Thursday, November 26, 2020

Every Day Should Be a Day of Thanksgiving

This morning, I woke up at 5:55 a.m. It's getting to be a thing. For the past several months, God shakes me awake at precisely 5:55 a.m.

The first time it happened, I didn't think anything of it. I got up, went into the kitchen, fixed a cup of cappuccino and began my devotional time. The second time, I thought it odd that I was awake at exactly 5:55 a.m om the nose. But subsequently, I've come to realize, God has picked this very specific time for me. 

In Gematria, the number 5 symbolizes creation, as in God's creation of man. Gematria is the study of numbers and their significance as they are used in the Bible. The number 555 in Jewish Gematria equals the word "today." Each letter has it's own number. t=100 o=50 d=4 a=1 y=400. Add them all up and you get 555. So, I guess maybe the Lord wants me to wake up at the specific time to remember He is the almighty creator and He created me and He wants my undivided attention today (and every day at 5:55 a.m.) Whew! Didn't mean to focus on all that, but learn something new every day, right? 

It doesn't matter what time the Lord wakes me to spend time with Him. I'm honored to do so. And this morning, He took me to Psalm 100 - the hymn all about giving thanks. How appropriate! Today is Thanksgiving!!!

Yesterday, I spent most of the day preparing food for today's meal. As I worked, I thought about all of God's provision for our family over the years. He has been so good to us. His faithfulness has remained constant and I know it will continue because He's promised that to those who love Him. 

I also thought about family members who've gone on to be with the Lord. My mother, my father, my grandparents, my in-laws, so many aunts, uncles, and cousins. I thought about their lives and how thankful I was to have known each of them. 

As I wrapped up my cooking, I began praying for several friends and family members who're facing their own battle with cancer right now. As I prayed, I gave thanks for each one of them and asked God to meet their specific needs for upcoming tests, for comfort, for peace, for healing. 

I didn't realize it until I heard my own voice, but at some point, I'd begun speaking out loud, as if another person was in the room with me. As I've gotten older, I find I do this more and more. God and I have some real time conversations and I treat those as if I'm talking with my very best friend. I think that makes God smile. And it helps me feel less alone during the day. 

Jesus is our constant companion. 2 Timothy 4:17 says, "For the Lord stood with me and gave me strength." His Holy Spirit never leaves us and we know, He considers us His friends because John 15:14-15 says, "You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

As I wrapped up my time of prayer with him and put the last piece of Saran wrap over the food I'd prepared, I thanked God for my life. Six and a half years ago, I wasn't so sure I'd be here. 

The day I received my cancer diagnosis, I also felt like I'd been handed a death sentence. I think a lot of people feel the same way. In talking with many of my friends and those I've met online through cancer support sites, that reaction is common. 

In all reality, every day should be a day of Thanksgiving for the person with cancer, but also for the one without cancer. 

We should always acknowledge our gratitude toward Christ for all He's given us, for all He's done for us, and for all His many blessings. 

As I gather with family today, to offer up thanks to my Heavenly Father, I hope I'll remember to thank Him tomorrow with as much gusto as I will today. 

I love the way Psalm 100 tells us to give praise to the Lord:

 "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness;
 come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. 
It is he who made us, and we are his
 we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."

I highlighted the verbs to remind myself of my responsibility in thanksgiving. 

I pray you and your family will have a wonderful time of celebration. May ever day be a day we offer the gift of thanksgiving back to our Father, for He deserves our praise. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Late night download

 It's way after my bedtime but I don't care. I need to download my thoughts so I can sleep peacefully. There are so many rolling around in my head, I feel like it's about to explode, and most of those thoughts revolve around others. 

There are three loved ones in my life who are fighting cancer right now. Each of their stories is vastly different from the other and each of them suffer from a different type of cancer, but all of the prognoses are bad, and that makes me feel helpless. 

I wish with all my heart I could take their pain. I know what it's like to fight cancer but there's one thing I don't understand, and maybe I'm not meant to understand it - why have I been allowed to live 6 years past diagnosis and more than likely, these I care so deeply about won't? 

Someone once said, "Why does God allow suffering?" And while I don't know all the answers, I do know He is sovereign. His ways are not our ways. He sees the beginning and the end, and everything He allows into our life is for our benefit and for His glory. 

