Wednesday, October 13, 2021

4 words

If anyone had to sum up my life in 4 words, they’d either choose the phrase, “She loved the Lord, or “She was a planner.” And while both of those choices would be true, my flesh woman would definitely meet the latter description better than the first.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a planner. Maybe it’s a typical Type A personality trait, but it works for me. I like knowing the plan ahead of time and often, when we’re going on a trip, I spend days making out a detailed itinerary and menu. That way, things usually run smoothly but I’m also okay with spontaneity and find it fun to travel off the beaten path now and then. I’ve found that’s where the best photo ops tend to be and where some of the most precious God moments occur.

Though I find comfort and security in having a well laid plan, I’ve found, over my almost 64 years of life, that no matter how much I try, I don’t always have the whole picture. Sure, I can plan to my heart’s content, but things can always go wrong. Like the time I was spelunking and my headlamp went out leaving me stranded completely in a dark eerily damp cave. That was an quite the experience and one I won’t ever forget. During that time, God taught me a huge lesson in faith.

There’s an old saying, “Man plans, and God laughs.” I imagine He’s gotten a lot of guffaws as He’s observed me making and trying to keep all of my detailed plans. But in life, God doesn’t always give us the entire plan. Usually, He provides one small step at a time.

In the Bible, we find evidence of that many times as He taught people to life by faith. Just look at the prophet Samuel.  “The Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.”  Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do.’ ”  (1 Samuel 16:2,3)

He told the Samuel to go to Bethlehem and do all the things necessary to prepare a sacrifice with Jesse and his sons. That was all. He gave them one thing to do, one step. Then He said, “I’ll show you what to do.” He didn’t give them steps one, two, three, etc. He only gave Samuel one step.  

God takes great delight in the obedience of His children. He expects us to trust Him enough to do exactly what the Holy Spirit guides us to do and to do it at the very moment He prompts us to do it. We are to act without question. Now, that’s not easy for someone like me who likes to know the entire plan, but I’m thankful He’s patient with me as I continue to learn this valuable lesson.

Only Jesus knew the Father’s plans from beginning to end. God understands our human frailty and that’s why I think He only gives us one thing to do at a time then tells us to wait for further instruction. As we are obedient, He’ll provide the next step. If it didn’t work that way, we’d surely make a big mess of things by doing them in our limited knowledge and in our haphazard way.

The Bible tells us that God’s ways are not our ways and that He knows the plans He has for us – plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a future and a hope. He is trustworthy and true.

If I had to compare Him to a battery, I’d have to rename a popular one. I’d have to call Him the EVERLASTING battery, because Everlast or Duracell wouldn’t hold a candle to His amazing, unending power to lead, guide, and direct us through these difficult, dark, uncertain days of life. Aren’t you glad He only entrusts us with one step at a time? Our Heavenly Father always knows best and I’m so glad He loves us enough to know exactly how much we can handle at any given time. 


I love this quote by Corrie Ten Boom, “In darkness God's truth shines most clear.” What a profound truth to cling to in today's evil world!

 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Incoming!

 When I was a kid, I remember listening to my Daddy occasionally talk about being in the service. Those occasions were very rare so whenever he'd talk, I'd really listen. Once he told about being outside a bunker in Japan. He said planes were flying overhead and he heard a guy yell, "Incoming!" They knew that meant it was imperative to take cover and they did, but some of the soldiers weren't fast enough. They lost their lives in a split second. 

That one word was a very serious warning and one I never forgot. I think my eyes bugged out of my head when he first said it although he didn't say it in a frightening way. I imagined the sounds of aircraft overhead as the warning went out. And imagined how I'd have felt if I'd been right there with him. I'd have been petrified, probably unable to move. No wonder so many soldiers came back from war with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). And when they were freshly home, it didn't take much to set them off- a movement, a noise, the slightest sound.  But soldiers aren't the only ones with PTSD.There are a lot of cancer survivors and people who've experience traumatic events that feel that way, too. Sometimes, when my youngest daughter calls her ringtone literally scares me to death. It's a loud and bothersome tone that quakes me to my core. I keep meaning to change it and keep forgetting, but it really causes me to feel anxious. Some days are worse than others but on the bad days, they go from bad to worse. 

