Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Preparing for the Sneak Attack

 My husband and I like to watch good movies, especially ones with interesting plots. Recently, we watched a movie about soldiers on a secret mission. It was a nail biter. Sitting on the edge of my seat, I wondered at every scene, what would happen next. 

As one of the main characters in the movie wandered through enemy territory, you could feel the tension rising knowing danger lurked at every corner. Just as we thought he was going to make his way out unscathed, bullets ripped through the air tearing through his camouflaged material and lodging deeply in his chest. For the next few minutes, we wondered if he would live or die. Surely, they'd keep him alive to continue the story line, right?! Thankfully they did. 

Many of my friends know I've been working on writing a book about my breast cancer journey. It's been a long, tedious process. Reliving memories has made me feel like a soldier returning to previously conquered enemy territory. It's felt ominous and oppressive. 

But even though it's been challenging, I've slogged on. I am determined to finish my mission by year's end. This is a personal goal so I push through. 

Today, as I was writing, I wondered why I feel so compelled to write the story of my journey. Will it matter, one way or the other, if anyone reads what I write? Probably not. Will it be beneficial in helping someone else on their own cancer journey? I hope it will, but who knows. So why write? 

Perhaps it's to smother past demons that lurk in the dark shadows of my mind. Maybe exposing them will help with my own healing. But can I ever be truly healed from the trauma of breast cancer? I'd like to answer a resounding yes, but I'm just not sure. 

What I do know is this, time is said to heal all wounds. If that's so, and I've just recently passed the 6 year mark, I should be well on the way to becoming whole again, but then again, maybe I'm not supposed to return to my old normal. 

I hate the phrase new normal. It's popular among the pink sisterhood, but I don't like it. Nothing is ever really normal anyway, is it? I mean, day to day, everything changes. Nothing remains the same. 

So maybe writing the book is only cathartic for me. Maybe I'll complete it and then hit the delete button after I'm done, who knows. 

I'm usually not a wishy washy person but today, I feel that way. I wish I could be more positive, like a friend of mine who's dying of stage 4 cancer right now. No matter what she goes through, she smiles. I don't know how she does it. 

I've always tried to be a Pollyanna. My rose colored glasses have always been perched tightly on my nose but today, they're sliding. I keep reaching up to push them back in place. 

Maybe I need a little encouragement and motivation, or maybe a swift kick in the rear! 

Now that I've vented, I'll return to writing, for a little while, anyway.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Crafting can be dangerous!

 

Anyone who knows me knows I love crafting. To date, I haven't found one I didn't like. This week, I've been playing with polymer clay and have had fun creating a new line of creations I'm calling "Woodland Weirdos" for lack of a better name. 

Yesterday, my morning started early. After a cup of cappuccino, I pulled out my duffle bag of goodies and got busy. In front of me was a huge stack of clay, a pasta machine, some wood slices, twine, superglue, glue gun, gluesticks, paint, stain, and a bunch of moss. What in the world could I do with all of that? As I was thinking the creative juices started to flow. 

First, I conditioned the clay. Running it through the machine, I watched as the hard, dry clay became soft and supple. It reminded me of Scripture - He is the potter, we are the clay. 

When the clay was workable, I began to shape and mold it. I wanted to do something unique and interesting. As I pushed and pulled the clay, I began forming a face. Wanting to give it character, I stretched the nose and pushed up the cheekbones. When I'd gotten it as I wanted it, I took a dowel and formed the pupils in the eyes. I stood back and looked. I was pleased. (Which also made me think of Scripture and how God must have felt right after He'd formed creation, "...and it was good.")

Placing my little old man face on a sheet of wax paper, I popped him into the toaster oven and baked him for about 40 minutes. 

After he was cool enough to touch, I opened the bottle of stain and worked it into the crevices I'd created in the clay. The dark brown stain sunk in quickly and revealed the detail of the facial lines, exactly as I'd wanted. 

Later in the day, after the stain had dried, I polyurethaned the clay and let that dry about an hour, then the fun began. 

I wanted to adhere the clay face to one of the wood slices. In order to permanently adhere it, I needed to use a strong glue. A glue gun would provide instant adherence but I knew from past experience it could soften and melt in heat or even pull off in extremely cold weather. Since my little guy was doing to be an outside decoration, I had to opt for the superglue. 

Pulling off the cap of my superglue gel, I carefully squeezed out a few drops on the back of the clay face and quickly pushed and held it onto the wooden disk. The instructions on the glue said it would take about a minute to completely adhere, so I sat and held it tight. 

A minute later, I held up the wood and shook it to see if the face would stay in place. It did and I was happy. On to embellishment...

I needed to give my little man more character and interest. Looking at my pile of goodies, I came up with an idea. I'd make him a woodland creature, a woodland weirdo! 

Taking bits of moss, I began to glue and build, but unbeknownst to me, some of the glue inadvertently got on my index finger. And then, I touched that finger to my thumb. BAD NEWS! My finger was glued fast to my thumb! What to do, what to do??? 

I tried to pull the digits apart quickly, to no avail. They were stuck and stuck good. The superglue worked amazingly fast on human flesh. 

I asked Siri to find out how to remove superglue from flesh and He said (I have an Australian male Siri because I like his voice) to use nail polish remover. 

I knew, under my bathroom cabinet, there was a partial bottle of nail polish remover. I couldn't remember if it was the non-acetone kind or the acetone kind. I hoped and prayed it was full acetone because that would be the only way I could dissolve the superglue. 

Thankfully, the bottle had about a thimble's worth of acetone in it and it was just enough to unstick my stuck finger and thumb. Boy, was I glad! 