So I cry, but I trust. At the same time. 

Cancer is so hard to accept and even harder to understand, especially when it comes so close to home. 

I pray it never touches your life or the lives of those you love, but if it does, I pray it leaves quickly. 

This poem says it best: 

Close the Door When You Leave

 by Michael Hayes Samuelson

I never asked you to least I don’t believe I did Maybe...I don’t know It’s so confusing At any rate, you’re a rude guest You take my energy, Rob my sleep, and with a stick You swirl and distort my dreams All right; You are here -- for now But understand There are two places That are forever off limits You may not tread on my spirit You may not occupy my soul I have heard of your visits to others I know the damage you leave in your path The wanton disregard for innocence, value, and what some would call fairness Also, I hear that laughter confuses you; that good foods make you feel bad, and That nothing causes you more distress than an autumn sunset, the forever blue of a summer sky, Or the unconditional radiance of a child’s smile Listen and understand You might pilfer my closets, empty all the drawers, and trash my house But there are two places forever off limits You may not tread on my spirit You may not occupy my soul Do not mistake my nausea, weakness, and pain as signs of your victory They are simply small dents in the armor I wear to fight you Instead, look deeply into my eyes They will once again remind you that there are two places forever off limits You must not... May not... Will not tread on my spirit You must not... May not... Will not occupy my soul.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Blame it on the cancer, or not

 Friday, I was bad...really, really bad. I don't usually do things like that. The people who know me well know I'm pretty laid back and easy going - that is, until I've reached my limit. 

My mother always said I was a powder keg, waiting to explode. And I was, but I didn't know it. 

I would take and take and take letting things build up slowly and gradually without realizing the ensuing damage until it was too late. And once the dam burst, there was no holding back. All the ugliness and bitter hatred would spew forth. 

That was me on Friday. 

We'd ordered a replacement window for our kitchen. The order had been placed in July and we'd been promised it would be in within 2 weeks. When the deadline came, we called the salesman to arrange pickup only to be told the window wasn't in. They're been a delay. We were told it'd be another 2 weeks, so we waited. 

That deadline came and went too. We waited another month, calling to check on the window every 2 weeks only to be told the same story. 

Finally, we got the call to come pick up the window which we did. When we got home, we found out it the window was the wrong color. We'd ordered almond. The one received was white. Immediately, we called and reported the error to the salesman. He did not apologize but said he'd reorder the window and it should be in within, you guessed it, 2 weeks. Well, it wasn't. 

Time ticked away and the calls, emails, and texts to the salesman didn't prove fruitful. We kept being promised deadlines only to have them pass without product. 

Friday, I'd had enough. I called the salesman and told him we were fed up. Either he could give us our money back or have the correct window ready for us to pickup on Wednesday of this week. I'm loaded for bear! 

My husband said I shouldn't have been so demanding. I told him we've waited long enough and we've been as patient and understanding as possible. I'm done. 

If Mama were still alive, she'd have said I was pretty ugly to that guy on the phone, that's okay. He deserved it. 

I'm hoping Wednesday we'll have our new window in the almond color we originally ordered. If not, I'm not going to be a happy camper. I may just take this white window and whack that guy over the head with it. Maybe I should take a sedative before we go over to the building supply place that day, or not...

If I was still in active treatment for cancer, I'd play the cancer card. I'm sure it would have worked to get the window for us faster. That's one thing about the cancer card, it worked wonders and for some, it still does. I try not to play it any more because I'm trying to do the right thing, but I sure would like to, especially in situations like this.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

A big day in history

Well, today's the day. We choose a new president and the fate of our country will forever change. I won't lie. I'm concerned. I've been praying, asking God for His perfect will to be done, but I can't help but wonder if He's going to allow us to reap what we've sown. We deserve that. 

People are hurting. They're angry and upset. Our world has become chaotic and evil. And the Bible said it would be that way in the last days. 

Relationships have been broken, irretrievably broken, and wounded souls mourn. 

I'm one of those. My heart aches every day because our family is disjointed. I tell God how much it hurts every day and how there's nothing I can do to fix it. 

What does one do when a child decides to cut a parent out of her life? And how does the parent cope with the shock of not knowing the reason behind the shunning? 

