December 17, 2018

I Get It - Finally! Christmas All Year!



From the first of December we experience joy, happiness, expectation - magic - then it disappears the day after Christmas. Why?

For one thing, our attitudes change. During Christmas we give ourselves permission to be happy. Instead of cold, snow, and ice, we see Christmas lights. We sing along with Christmas Carols rather than listen to negativity. We give gifts and do kind deeds.

After Christmas, our focus changes back to all that's wrong with our lives and the world. We see suffering, violence, and hate. How dare we be joyful?

What if we channeled those internal concerns into action rather than wringing our hands and filling our hearts with anxiety and guilt?

Father Joseph T. Sullivan wrote in, Good Morning, Lord, “creative people: sculptors, authors, song writers, painters, musicians, and architects, show us how to look up at the stars not down at the mud and the puddles.”

God has called me to write and paint, to temporarily suspend someone’s suffering through my stories and my art. Is that not a noble act? He also calls me to greet others with a smile and kind words, to listen with interest and compassion when others speak, to volunteer my time and to give to charities through my church, or other means.

In doing these things, I am “lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness.”

When we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves, reaching out with charity where ever and however we can, we have permission to be happy, not just at Christmas — but all year. 

Merry Christmas - every day! 



December 03, 2018

Seeking Good Things

‘Tis the season of peace and joy. We sing about it in our carols, wish it to everyone we meet, and send cards expressing the sentiment. We talk about having the season’s generosity all year, but we are like the parable of the seed that fell among the brambles. Hectic schedules lead us more toward irritability rather than charity and patience.

I mentioned in a prior post I planned to recite the Prayer of St. Francis every morning. Evidently, God has the same plan. The ushers handed out flyers with the prayer after church on Sunday.

The prayer, which I now have memorized, helps put things into perspective. When I want to rage at the world for all its injustices, lash out against insults with the perfect rebuttal, or put down those with a different opinion, I recite the prayer and my focus changes.

My devotions this morning suggested an additional practice. “For the sake of my brethren and of my neighbors, I spoke peace of thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I have sought good things for thee.” Psalm 122:8-9

If I seek good things for others it’s difficult to stay angry or nurse hurts. Through St. Francis’ words and the desire for good things for everyone, carrying Christmas joy and peace all year gets a whole lot easier. And, who benefits the most? Myself.

Wishing you good things, including peace and joy, this season and all year.

November 27, 2018

Mind Chatter



Dr. Emmett Miller coined the phrase to describe the constant twittering that often plagues us in the night. That endless chatter dredging up things from the distant past or reciting a litany of things we need to accomplish the next day.

Some say it is a sign of creativity or intelligence. A sweet thought, but guilt and regret seem to play a big role, at least for me.

Is the self-incrimination a means to keep me humble and not puffed up? It works, but is it healthy? According to Dr. Emmett Miller, M.D. there should be a balance between admitting mistakes and misjudgments, asking for forgiveness, and feeling good about right choices and accomplishments.

There are many ways of finding that balance: prayer, meditation, spiritual retreats, and guided imagery to mention a few. I’ve used them all at one time or another. They are effective if used regularly, something I am not good about doing when I’m busy. 

I have been good about my prayers and devotions in the mornings since discovering how effective they are to setting a peaceful tone to my day and keeping my blood pressure down, but after I go to bed I have more difficulty. Time to dig out Dr. Miller’s recording, Easing into Sleep, and find the off button to all that late night chatter. 

How about you? Does your mind whirl from ancient memories to your to-do-list? What methods have you used to turn those thoughts off?

November 21, 2018

Light in the Darkness



I’ve been reflecting on the recent tragedies, seeking a way to cope with the sense of hopelessness and despair these horrific events seem to nurture.

A meme a dear soul posted on Facebook had one answer. Mr. Rodgers said, “Look for the helpers.” There are always men and women who risk everything to help others whether it is horrific fires like those in California, shootings or floods.

I want to be a helper rather than sitting back, crying and wringing my hands, or worse criticizing. I may never race through flames, face a crazed gunman, or slog through flood waters to save a life, but I can refuse to give into frustrations and irritations. I can be polite, smile, and carry a pleasant attitude whether I am at the grocery store, driving or doing my civic duty.

These thoughts reminded me of the Prayer of St. Francis. I memorized it years ago but I forget to pray it, so I created a prayer card which I printed out and placed with my devotions, a reminder of how I can be a helper, every day, wherever I am.


May we be thankful for the helpers God sends to those in need.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. May your day be filled with family, joy and many blessings.


(You are welcome to save, print, and share.)


November 14, 2018

Okay, I Admit It. God Knows More than Me.


The other morning, I woke with my usual exuberance and a laundry list of things I wanted to do. I made coffee and grabbed my computer rather than my devotions.

God had other ideas.

My laptop took longer than usual to boot. I did control, alt, delete and restarted it. The second start was even slower.

With no other choice, I picked up my devotions. Good Morning, Lord by Joseph T. Sullivan admonished me to “seek first the Kingdom of God.”

Ouch.

Coincidently, my computer finish booting at the same time I finished my readings and it has not been that slow since. (Eye roll.)

The next morning I spent the first fifteen minutes in quiet prayer and contemplation — and something amazing happened.

My blood pressure has been rising since my cancer diagnosis and surgeries, then add in my irritation over jury duty, and I have considered calling my doctor and requesting a change in my medication.

However, after my meditations, I took my blood pressure. Rather than a high reading, it dropped back to last year's numbers, 118/74. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was.