I continued working and created a dozen Woodland Weirdos. I had such fun forming and decorating each piece. 

As I looked over my work, I thought to myself it was time to reopen my Etsy shop. I'd closed it early last year when I got tired of posting and selling art, but I thought their might be a market for something cute and creative like my weirdos so I just may put them online to sell. 

Art has been wonderful post cancer therapy for me. When I'm creating, whether it's painting, writing, or doing some sort of craft, I don't think about how much my back hurts or how depressed I might feel. It's been a true blessing and I'm so thankful God has given me the talent to do the things I do. 

I did learn a valuable lesson while creating my weirdos, and that is to respect the superglue! It does a wonderful job for providing quick crafting adhesion, but it also does a great job of sticking skin to skin. 

In the future, I think I'll choose another glue. Superglue is too dangerous for me. That's my story and (pun intended) I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Choosing Joy even when it's difficult

Being cooped up in the house during the pandemic has been challenging. Until a few days ago, I'd done reasonably well but realized I wasn't myself. Usually, I'm upbeat and happy but I'd found myself struggling with feelings of hopelessness and depression. That's when I realized, I'd lost my joy. 

These days, it's hard to find joy. Being separated from friends and loved ones is awkward and painful, but for someone with cancer related low immunity, it's not only a necessity, it could be detrimental to my health.

We've had a lot of gloomy, rainy days lately, too, due to a hurricane brewing in the Atlantic. Those gray days have also added to feelings of sadness.

I realized I'd experienced these feelings before, when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Back then, my physical maladies caused me to revel in self- pity. I was so me focused, I couldn't see anything else.

It took a while to realize what was happening. Becoming so comfortable with those feelings, I wore them like a heavy, woolen cloak. Days and days, I'd let the weight of that thick garment smother me but then, something happened.

One morning, as I sat at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee and looking out the window at a beautiful sunny day, I realized I'd lost my joy. The longer I sat there, the more I thought. "Where had my joy gone," I wondered, "And when had I lost it?"

Although I couldn't pinpoint a time and date, I knew it had to have been around the time of my diagnosis because that's when it felt like my world had fallen apart. And though it had been six years since surgery, I was still struggling with my emotions.

That's when I realized I had to do something about it. I had to get my joy back. There was no way I was willing to live under a cloak of darkness.

But I didn't know where to start or what to do. So I began to pray. I asked God to help me find my joy again and in my spirit, I felt Him speak to me, "Praise Me."

I thought I did a pretty good job of that already. I always got up early and spent the first part of my morning with Him. I made sure to spend time in the Word meditating. I always took time to pray but the more I thought about it, the more I realized, I was usually asking God to answer my needs and requests for those I loved rather than focusing on His character, His goodness, His mercy, and His grace.

So I decided that had to change. I was going to find my joy by focusing all my attention on Jesus. To do that, I was going to have to make myself intentionally focus on His love and I was going to have to shift my perspective. I was going adopt an attitude of gratitude.

Looking outside the kitchen window, I saw some beautiful red and white flowers on a plant my son had recently given me. "Thank you, Lord, for your beauty in nature. Thank you that my son wanted to give me a gift. Thank you he chose to come visit me." A few minutes later, two little house wrens jumped on top of my charcoal grill and began to tweet the most cheerful song to each other. "Oh, if I could have joy like that," I said, "Lord, I would be so happy!" Again, He spoke to my heart, "Praise Me."

Picking up my iPhone, I quickly found the My Music icon and asked Siri to find a praise and worship station. I wasn't in the mood for lyrics, so I chose an instrumental station. As I listened, an old familiar favorite began to play, "Bless the Lord, O, my soul" by Matt Redman.

As I listened to the words, my heart began to calm and I felt myself began to weep. All those feelings of pent up sadness began to flee. The light of worship was dispelling the darkness. My heart, in tune with His, was exactly where it should be - He focused instead of me focused.

Sometimes, we find ourselves in seasons where we must hunt for joy. During those times, it's important to be intentional about looking for reasons to express gratitude. Often, it's hard work. When a person is feeling down and depressed, the last thing one wants to do is express thanks. But it's in the thanking that joy explodes. Just like striking a match to a bundle of dry kindling, one small ember gives way to a blazing fire. We must be willing to pick up the match and strike it. To do that, one has to deliberately choose.

I'm so thankful God helped me realize how to regain my joy. My match was tapping on a cellphone app and allowing the words of a song to rekindle the fire of joy inside. As I sang along to the instrumental music, the words ministered to my heart as I praised God.

I made a mental note to choose joy. I knew this would become a discipline in my life but it would take practice. One of the ways I could implement this new exercise into my life would be to start each day by writing down three things for which I was thankful. I chose to end the day the same way.

As I've intentionally searched for reasons to be grateful, I've been able to see more clearly that God continually blesses me each day.

If there are two words I want you to take away from this post, they'd be - CHOOSE JOY. Though they seem simple, they take effort. But if you're willing to work at it, soon you'll find the practice of daily gratitude something you enjoy immensely. Before you know it, it won't seem like work any more, you'll see things and realize His great blessings without much effort at all.

We serve a good, good Father. He enjoys blessing us. That's why I think the psalmist wrote, "But you are holy, O you that inhabit the praises of Israel." Psalm 22:3

When we worship, the presence of the Lord dwells among us. That feeling of complete peace and love is enough to make any heart sing with joy. Try it! If you've lost your joy, you can find it again. I promise.

Today and every day, choose joy.


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 the...