It seems like yesterday I was diapering her, holding her, kissing her, teaching her, loving her.

We played games and made messes. We giggled and laughed. 
I remember bathing her every night and reading and saying prayers with her every evening. And then, before I knew it, she had grown up, married, and moved away. 
Now she has littles of her own. She loves them the way I love her. 

I pray she remembers but my only consolation in all of this was...I took every chance.I didn’t hold back one ounce of love or give away my time to more “important“ pursuits. I was her mother and I took every. single. chance. to be one.

Hopefully she'll come to her senses soon, before it's too late. Maybe she'll hear the longing of my heart to be close to hers again. 

Then again, maybe she won't. And life will go on- normally for her, while I grieve.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Savoring the moments


Trout lilies in N. Georgia
The little things are the ones that count the most after a person has been diagnosed with cancer. Every sunrise, every sunset, and everything in between is precious. 

Time seems to become more valuable and less wasted, or in my case, it has. From the moment I wake until I crawl into bed at night, I'm using every second and thanking God I'm still here to use them. 

One of my favorite places to spend time is in the mountains, particularly the North Georgia mountains. There's something so special about being there. The air is cleaner, the colors more vivid. It's almost as if you're swallowed up by nature and I don't mind it a bit. That's why my husband and I schedule a trip there every year. And, though we usually rent a cabin, we'd love to have a permanent home there when he retires if it weren't so far away from the children. 

On our upcoming trip, we plan to visit several apple orchards. We love seeing the beautiful, fresh fruit and all the products made from them. We'll also make a jaunt to a few local wineries and sample their fare. I love buying from small wineries. 

The weather will be much cooler there over the next few weeks so we'll enjoy our first fire of the season, both inside and outside the cabin. Inside they usually have gas logs, but outside, we'll pile up some seasoned oak and enjoy making s'mores as we star gaze. 

If my foot holds up, we'll do some hiking and visit some nearby waterfalls. Since I injured my ankle a few weeks back, it's been a challenge to walk for long distances, we we'll see how it goes. I still have some time before our trip so I'll do some home remedies and see if that helps. 

Yesterday evening, we got hit by the outskirts or feeder bands of Hurricane Zeta. The winds were about 60 MPH and tree limbs were flying everywhere as they battered our house. The power went out and I had to scramble to get everything from the refrigerator into the deep freezer so we wouldn't lose our groceries. In the last hurricane, our power was out for several days and we lost an entire refrigerator's worth of food. We were so thankful that didn't happen this time and we were also grateful no trees fell this time. During the last hurricane, a couple of our neighbor's trees fell into our yard. They didn't do any damage to our property other than dent up the damp soil with their massive trunks and limbs, so we were blessed. And, our other neighbors were kind enough to cut up and carry away the big Pines. 

The holidays are quickly approaching and I think about how thankful I am to still be alive to celebrate them. One of my dear friends is praying for God to heal him of cancer before November 25th. I have no idea why he's chosen that date, but he has. I'm pulling for him but I don't know if I could be so bold if I had to face cancer again. 

The dictionary defines savor as to delight in or experience with pleasure. If only everyone would take time to savor the moments we're given in each day...

It's too bad I had to go through cancer to understand the concept of savoring moments. I shudder to think of all the minutes, hours, and days I let slip by while only getting through them instead of reveling in them.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Preparing to lose a friend to cancer

This weekend, I had the opportunity to spend some time with friends I hadn't seen in almost a year. During that time, cancer invaded their lives. 

It came as a surprise to me when I received the email. It said, "Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, spread to the liver." As soon as I read those words, I cringed. Pancreatic cancer usually takes a person fast. 

Our home church was hosting a women's crafting event. Since many of my old friends there know how much I love crafting, I was invited to participate. Since we'd moved many years ago, the hour and a half trip made attending every service difficult. We missed the fellowship, but tried to stay in touch through phone calls and the internet.

I eagerly accepted the invitation knowing I'd have a chance to see some of my dear friends and in particular, I'd get a chance to visit briefly with Jack, the one with pancreatic cancer. 

The day was lovely. The women and I had a blast making fall decorations and centerpieces. It felt good to be surrounded by friends. They didn't know it, but I hadn't been out of the house much over the past few years.