Perhaps now, with the added physical proof, I’ll make more of an effort to follow St. Paul’s example, putting God before all things, and being contented with my circumstances, regardless of what they are, a series illness, surgeries, or petty aggravations. 

I'll let you know how it goes. 

How about you? How do you cope with stress? 

November 10, 2018

If Only I Were More Like St. Paul...


In my last post I mentioned my upcoming jury summons and my vow to keep a positive outlook. I failed.

I couldn’t sleep the night before. The room was cold. My legs ached. My mind wouldn’t quiet down and let me relax. No surprise I woke exhausted. Need I mention my frame of mind?

With a twenty-four-mile commute to the courthouse, I was on the road before sun up, grumbling the entire way. 

After a thirty-minute wait in a small conference room, the jury commissioner announced there were no courtrooms available for jury selection or trial, and we were all excused - with instructions to come back next Friday. 
Back at my car,  tired and sick from lack of sleep, I threw all God’s encouragement and promises out the window and had a meltdown.

Later, with a little reflection, I realized why I was so upset over jury duty. I'm tired, and not just from lack of sleep. The last two years have been rough with the move, the marathon of yard work at the new home, and my surgeries. I wanted more down time between my doctor’s release and my jury summons. The special court order dashed any hope of that. In response, I conducted a rather emotional pity party. As usual, God weighed in on the subject.

My readings the next morning included St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Chapter 4 verses 9-10.

I speak not as it were for want. For I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content therewith. I know both how to abound: (everywhere, and in all things, I am instructed) to both to be full, and to be hungry; both to abound, and to suffer need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.

And that wasn’t all of God’s instructions.  I accidently turned to Matthew 16:9-10 instead of Luke 16:9-15.

Do you not yet understand, neither do you remember the five loaves among five thousand men, and how many baskets took you up? Nor the seven loaves among four thousand men, and how many baskets took you up?

The lesson: God provides not just enough, but enough with plenty left over.

I remembered none of it yesterday.

If only I could be more like St. Paul and accept my circumstances, whatever they are., and not be so selfish with my time...    

November 07, 2018

Something's Coming...


Rainbows are showing up in my news feed on Facebook, in random photos on the internet, and near our house. 
God has used rainbows in the past to herald a miracle. Other times, they were attention grabbers, signaling an impending message. With no apparent need for a miracle, I surmise this time it is the latter.

I have jury duty this month, a dreaded month-long interruption to my happy retirement schedule. Although I don’t mind doing my civic duty,  a special court order has requested I appear Friday morning at a special judicial setting separate from the regular courts. Gulp.

What does a special court entail?

According to Duhaime's Law Dictionary:  A special jury is a jury drawn to certain specifications given the alleged complexities of the matter to be tried.”

I can’t imagine what type of trial this could be and I am feeling a little apprehensive.

This morning my devotions listed Psalm 27:1,13-14.

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life: of whom shall I be afraid? I believe to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. Expect the Lord, do manfully, and let thy heart take courage, and wait thou for the Lord.


The message: assurance I am not facing this new challenge alone. He may even give me the grace to be a cheerful giver, sealing my lips from grumbling about this interruption to my plans.

October 31, 2018

Fear

Some people are afraid of spiders, black cats, ghosts, goblins, zombies, heights, or snakes. Some of these are legitimate fears, others irrational. I have my own mix of terrors. I never used to be scared of heights, but I am now. I don’t like spiders, but I’m not afraid of them. Same with snakes. I am terrified of grizzly bears and one other thing — death. But not my own.

After losing two husbands, I was terrified God would take my current one too soon. He’s healthy, and there is no indication his death was imminent, but I still worried.

In truth, I also worried about my son when he was first born. My brother died from SIDS at three months, and I agonized over the possibility my child would too. After the anniversary month passed, I relaxed, only to have that worry replaced by another. Even my brush with breast cancer was not as terrifying as my anxiety over losing my husband.

This changed last Sunday.

God used another series of odd coincidences to first get my attention and then remind me of His promise that my husband and I would grow old together. At the same time, I realized I was worrying about things out of my control. With that revelation, my apprehensions melted, vanished, disappeared.

I have not woken in the middle of the night to check on my husband’s breathing. When he slept late, I did not sneak into the room and watch for the rise and fall of his chest. His errands the other day ran longer than I expected, but I didn’t pace the floor wringing my hands, or stare out the window willing his truck to appear.

I know one day death will separate us for a time, but when it comes, God will already be there offering His comfort and His strength.

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom [or what] shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?

I believe to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. Expect the Lord, do manfully, and let thy heart take courage, and wait thou for the Lord. 

I do believe. 


October 18, 2018

Joy and Happiness

I have more joy and happiness at this stage of my life than at any other time, but it is only the eye of the storm. How can I keep this sense of contentment when the next hurricane hits? I posted the answer six years ago, and I think it's time for a reminder.

How to Have a Joyful Mind. 

Joy and happiness. Webster's dictionary states the two are synonyms, basically interchangeable. Scripture speaks of joy in a different light. It refers to joy as a sense of contentment regardless of our circumstances. In other words, the peace the world cannot give.

I've searched most of my life for a way to reach this rung in the spiritual ladder. I've tried many different methods: intense prayer, relaxation and mediation exercises, positive thinking and so much more.