This morning started out that way for me. After waking at 5 a.m., I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, wandered to the kitchen turned on the coffee maker and waited for my cappuccino to brew. While that was going, I pulled an egg white delight from the freezer. I wasn't in the mood to cook and that frozen sandwich was not only going to be a quick fix, but a tasty one at that. While I enjoyed breakfast, I glanced through emails and made a "to do" list. No big deal, right? But before I put my pen down, my phone began to send one notification after another. Emails, news apps, and texts started alerting me to the fact that something or someone needed my attention. It was not what I expected and immediately, I began to feel anxious. After several more texts came in, I decided enough was enough. I was not going to let that phone order my day. I stood and with feet planted firmly refused to go over and see who had texted. Instead, I yelled across the room to Siri asking her to read my text messages. After hearing that none of them were important, I decided I was going to do something to exert a little control over my day.  I flipped my phone to silent and walked away. 

Those constant pinging, dinging, and chiming noises irritate and antagonize me. I get so tired of all the stuff I am supposed to pay attention to. I've done my best to distance myself from social media. In the past, I'd spend hours trying to keep up with everyone's news but that became exhausting. Now I only check it once in the morning, once at midday and then after dinner.

Maybe it's just a "me" problem. Maybe I'm just getting too old to multi-task well any longer or maybe I just don't care. It might even be a little of both! In any event, I think it's important to do something when we realize our things are causing undue stress. 

There's a great feature on your phone and if you haven't found it yet, you need to employ it - the DO NOT DISTURB feature. You can set time limits for your benefit and you can set auto responses so your loved ones don't think you've been kidnapped or kicked the bucket. I have an iPhone and it's become one of my most used features. I don't know if Androids have it but if not, I'm sure they have something similar. 

Take back control of your life and remember, you have the power to squelch the noises. If incoming alerts freak you out, take shelter and protect your sanity. It's not worth it to allow those things to continue to bombard your life!


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Can you be sad but happy at the same time?

 I'm conflicted. This morning I woke up and read my emails before getting out of bed. It's a bad habit and I keep telling myself I won't do it any more, but I do. I can't help it. I'm a multi-tasker, always have been, always will be. Anyway, as I was reading, I almost skipped over a notification telling me a friend had recently made a new blog post. I don't know why, but sometimes I just find it hard to get sucked into the problems of others. I have plenty of my own. Thankfully, I didn't skip it. This email notification was different. Not only did it alert me to the fact that my friend had made a recent blog post, it also told me she was no longer living. Yes, you read that right...she was no longer living. 

Apparently my sweet friend, Jen, had thought ahead. She'd been planning for this day. She knew it was coming. 

You see, we were both diagnosed with the exact stage and grade of breast cancer. I was diagnosed in June 2014 and she was diagnosed in August of 2014. I was 56, she was 41. I had 4 grown children, she had 3 teenage daughters. She lived up North. I lived down South. There were a lot of differences between us but there were so many similarities, too. Besides sharing the commonality of breast cancer, we were also fellow believers in Jesus Christ. He was our life and our faith in Him is what helped us navigate the scary and uncertain world of breast cancer. 

I'm sad to say that Jen and I took different routes in our cancer treatment. She chose to go the conventional route - surgery, chemo, radiation, and anti-hormone therapy. I chose the more natural route although I did have surgery and endured 28 rounds of radiation, I have tried to manage my health with supplements and vitamins and whole foods. 

Jen and I compared notes often through emails and letters. It helped to know someone else understood the fears and frustrations that came along with the silver plated diagnosis we both never expected to receive. And that's why it hurts so much to know she's gone.I've ticked off another box in the long list of friends who've gone ahead to be with the Lord. And I can't help but wonder why I'm still here...

Tom and Jen

But it's just like everything else with cancer. Nothing makes sense. 

This year has been tough. Not only has Covid wreaked havoc on our world, I keep losing friends and family members to cancer. It hurts. I won't lie, it hurts really bad. "Dying is a part of living, but only a very small part," says Ashleigh Brilliant and she's right. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know this life is only temporary. My eternal life has yet to begin. 

I'm honored and thankful to have known Jennifer Small. She was a good friend. Please pray for her family in the days ahead as they shift into living without her. And if you've never thought about where you'll spend eternity, please do. There are only 2 places you can go - to Heaven or to Hell. I'd much rather see you in Heaven than dream of you being eternally tortured in Hell. The decision is yours and yours alone to make. No one else can make it for you. Don't know how? It's easy: 



Thursday, August 26, 2021

Clinical trials are they worth it?