When our crafting time ended and we'd cleaned up the supplies, our husbands came in to see if they could help. We loaded them down with boxes to take to the cars. 

As Jack reached to take a big box from the preacher's wife, I was surprised. He was so thin. Cancer had taken a toll on his body, leaving his 6 foot frame frail.

Trying to help, I rushed over to my husband and whispered in his ear, "Take that box from Jack! He's too weak to carry it," but my husband shook his head no. I wondered why and was saddened that Jack was struggling under the weight of the box. 

A few minutes later, I understood why my husband refused to take the box. If he'd taken it from Jack, he would have wounded Jack's pride. Though Jack was visibly weak from chemo, he still wanted to be treated normally.

On the way home, I couldn't help but cry. Seeing what cancer had already done to my friend was upsetting. There was nothing I could do about it. 

When Jack had received the bad news, I was his first contact. He knew I'd been through breast cancer and I would be able to answer some of his questions. As we talked on the phone, I listened as he asked about every aspect of the cancer journey. I wondered how much information to share and how much to withhold. I didn't want to discourage him but knew he needed answers. So I decided the best thing I could do was be honest with the questions he asked and not divulge information on anything else. 

It's so difficult to know how to help a friend with cancer. Every case is different. But when a friend reaches out, it's our responsibility to be there for them, in any way possible. And that's what I've tried to do for Jack. 

My heart breaks knowing treatment is only going to make him weaker. I want to wrap my arms around him and give him a heads up but won't. I also want to reach out to his wife and let her know I understand how she feels. I know her fear, but I am trying to just be the listening ear. I want her to share her feelings when and if she wants to, I don't want to pry. 

The reality is that I'll lose a friend very soon to cancer. And while I don't want to believe it, I see it, right in front of my eyes. 

I hate cancer so much. I don't understand how one person can do so well and another have a totally different outcome. 

I honestly believe chemotherapy does a person more harm than good in fight cancer. That's one reason I refused it when I was diagnosed. I'd done my research and I'd listened carefully as the oncologist explained what may or may not happen. 

But each person has to chose for themselves. We do whatever it takes to stay alive and sometimes, that means taking the risk of suffering more bodily damage to do so. 

Please pray for Jack in the days ahead. Maybe, just maybe, the chemo will give him a few more months of life. And if not, pray that God takes him home quickly so he won't have to endure more pain. 

Life is so short. We can never take a day for granted. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Cancer is so hard

 Last night, I got a text from a friend of mine who's going through chemo. He's having a really hard time and has been struggling through treatment but was more concerned about how his wife was faring than how he was doing. As I read his message, I could "hear" his worry and fear. 

At his request, I called his wife. She had no idea he'd asked me for this favor. 

As we talked, I let her lead the conversation. I knew, from past experience, she needed a friend and needed to be heard. 

I listened as she poured out her heart. Without coming right out and saying it, she was afraid of what would happen in the near future. She was terrified of being alone. And I couldn't blame her. Her husband's prognosis is grim. 

My heart broke as I listened. She tried to hide her tears but I could hear them. Mingled with my own, we cried together. 

I tried to reassure her none of us are promised tomorrow and that we can only focus on today. I reminded her of Scripture that says we're not to worry about tomorrow. 

She told me she'd been having a very bad day. She'd been faced with spiritual and emotional attack. I explained the feelings she was having were normal and it was okay to feel them but to remember God had promised never to leave or forsake her. 

We talked for a long time. By the end of the conversation, I could tell she was doing better. It's cathartic to pour out feelings sometimes, I said, and offered to be available whenever she needed to talk.

I'm so thankful she trusted me enough to share her deepest fears and concerns but I'm so very sad for my friends. I've been on both sides of cancer and neither of them are easy. 

If there was a way I could take the pain away, I would in a heartbeat but all I can do right now is be available. I promised her I'd give a listening ear whenever she needed it and I meant it. 

If you can, please say a prayer for these two dear friends. I won't share their names to protect their privacy but God knows who they are. 

I hate cancer so much. I wish we could find a way to cure it. Maybe one of these days scientists will figure it out. Until then, we just have to muddle through.

Every Day Should Be a Day of Thanksgiving

This morning, I woke up at 5:55 a.m. It's getting to be a thing. For the past several months, God shakes me awake at precisely 5:55 a.m....