They all helped to a degree. Yes, prayer can accomplish anything - if you are praying the right kind of prayer and with the right motivation. Merely begging God to change your circumstances will not leave you feeling joyful and filled with peace, unless you can give the circumstances to Him - completely - and then move on.

That's where I struggle, along with several other issues. Like an alcoholic at an AAA meeting, I must stand up and admit I am a worrier, I am a control freak, I am judgmental of others, I am selfish,  and I could go on, but you get the idea. And, I know I am not alone.

So, how do we flawed creatures find joy when faced with our own flaws, when faced with the flaws of others and the issues surrounding our troubling circumstances? A very good question.

In answer, I have found the book, The Naked Now by Richard Rohr to be one of the most insightful books I have read. Father Rohr gives a non-denominational, non-political, all encompassing insight into accepting and coping with our imperfections, those of everyone around us, and of our world.

Listed below are a few suggestions from the book that impacted my life greatly. These gems, repeated often throughout my day have enabled me to remain in a joyful, peaceful state of mind for longer periods than at any other time in my life - regardless of the turmoil surrounding me.

What might a joyful mind be?

When your mind does not need to be right.
When you no longer need to compare yourself with others.
When you no longer need to compete - not even in your own head.
When your mind can be creative, but without needing anyone to know.
When your mind does not "brood over injuries."
When you do not need to humiliate, critique, or defeat those who have hurt you - not even in your mind.

Thank you, Lord, for leading me to this wonderful source of spiritual insight,  for giving me the encouragement to follow the suggestions, and for being patient through my many failures. As you have told me over and over, it isn't how many times I fail, it is how hard I try that matters. Amen.

October 05, 2018

An Unexpected Journey Revisited


I re-encountered this young woman during a recent visit back to my hometown. She re-emerged with each story and picture my family shared.

I don't remember the day the photo was taken, but I do recall it was in September of my senior year. I was seventeen.

I was dating my first husband at the time and had no clue what was coming. I wouldn't say I was innocent, (my family could quickly illustrate that was not the case), I was however, naïve. Growing up in a loving Christian home, I couldn't imagine the horrors some people could inflict on others. This young girl found out too quickly it isn't always safe to trust someone who says they love you.

Her eyes still hold the confidence and the assurance of the young. In many ways she was a remarkable young woman, accomplished and talented, with a lot of self-discipline. Looking back, I wish I could regain many of those traits life gradually pounded away.

There are a few similarities between the younger woman and this older one. 

Both women love to paint, to write, to be outdoors and be with family. The older woman is a bit softer, not quite as self-assured, and definitely not as disciplined, but she has no desire to go back and repeat the forty-eight years the girl has yet to face. She is too old and too tired.

And yet, one thing this older woman has that the younger one has yet to gain - a deep faith in a loving God. This came about through the tragedies, through the trials, and this older woman wouldn't change any of it, except perhaps the times she was unkind to others. A regret I believe most of us have.

Over all, I am happy with where I am in my life and who I have grown up to be. I have accepted my warts, my flaws, and my imperfections. I even manage to ignore the extra pounds and wrinkles on most days, and I can keep my accomplishments and talents in proper perspective, while still admiring the end result.

It isn't over yet. I still have stories to tell and paintings to finish, places to explore and people to love, not to mention continuing as God's witness while I walk upon this beautiful earth.

Bless all young people just setting out on their life journeys. 

May God be with them, always, as He has been for me.

September 19, 2018

Logs, Splinters, and Nits


This morning while I was emptying the dishwasher, I grumbled. I was thankful my husband helped clean up the kitchen the night before, but he didn’t load it the way I prefer. For one instance, I want the knives pointing down, but he places them up. They are visible enough to avoid their points when I am unloading, but I still make the request that he load them my way, sometimes graciously, sometimes not.

Same in other situations. I appreciate his help, but it’s easy to find logs, splinters, and nits if things aren’t done according to my preference.

As I’ve aged I’ve gotten a little better at appreciating rather than complaining, especially after my brush with breast cancer, but I still slip up now and then and God lets me know, often immediately, as he did this morning.   

My first reading was from 1 Corinthians 13: 13: “And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.”

Charity in words, deeds and thoughts, giving someone the benefit of the doubt, not judging motives or finding fault. 

In my devotion, Living Faith, Melanie Rigney stated, “Remember, God is God and we are his servants, not his judges.”

When things don’t go my way, or people act or do things different from what I think is proper and just, I’ll try to remember God has not appointed me judge over anyone, least of all Him. 

Your will, Lord, not mine. Amen.

September 15, 2018

All Things Have Their Season


All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2.

In 2003, after twenty-six years I was leaving the home where I had raised my children and spent half of my adult life. The choice was not only voluntary, but necessary. Bill and I needed a fresh start, a home without ghosts of the past.

Late at night, when ghosts and demons are likely to prowl through my imagination, I would see my ex-husband standing in the bedroom doorway, sparking memories of that awful night he tried to smother me. Other times I saw my second husband, Ron, lying on the living room floor with paramedics trying to revive him. They failed. When I stood on the front deck, I glimpsed images of my third husband, Shannon, in the swing watching the sunset, his head still bandaged after his surgery for brain cancer. Neither the surgery or radiation treatments saved his life.

I moved slowly from one empty room to the next, recalling all the memories, the joyful as well as the sad. Finally, with a sigh, I laid the keys on the counter, took one last look and quietly shut the door.


