself strong. Run (or maybe swim?!) to that strong tower!

    • margopayne

      Dear Betsy,

      Thank you for including the songs, based on the truth of Scripture. And thank you for praying for me, through these next few months! My prayer has been, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” — similar to that “strong tower.” Thank you for that reminder and thank you for your friendship.

      Coram Deo,

  6. davidwbr


    Jer 12.5 is such a powerful and favorite verse. Thanks for the reminder.

    I thought of a practical example of the last part of the verse (“if you fall down in the plain of peace what will happen in the thicket of the Jordon”) Steve and I experienced this many years ago.

    As part of the Nav training some of the guys went on a orienting adventure with only a map and a compass. We were to get from point A to point B then finally to point C. There were times, during our journey, we in the “plain of peace”, wide open places where using the compass was easy. There were also places that must have been similar to “the thicket of the Jordon” where we could see but a few feet in front of us and compass work was impossible.

    During one of those times I remember Steve shimmied up a tree in an attempt to see where we were going. Yet, he saw nothing but the continuation of the thicket. So we did what we knew we had to do. We continued on with the best bearing we had.

    Seems like suffering is the same way. We can’t see our way clear of our present circumstances. We try to get a perspective yet many times it’s obscured. We try again. But to no avail. Then we choose to simply gut it out or we fall upon the Giver of Bearings, the magnificent Jesus Christ.

    Jeremiah is full of rich examples of the people trusting is all types of people and things for their bearing in life. Yet the truth of Jer 12:5 and Jer 2:13 resonates deeply in the heart of one who suffers well.

    “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” Jer 2:13 NIV

    Seek the spring of living water….

    • margopayne

      Dear David,

      Thank you so much for the “preview” of your blog update. It is great to see how our two blogs are dove-tailing. What a journey this path of suffering is! You are so much more experienced in it. I treasure that weekend that you, Sharon, Stephen & I spent together. When we get Krista and me through our treatments, then I look forward to another weekend!

      Thanks for reading, writing, and for praying!

      Coram Deo,

  7. Cliff Fenlason

    Sorry to hear about the new suffering, Margo! You didn’t need that, did you? It’s great to see you walking in faith, though, even through this dark valley. Your abiding trust is a great inspiration! …and it’s well-placed! God has only good thoughts for you, even though we sometimes don’t understand them in the short-range. Jer. 29:11-13; Rom. 8:28-30; II Cor. 4:7-12; Psalm 23:4-6; 138:8.

    • margopayne

      Dear Cliff,

      Thank you for reading, replying, for praying, and for encouraging me. And thanks for Scripture. Have your read David Brewer’s comments, where he mentions Jeremiah, also his blog, He is doing a good work, in sharing a perspective on suffering.

      Thanks for being with me, during this difficult time.

      Coram Deo,

  8. Judy Levan

    Hi Margo, Hope you remember me…….Judy Gibboney from days gone by. We had dinner with Cliff and Judy Fenlason last weekend and he sent me your blogsite.

    You are amazing……..just as i remember you. I read some of the ‘history’ up to present. Your testimony of God’s grace and presence is so encouraging. I’ll write more later, not sure if i’m writing in the right place to get it to you. Please know I will be praying for you.


  9. Dear Judy,

    Of course I remember you!! How delightful to hear from you! Your comment appeared in exactly the right place. Thank you for reading, writing, and for praying! I would love to get caught up with you!
    Write me at,

    Coram Deo,

  10. Bill & Kristy Davis

    Dear Friend,

    Please know that we are lifting you up in prayer as you prepare to return to Gainesville on Monday.

    I read the following poem in “Streams in the Desert” this week:

    Hold on, my heart, in your believing-
    Only the steadfast wins the crown;
    He who, when stormy winds are heaving,
    Parts with his anchor, will go down;
    But he who Jesus holds through all,
    Will stand, though Heaven and earth should fall.
    Hold on! An end will come to sorrow;
    Hope from the dust will conquering rise;
    The storm foretells a summer’s morrow;
    The Cross points on to Paradise;
    The Father reigns! So cease all doubt;
    Hold on, my heart. Hold on, hold out.

    Another phrase from F.B. Meyer brought encouragment this week: ” . . . the tears of life belong to its interlude, not its finale.”

    Your fellow sojourners who thank God that He brought you into our lives!

    Kristy and Bill

    • margopayne

      Dear Bill & Kristy,

      Thank for being “fellow sojourners.” After I read your comment, I have often been reminding and repeating to myself, “The anchor holds!”

      Thank you for reading my blog, for commenting, for praying, and for sharing the devotions from “Streams in the Desert.”

      Coram Deo,

  11. Judy Fenlason

    Been thinking of you and praying for you, Margo. My heart is really with you. Chemo is really a hard thing to walk through—you are the second dear friend that I have walked beside through this process. Only the lover of your soul is able to carry you through this. I love you and I am beseeching Him to be your hide-a-way during this grueling time. Steve, I’m also praying for you that you will know just the right way to care for Margo. Margo, thank you for the gift of your transparency—-you put us on holy ground as we see God meet you there.
    Love you,

    • margopayne

      Dear Judy,

      How wonderful to hear from you! I know that you are acquainted with suffering and this gives weight & discernment to your thoughts and prayers for me. I am humbled by the loving response of my friends & family. One positive thing about all this: it has reconnected me with friends from the past. Stephen & I continue to be thankful for the investment in our lives with you & Cliff gave us!

      Coram Deo,

      P. S. Rejoicing in the good news about the twins! Aren’t grandchildren lovely?

  12. Julie Purvis

    Dearest Margo,
    Your fear facing chemo again is totally understandable, and your heart and honesty in it are so lovely and made me see His pwer in your weakness. As I pray I think of the chemo molecules as being little tiny warriors on their horses battling against your cancer cells to their defeat. Not the enemy but fighting for you!
    I pray God’s great comfort and grace for you and Steve as you venture again to Gainesville and endure this, and praying against any further of those terrible migraines!!!! May the doctor have great wisdom and creativity in preventing any more! Wonderful prayer points were provided for us by Georgia and I will join in this throng praying for you!

    “Thou hast made me what I am, and given me what I have;
    In Thee I love and move and have my being;
    Thy providence has set the bounds of my habitation, and wisely administers all my affairs”.
    from “God, the Source of all Good” in The Valley of Vision.
    In His love, Julie

    • margopayne

      Dear Julie,

      Thank you for your words of encouragement and comfort. And who wrote the quote, from “God, the Source of all Good,” in the Valley of Vision? So good! I have not heard of this.

      Thank you for reading, writing, and praying! Yes, I will encourage others, also, to pray along with Georgia. She, like you, is a dear friend to me through all this trial!

      Coram Deo,

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