 I have a friend who recently lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. Over the past year, I followed each event on his health care journey doing my best to offer love and support. As his tumor marker numbers went up and down, the constant rollercoaster became very stressful. The chemo worked for a while and then it stopped, that's when we knew his time was short. 

When the doctor told them there was nothing more he could do, they became desperate for a cure, and who wouldn't? There's an innate desire for survival in all of us. I wasn't shocked when they said they were willing to try anything but when the doctor mentioned a clinical trial using a deworming medication used on dogs, I was dumbfounded. 

Panacur, the brand name for pet strength medication, Fenbenzadrole, is used for ridding animals of parasites but apparently, some doctors are finding it to be a possible treatment for cancer. 

When we received the call that Jack wasn't doing well and wasn't expected to make it through the end of the week, we immediately went to visit. We wanted him to know that we loved and supported him, that we would be there for his wife in the future. That visit was very difficult. When we arrived, it was evident his physical condition had greatly declined and he was indeed on his death bed. Though he did his best to communicate, the strong doses of morphine made him too sleepy to stay awake. As he lay in the recliner resting, I noticed a package of Panacur on the side table. When his wife saw me looking at it, she explained the doctor had told them about a clinical trial and suggested they try it as a last attempt at a cure. I had mixed feelings about it but kept them to myself. 

In the car, on the way home, I told my husband about my concerns. I didn't understand how Jack's wife could give him a strong, antiparasitic medication when he was in such terrible shape. His belly was bloated from the cancer and he was unable to eat. How could he swallow a pill that was going to wreak havoc on his system like that? And how could she encourage him to take it? 

Every person with cancer has to fight it in his/her own way. I understand and respect that but when does one draw the line at ending treatment? I imagine, if I was stage 4 and had no other recourse for a cure, I might try an off the wall remedy, but I'd hope I'd have sense enough to do some research before accepting anything the doctor threw my way. 

Maybe I was appalled at the thoughts of my friend, a person I loved and cared about, being treated with a medication for dogs or maybe it was just the thought of him taking it and becoming violently ill on top of what he was already going through, I don't know. 

More than likely, we'll never find a cure for cancer. There's too much money in Big Pharma to ever hope for that. Wouldn't it be nice if someone stumbled upon a helpful option through trial and error, something so simple and so benign that people would shake their heads and say, "Wow! We had this all along!" 

I'm all about science and understand many medical discoveries have come to us through trial and error, but it doesn't seem right to play around with human lives. 

My friend, Jack, died 5 days after we visited him. It was a great loss and I'll always wonder if perhaps the Panacur contributed to or hastened his death but I can't bring myself to mention it to Jack's wife. I know it would be too painful. 

Learn more about Panacur & cancer

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Earth is not our home

Tomorrow I'll say goodbye to a dear friend who recently lost his battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. After fighting for almost a year, Jesus finally called him home. 

My friend's name was Jack. He was a kind and simple man, very loyal and friendly. He loved to tell people he was an alien and claimed that status due to the fact that he was born in Roswell, New Mexico. Roswell, New Mexico is famous for the legend of Area 51- a supposed crash site for an alien spaceship many years ago. Jack even bought alien facemasks and tshirts so he could dress the part and he always got a good laugh when he suited up, but really, Jack was telling the truth. He was an alien. As a follower of Christ, Jack knew the Bible gave clear insight on this fact, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:20.

Janice, Jack, and Bonnie
Jack's death is a reminder that I'm an alien, too. Though I may not dress up in funny masks or bright green alien laden clothing, my home is in heaven. 

The world we see today is getting uglier and uglier. There are wars and rumors of wars, there are plagues and pestilences. There are earthquakes in diverse places...all the things that the Bible warns us will happen during the end times. The constant lawlessness abounding around us should make us all want to go HOME, and I do!!

Thank you, Jack, my dear friend, for helping me remember this world is not my home. I can't wait to leave this wretched world behind and travel to Heaven's celestial shores. 

One day soon, my friend, we'll have a reunion. Until then, I'll hold on to the memories we shared, and I'll do my best to help watch over your sweet wife. You were such a dear friend. I'll love you always and forever. 


Monday, July 12, 2021

On this day, 7 years ago...

 


I was just 3 days out from surgery to remove both my breasts when a stranger came to visit me. We'd "found" each other through a Facebook breast cancer group and she'd been a wealth of information so when she offered to come see me, I hesitantly agreed. I wanted a new friend, but I was scared. Although Karen was also a breast cancer patient, she was six months ahead of me in her treatment. She'd already been through everything I was going to face and she wanted to help ease my fears. I didn't realize it then, but that gift was one of the biggest blessings I'd ever receive. 