Outside, I walked the perimeter of the yard, staying longest beneath the Quaking Aspens. Ron and I planted the small grove just outside the bedroom window. They sang me to sleep at night and gently woke me in the morning. I felt a pang of melancholy. I would not see them leaf out that year. Neither would I see the orchard in bloom or pick the fruit in the fall. Someone else’s hands would till the garden and plant the seeds.

I stood on the front deck and watched the sunset. A slight breeze brushed my cheek and a Meadow Lark broke into song. It was then I realized how much the house represented everything I had lost.  By leaving I would finally let go.

The first night in the new house was rough. I dreamed of my previous home, of the open fields and mountains, the family holidays and celebrations, of children growing. Shaking off the images, I rose and went out to the kitchen. I ignored the stacks of moving boxes and stood looking out the window while coffee brewed. The new house was strange and uncomfortable. Would it ever feel like home?

The sun rose, pouring bright light through the garden window and bathing the room in a warm glow. Mourning doves cooed from the rooftop and song birds chorused from every tree and bush. Humming birds flitted around the Crab Apple tree.

Bill came into the room and put his arms around me. “Good morning, Sweetheart. It is such a beautiful day let’s take a walk before we do anything else. The OC&E trail is only a few blocks from here.”

This trail is a converted railway stretching for a hundred miles through the heart of the city, outlying suburbs, open farmland and surrounding national forest. The section closest to our house cut through hay fields teaming with birds: meadowlarks, blackbirds, Mallard ducks, pheasants and Dove. Tall cottonwoods graced one side, mountains and old red barns lined the other - a little piece of paradise right in the middle of suburbia. I did not feel quite as homesick. 

Fifteen years, several states, six homes, and numerous walking paths later, I stood in yet another unfamiliar house, staring out the kitchen window, waiting for coffee to brew. I thought about people still married to the same person, living in the same house, going to the same church, and the same job. How lucky they are to always be surrounded by the known, sinking roots deep within families, homes, careers and communities. I had that once, a long, long time ago, but for reasons I do not understand, God took that type of stability from me. 

Yet, what God takes away, he often gives back a hundred fold. 

Bill and I took our coffee out to the bench on the front porch overlooking the Snake River Canyon, rolling hills, and hundreds of popular trees. Wind sighed through the pines, willows, and poplars. The creeks gurgled down the hill toward the river.

I loved the little church I was attending, the people were kind and friendly. The little community already felt like home, a place without the haunting images of the past, a place to settle in and stay.

At that moment, a Meadow Lark sang from a nearby fence post. I smiled. Even though a lot had changed over the course of my life, some things remained the same. The sun rose in the east, there were paths to walk and song birds to serenade us. Spring followed winter, and God was always there, providing the most important things.


That which has been made, the same continues: the things that shall be, have already been: and God restores that which is past.   Ecclesiastes 3:15:

Restores.

Amen.




September 07, 2018

A Little Scare and the Worry Wagon

I thought I was done. No more tests, only routine doctor visits, but something felt wrong, off, not right, and I called my doctor. The first round of tests came back negative. The next step, a sonogram of my uterus.

After just completing treatment for breast cancer and reconstruction, my mind went immediately to “What if”, and I climbed onto the worry-wagon.

On the way back from my doctor’s office, we passed by cornfields, pumpkin patches, trees already turning color, and flowing creeks. After weeks of smoke, the sky was clear and a deep blue, dotted with fluffy clouds. Flocks of birds swirled and swayed against snow-capped peaks. I decided it was too beautiful of a day to spend under a dark cloud.

“Dear, Lord, if it is your will that I go through another illness, so be it. If it is cancer, so be it. My life is in your hands. I trust you, and I refuse to worry or be anxious, no matter the situation. Amen.”

I felt a sweet peace settle over me and I filled the wagon bed with flowers instead of weeds and thistles.

I opened today’s reading in my devotional, Good Morning, Lord. The title: Rainbows. These have popped up every time I’ve faced a serious illness, and in each instance they heralded a cure. Every time.

Joseph T. Sullivan wrote: “… If people say I’m naive because I see rainbows where they don’t, then so be it. Rainbows are beautiful, appearing after storms, golden opportunities to praise you. Thank you for the rainbows in my life. You express your love in many ways. Amen.”

And He does.

If I had any doubts, God added Psalm 37 to my devotions, verses: 3-6, 27-28, 39-40. Another message that has popped up in times of trouble.

“Trust in the Lord, and do good, and dwell in the land, and thou shalt be fed with its riches. Delight in the Lord, and he will give thee the requests of thy heart. Commit thy way to the lord, and trust in him, and he will do it… Decline from evil and do good, and dwell forever and ever. For the Lord loveth judgment, and will not forsake his saints: they shall be preserved forever… But the salvation of the just is from the Lord, and he is their protector in the time of trouble. And the Lord will help them and deliver them, and he will rescue them from the wicked, and save them, because they have hoped in him.”

Today is also the 7th of the month, another reminder of the promises God has given me in Psalms 27 and 37. 

Thank you, Lord, for loving me so much.

August 29, 2018

It’s Finished, Except…

I’m done. No more doctors’ appointments except for routine visits. My surgeon released me from his care today, barring any issues.

Although freed from his constant care, there are lifelong repercussions. I will need to massage the area for the rest of my life. If I don’t, the implant can grow stiff and immobile. However, the massage is easy. Push to one side, then the other. Push up and then down. I don’t have to this all day long, only a few times a day, after a shower, when dressing or undressing, getting up in the morning or going to bed at night.

August 21, 2018

I'm Not God, But I Often Think I Am


In Ezekiel 28:1 the prophet admonishes the king for making himself a God, relying on his own wisdom and power, acting without waiting for the discernment of God’s will. I’d like to say I never do that, but I do, and often. I ask for God’s blessing to do what I deem best and plunge ahead, not waiting for his answer. Other times, I follow his will, but out of my own desires, not his.

I also make myself a god when I judge others, playing the Pharisee to the tax collector, extolling my virtues over theirs. If I’d never act the way they do, then they must be wrong. 

August 18, 2018

The Odd Girl

Although it’s only been a month since my implant surgery, I am impressed how natural it feels and how quickly the scars have faded. The Franken-Breast is gone, replaced by the Odd Girl. Although she is no longer a twin to the other gal, she has enough of a family resemblance most people will never know the difference. I can live with that.

On a comfort level, the muscle tightens if I move my arm the wrong way, and I am still restricted to only lifting five pounds with that arm and no pulling or pushing. That means no vacuuming, mopping, raking, or two-handed scrubbing. (Oh darn.) That will change at the six-week mark when my surgeon releases me from both the restrictions and his care. 

August 08, 2018

Life Without a To Do List

I used to be a serious planner, making not only daily To Do Lists but also contingency plans for every possibility. I spent more time planning than any other activity. They were my last thoughts at night, fine tuning and revising, repeating with paper and pencil in the morning. On busy days I told people I’d gone from Plan A, past Plan G, and beyond.

Some planning is necessary, but not to the depth I had taken it. It was an attempt at control, an illusion that If I planned it, I could control the outcome. My plans had become idols. I thought more of them than anything else, even prayer.

August 04, 2018

We Have a Winner!



Linda Orr won the grand prize from Linda Yezak's giveaway package for her new release blog tour. All those who commented throughout the tour were eligible for the drawing for the prize. It included a signed print version of the series, a 16-ounce Christian cowboy mug, a horseshoe picture frame, a Ph. 4:13 stretch bracelet, a cute set of magnetic page markers, and a Texas Rubiks cube.






August 02, 2018

The Unexpected Gift

We thought we had the ivy removed from the front flower bed, but small shoots are now sprouting everywhere. It’s time to take the next step.

Most landscapers recommend covering the area with a black plastic liner. It deprives the vegetation of sunlight and water, inhibiting growth and eventually killing anything underneath it. Since this area is in the front of our home, we decided to cover the plastic with small river rock. We estimate we will need 6.2 cubic yards, which equals 6 tons.

We brainstormed various ways to minimize the amount of labor involved in transporting that much rock from the driveway to the flower bed. The simplest and easiest is a small utility dump trailer for the garden tractor. Their starting price is about as much as the gravel. My husband balked at spending more money on garden tools, and we put off the decision.

July 18, 2018

Lessons from My Cats, Guest Post by Linda Yezak


Cuddlebug is mad at me. Because of a thyroid condition, she has to eat special food—but she doesn’t know that. She just knows that PB gets to eat in the living room from a fancy earthenware bowl that gets whipped off the floor whenever Bug comes near. And it’s not fair that PB gets to have special stuff that she’s not allowed to even sniff.

What my 19-year-old tortoise shell cat doesn’t know—aside from the fact that she has a condition—is that I pay extra for her food and can only get it from the vet. She doesn’t know that I take time to make a gravy out of that expensive food to make it more palatable for her. She doesn’t know that I also slice venison into bite-sized pieces especially for her, to take care of her coat and give her a special treat. I don’t do this for PB, who is a persnickety eater anyway. Just for Cuddlebug.

All I do for PB is pour dry cereal into a bowl and feed her in a different room so Bug won’t eat it and get sick again. Funny thing is, PB thinks she’s the one getting the special treatment—except she does seem to wonder why she’s been banned to the living room to eat. She wants to eat in the kitchen like the big cat.

July 13, 2018

Weeds and Dis-ease

I have been scrambling to get everything in order before my surgery. I’ve tended the flowerbeds, finished up landscaping, got caught up on the laundry and housecleaning, shopped for lightweight button up shirts, compression socks, and easy-on-the-tummy foods.

I’m ready, sort of.

Although I am looking forward to getting rid of this rigid rock on my chest (the expander) and moving past all these surgeries, I am worrying over the weeds. My husband will mow the lawn and prune trees and bushes, but will not touch the flowerbeds. How overgrown will they be by the time I am well enough to garden again?

June 30, 2018

In Control or Trapped?


I tend to rehash my mistakes and situations in a vain attempt to change the results. I question whether I should have spoken up or remained quiet. If I reacted sooner could I have prevented the disaster? On and on my thoughts whirl, replaying each moment.

This game is an illusion, believing I can change a situation by altering my behavior. Sometimes that’s true, if it is my rash actions or words that caused the problem. In other circumstances this is not true. 

June 12, 2018

On the Other Side of Pain


I’ve come a long way from my first surgery, and I can’t say I relish the next one. Giving up my current flexibility and comfort isn’t easy, but I am looking beyond that to a full recovery and a healthy, cancer free life.

In my devotion, Living Faith, Kristin Armstrong wrote: “‘What you focus on expands.’ When we focus on our suffering, misery grows. When we focus on abundance, on faith, on God’s ability to heal and redeem, hope grows. We can change our vision to include the parameters of what is unseen and remember that suffering always produces something valuable on the other side of pain.”

Suffering is never for nothing. It changes us, deepens our faith and trust, teaches us a depth of compassion for others we would not have otherwise. There is always something beautiful on the other side of pain.

June 03, 2018

The Broken Record


Our minds are wired to repeat the same messages, usually negative ones, like the cliched broken record. 

When I retired, I was sure that little things would not bother me. After all the years of stress over a job, life would be easier. However, thanks to that broken record with its tired old messages, the small stuff takes on more importance.

How can I circumvent this repetition? Richard Rohr suggests contemplative prayer. His books and devotional studies supply step-by-step models. (See: Center for Action and Contemplation). He stresses the need to be open-minded, non-judgmental, accepting people and circumstances for what they are.

In other words, what is, is. I can’t change anything or anyone with my will alone no matter how much I fret, wring my hands, or pray desperate Please-God-Change-Them Prayer. God can, but that is up to Him.

If I let God pick my battles, I’ll always be on the right side, expending my energies for creativity, like writing and art.

With prayer and practice, I can turn off the tired old songs, or at least interrupt them for longer periods. Better yet, I can put on a different record, like The Serenity Prayer.

Switching records now.

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
Amen

May 26, 2018

Vapor


In my last post, I mentioned how fast life can change. The theme continues in my devotions with this scripture. “For what is your life? It is a vapor which appeareth for a little while, and afterwards shall vanish away. For that you should say, ‘If the Lord will, and if we shall live, we will do this or that.’” St. James 4:15

This doesn’t mean God intends that I live in fear of death, but rather to live in the present, making tentative plans for the future and trusting Him to take care of my needs.

In my devotion, Good Morning, Lord, Father Joseph T. Sullivan offered a prayer about fear, not being afraid of trying moments as all things can work together for good. Fear disappears with renewed trust in God and I should thank Him for my beneficial trials.

I can’t say it is easy to think of a cancer diagnosis, or my other horrific trials as beneficial, but with further reflection, they were. They helped me to develop a deeper faith and trust in God I would not have otherwise.

This goes beyond my fear of death. My unchristian words, actions, and thoughts stem from a desperate need to hold on to a job, a relationship, or other earthly treasures.

I have survived domestic violence and sexual assault, blood poisoning, loss of loved ones, financial crises, and recently, breast cancer. The last pushed me beyond a Doubting Thomasina toward a Paulina, content with my circumstances, whatever they are. How dare I doubt Him after all of that?

My life may be like vapor, seen for a moment and then gone, but what I do during that span of breath matters. Did I believe in God and His promises? Did I follow Him wherever He led me? Did I love others? Or did I live in fear and anxiety, distrusting God to provide for my needs?

I pray my answer is a resounding, yes, to all but the last.





May 21, 2018

Month Three—Almost There

No wonder my surgeon waits two months from the last saline fill before performing the next surgery. It’s day five, and I’m still tender from the muscle spasms, and the rock on my chest has grown to a boulder. My surgeon assures me this will subside as my muscles and tissues expand.

I take hope and strength knowing I am almost done. Only the surgery to remove the expander and place the prosthetic is left, besides the last six weeks of recovery.

This experience has broadened my view on many things. The number of other women I have encountered who have, or had, breast cancer and undergone mastectomies and reconstruction is much larger than I comprehended. According to my oncologist, one out of eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. No wonder I know so many, including myself.

Even without dealing with cancer in one of its many forms, few of us escape this life unscarred or unscathed in some way. How well we adapt depends on many factors. For me, faith is at the top of the list. Prayer has seen me through this difficult time and my preceding trials. Attitude comes next. Anger, although natural, can adversely affect healing and places extra strain on our mental stamina. Denial can be dangerous, causing us to neglect to act promptly. With cancer, time is not our friend. I found acceptance and trust to be the most powerful attributes of my faith in any situation.

With my recovery and reconstruction almost complete, I thank God for every pain free day.
Something I will never again take for granted. Another thing I will not take for granted is time. I have slowed down my usual hectic pace and enjoy His gifts more fully, no longer rushing my prayers or my devotions. After prayer, I place time spent with my husband, parents, children, and friends at the top of my To Do list. My plans to develop and use my talents are still in place, but not at the forced, frenzied pace I’ve used in the past.

Life can change with my next breath, and none of us know our expiration date. It is a shame to waste a single moment not loving, praying, smiling, laughing, and being thankful.



April 28, 2018

Pain Is Gain


Stretching. Aerobics. Resistance training. Yard work. I did not realize how much those activities would hurt or how much I’d gain afterward.

The first day of a new, or increased activity, the pain is almost intolerable. Sleeping is difficult. No position is comfortable despite the Tylenol I load up on before going to bed.

However…

The next morning, the pain is gone. I notice more flexibility, range of motion, and strength. The difference is astounding from one day to the next.

I am also lucky, no sign of lymphedema. As my surgeon said, if I haven’t gotten it by now, I probably won’t.

Everything worth having in this life will cost us something, and the harder or more painful the task, the more valuable the reward.

My devotions repeatedly mentioned how suffering and sorrow lead to a stronger faith and deeper compassion for others. I understand that better now since my diagnosis and surgery. I no longer see pain as the enemy.

This perception has changed everything. I worry less about suffering and no longer fear the future.

God can indeed turn all things toward good for those who love Him.

April 20, 2018

The Simple Things


Unless something, like a surgery, upsets our daily routine, we don’t realize how many things we take for granted, like reaching for a shelf above our heads, bending down to pick something up from the floor, or pushing a grocery cart.

Exercise has improved my mobility, but the expander complicates some movements. It’s rigid and I can feel it move against my chest muscle despite the sutures stabilizing it. This is not painful per se, but not comfortable either.

The good news, the prosthetic will replace it in about two months. (Two more saline fills and a six month wait period before that surgery.) The implant will allow a more natural movement, but it will never be the same as biological tissue. I still prefer it to a flat space and a large scar.


Even if movement isn’t always comfortable, there are many who would trade places, restricted movement better than none. Something I need to remember whenever I’m frustrated. It could be so much worse.


I often think of St. Paul and the sufferings he encountered. He remained hopeful and cheerful despite appalling circumstances.


“None of these things move me.” Acts 20:24.


Someday, I hope I can say the same.

April 09, 2018

Eight Weeks — New Challenges and Blessings


In my last post I talked about priorities and how mine changed after surgery. Comfort has been at the top of that list, and now that I have healed from the surgery, my surgeon has given me the green light to begin normal activities. Not as easy as it sounds.

Most of the discomfort at this stage of recuperation is from tightened and shortened muscles. Unused muscles are painful. Trust me on that one.

The American Cancer Website for mastectomy patients has a list of exercises to regain flexibility, specialized exercises designed to help regain a full range of motion and prevent permanent muscle damage. I can't say I was looking forward to moving that much. I have to, and I will, but at this stage showering and dressing are still painful activities.

However, an article I read recently gave me additional motivation. A study found a link between the lack of muscle mass and high body fat with a higher risk of death in breast cancer survivors. That announcement gives me increased motivation to exercise. The article said good muscle tone is even more important than BMI (Body Mass Index).

At my age, loss of muscle and increased fat deposits are an issue anyway. Coupled with eight weeks of limited activity, I am facing difficult challenges. However, as we know, all journeys begin with the first small step, then another and another. First, regain my flexibility, add in resistance training with weights, make healthy dietary changes (restrict sugar and carbs, add in more lean protein, fruit, and vegetables), and get some heart pumping aerobics, walking and/or the stair stepper.

To my surprise, my comfort level soared after the first set of stretches and continues to increase with each session. Add in our beautiful spring weather, and I am now looking forward to the increased activity.

I am not overwhelmed with this new set of challenges. Besides the physical benefits from the exercises and diet, I am richly blessed with God’s abundant love and compassion displayed through the support of my doctors, my husband, my family, and friends.

A few days ago, He even sent a rainbow.

Yes, I am blessed, far more than I deserve.

March 17, 2018

After Thirty Days — What Matters Most?


One month since my surgery. What is at the top of my priority list? Comfort.

Oh, to feel comfortable again.

My swim in the waters of continuous pain these last thirty days have given me a whole new appreciation for the pain free days of the past and empathy for those dealing with chronic pain. However, I am fortunate. My discomfort is easing every day and should end once my mastectomy reconstruction is completed (in five or six months).

With restricted activities, I evaluate everything according to my doctors’ guidelines and what my body deems comfortable.

Patience is my current mantra. It’s not as hard as it used to be. My body lets me know how much I can do with loud, insistent messages I can’t ignore.

Expert say it takes thirty days to change habits. Will my priorities remain the same after my full recovery, or will I revert to old ways?

I may slip now and then, but my scars and other body changes will be constant reminders of what matters most — life and my relationship with God and others.

As I add in other activities, it will be important to ask if it’s worth my time and energy. If it doesn’t enhance my life, or another’s, then it doesn’t belong on my list.

What about you? What guidelines determine where and how you spend your time and energy?





February 13, 2018

A Pause

Jesus often admonished His disciples for their lack of faith after witnessing so many miracles.  “How do you not yet understand about the lilies of the field, or feeding the five thousand with a few fish and loaves of bread?”

How do we not understand? Because we are weak and frail. The devil uses our weaknesses, stirring up doubts, telling us we are unworthy of God’s good gifts.  We are unworthy, but God still grants them because of His infinite love.  

Streams in the Desert: “Difficulties are sent to reveal what God can do in answer to faith that prays and works.”

Sometimes God sends difficulties not only to strengthen our faith, but also to encourage us to spend more time with Him in prayer for ourselves and for others. Prayer, with God’s intervention, can accomplish more than years of physical struggle. He asks us to pause in our headlong rush to accomplish to sit at His feet and learn.

“Your faith can level forests.” Streams in the Desert.

My upcoming surgery and recuperation period is an opportunity to deepen my prayer life and open myself to more meditation. Who knows what forests He and I can level?

“According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, thy comforts have given joy to my soul.” Psalm 94:19.


One thing I have learned, God’s light of hope, comfort, love, and compassion shines brightest in the dark places of our lives.  

February 03, 2018

My Gethsemane

I knew with the same certainty of other premonitions that my mammogram would not be normal. I prayed, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking that this cup pass from me. In response, I received a vision and a promise. I saw myself lying on the couch, smothered in blankets, recovering from treatments, assured I would be healed.  

Even with numerous scriptural and other assurances, I still begged for this trial pass from me.

God answered.

Sometimes small things interfered with my church attendance, devotions, and prayer time. God knew I could do better. This was my Jonah, calling me back to a deeper relationship, asking me to realign my priorities. Nothing like a crisis to drop you to your knees. This time, I vowed to stay there and not allow the cares of this world to distract me from what I knew I should do.

Also, our faith through severe trials can lead others to God. For example, my husband, who is standoffish with prayer and faith, confessed he has been praying. Who knows who else God might draw back to Him if I allow my faith to be an example.

This reminded me of a story.

A man walked through a field of wildflowers reveling in the beauty of the blue sky and the carpet of bright colors. He was so enthralled in the beauty he failed to notice a cliff and walked off the edge. Halfway down, he caught a protruding root. After assessing his situation, he realized he was too far from the top to climb up and too far from the bottom to let go.

He called for his friends to help. No one heard, and no one came.

In desperation, he called out to God. “Save me!”

God answered. “Do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord, with all my heart.”

“Do you trust me?”

“Yes, Lord, with my very life.”

“Then let go.”

That part always stopped my heart. Could I let go? My mind said it was a win-win. God could save me from falling, or if I fell to my death, I’d be in Paradise with Him. Yet, the thought of letting go still terrified me.  

However, remembering His many promises, I relinquished the struggle, opening my heart and mind to His will. 


My small Calvary, will accomplish many things if I approach it with faith and trust.  As St. Paul so eloquently stated, “And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For which cause I please myself in my infirmities in reproaches in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful.” 2 Corinthians 12: 10-12. 

January 28, 2018

This Moment


We spend so much time being afraid and anxious despite repeated vows not to. We are exhausted before a crisis even strikes. 

I know all the platitudes. I know all the scriptures, but my mind still wants to race toward the worst scenario. This time around, I fought against the panic, the anxiety, and the fear. I prayed, read my bible, attended church, vowing no more complacencies in my spiritual life.  

The answer is simple, and yet so very, very difficult. Surrender. Let go. Don’t thrash and struggle. Yet, I’d rather tread water than just lie there and float. If I am struggling, I think I am in control. I know better, but I can't convince myself to remain still.  

Tomorrow I will hear the results of the biopsy. I have it in my mind that my world will change, turn upside down, maybe even spin out of control. It might, but it already has changed. I’ve changed. I see the world and my spiritual life differently. My priorities are different, more focused. During my devotions, I realized what I needed to do, the prayer I should say. I said the words with trepidation, but also with the desire to mean them with my whole heart.   

“Lord, let it be done unto me according to your will.”  

Fear comes from the devil. He wants me to withhold my vow, to continue to struggle, to doubt, to worry, and to fear, and not follow God's will for my life. This time, he's going to be disappointed. 

God doesn’t want me to live my life in fear.  

In fact, my pastor opened his sermon this week with the words, “Don’t be afraid.” 

I remembered advice I gave to my daughter during a difficult time in her life, words I need to take to heart.  “At this moment, all is well.”  

And it is. Today, there is no evil to face. Tomorrow, maybe, but not today, and when that evil does come, God will give me the grace, strength, and courage to face it.  

“Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself.” Matthew 6:34.


January 25, 2018

A Bump in the Road


We’ve all experienced them, those unexpected bumps that jar our otherwise smooth journey. Some just jostle us a little. Others knock us out of our seats, spin us around several times, and dump us upside down.

We sit stunned, dazed, and uncertain what to do. Are we still in the driver’s seat, or only a passenger? Are we even in the vehicle?

A jostle reminds us to pay attention and not become complacent of this gift of life. Major upsets force us to relinquish control, pause, and reflect. Do we wring our hands and cry? Or do we choose another reaction?

We have a light. It might be small at first, but as we hold it up and blow on the flame, it grows brighter and brighter. Its light might not show us the exact path we are to take, but it will be enough to see the next step, and the next.

Faith. We aren’t supposed to hide it under the bed, or in our pockets, only bringing it out when we are frightened. It is the light we should hold high as a guide for ourselves and those who follow.

I am not sure how far off track this new bump in my life has sent me sprawling. I am still in the initial, what-was-that, phase, but not alone. Friends and family have shouted encouragement, and my faith burns brighter.

The road will be rough, but God will show me the way as long as I trust Him. He will guide me over the hard places and carry me when I’m too tired to walk. Should I fall and lose my grip, I don’t need to fear. He won’t leave me alone in the dark, terrified. He’ll head up a search party.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom should I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life, of whom should I be afraid?... I believe to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. Expect the Lord, do manfully, let thy heart take courage, and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27: 1, 13-14.

January 12, 2018

What Will This Day Bring?


Will it bring good news or bad?

Will it be fruitful or wasted?

Will it strengthen my faith or my doubts?

Will it bring peace or unrest?

Will it give me opportunities to be compassionate or angry and demanding?

Will it encourage me to forgive or judge and condemn?

Will it open my heart to God’s goodness or will it make me turn away in despair?



This day will provide choices. My responses will decide the rest.  

January 04, 2018

Come and See


And God said to me, “Come, and you will see.” John 1:39

Come and see how to forgive when forgiveness seems impossible.
Come and see how to trust when there appears to be no hope.
Come and see how to believe regardless of the scorn from unbelievers.
Come and see how the hard things in life are made softer through faith.
Come and see how beautiful I have made this world and all My creation.
Come and see how often I will carry you, hold you, and kiss your tears.
Come and see, My beloved child, how much I love you.


January 01, 2018

A New Year's Prayer


Lord, lead me to toward a healthier lifestyle with diet and exercise.

Lord, lead me to write the books you inspire.

Lord, lead me in prayer for our world, our country, for all in desperate need of your help, and especially for those with whom I disagree.

Lord, lead me to acts of kindness toward all your creation without pausing to judge who is worthy and who is not.

Lord, lead me closer to you.

Amen.





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