When I heard the gentle knock on my front door, I was nervous. I didn't feel well and was in a good deal of pain. My husband opened the door and greeted Karen, my new friend and pink sister. As he welcomed her in, she immediately came over to my chair and gave me a gentle hug. She made a joke about the way we looked, laughing and pointing to her practically bald head as she exclaimed, "We're quite the pair!" That ice breaker was perfect.

I was embarrassed to be wearing a surgical compression top underneath my blouse. There was no way to fully hide the dangling JP drains, or the bloody fluid they contained, but Karen didn't mind. She'd already been there and done that. She didn't see all that surgical stuff. Her eyes were fixed on mine. She saw me for me. 

We sat and talked for hours. It felt like we'd known each other forever. No question was off limits, she told me, and she even offered to let me see her new breast prostheses if I wanted to, but I wasn't quite ready for that. 

Karen gave me hope as she explained what lay ahead of me. Knowing what to expect made things more bearable. 

I don't know what I would have done if Karen hadn't come to see me that day. She went out of her way to help me and I'll never forget it. 

That's one thing about the breast cancer community - we're all about helping each other. Whether it's sharing helpful hints and tricks or just offering a listening ear, the compassion between pink sisters is real.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Tomorrow is the big day


Tomorrow is the big day, the day I celebrate 7 years of being cancer free. 

As I think back on all God's brought me through, I can't believe I've made it this far. 

A friend I met through an online breast cancer site and I share the exact same diagnosis and we were diagnosed just a few months apart from each other. She's not doing well at all and is about to enter hospice. I can't help but wonder why God's allowing me to live on while she is facing the end of her life. It hurts my heart and while I can't quite understand it, I have to remember God is God and I am not. He and He alone has numbered our days. My only hope is that my friend will know she was well loved and she will certainly be missed when she goes home to meet the Lord. I'm so thankful for her faithful witness, her strength and her resilience. Though she chose a different treatment path than I, I can't help but wonder if perhaps the chemotherapy and all of the other medications she endured during treatment may have contributed to her ill health. 

When I first began fighting cancer, I chose to go the natural route. The only conventional treatment I agreed to was surgery and radiation therapy. I felt those were the best choices for me and for the most part, I've been happy. Other than the burns I suffered and the cording, I think I've done quite well. It hasn't been a bed of roses though, by any means. And the side effect of lymphedema in both arms sucks, but I'm still here, so how can I complain? 

Everyone has to make their own decisions in the fight against cancer and we can never fault someone for choosing a treatment plan that differs from our own. We all want to live and we'll do anything possible to gain better odds toward that end goal, but sometimes, we react from fear and don't always make the best decisions. 

It would be nice if doctors would present all choices and allow the patient to make an informed decision, but that isn't usually the case. Most doctors steer patients toward conventional therapies and those usually involve severe life altering remedies. Chemotherapy and radiation both kill the good and bad cells in our bodies. There's no way to only target the cancer cells. If there were, we'd have so many more survivors than we currently have. 

I've always wondered why doctors don't help their patients discover natural, less invasive solutions to fighting cancer. Their Hippocratic oath of "Do no harm" should be all encompassing, but there are big bucks in big pharma and many doctors are all about the dollar signs. 

Seven years seems like a lifetime ago. It's hard to remember what life was like B.C. (before cancer) but I try. Some of the things I do remember and miss terribly are my physical stamina and my body image. I used to have so much energy I could go for days, now, I'm lucky if I make it to 9:00 p.m. without flopping into bed exhausted. I used to look in the mirror and think, "Hey, you're one hot chick!" But now, I can't help but look at my body with sadness and disgust. 

God has been faithful and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, He understands all of the emotions I've faced throughout these past 7 years. He's watched me cry tears of heartbreak and joy. He's held me tight when I felt I was unloved and unlovely. He's comforted me and given me strength on days I never thought I'd make it. I am so grateful He's deemed me fit to continue on. I know He still has work for me to do. 

Throughout my 63 years on Earth, I've learned, over and over again, through every trial I've ever faced that God is loving and kind. He has a good plan for me, a plan to prosper me and not to harm me. A plan to give me a future and a hope. 

And so, I press on. 

Now instead of watching the clock, I move through life minute by minute trusting God for the next step along the way. Jesus is my portion. He is my one true love. He is my everything. His eye is on the sparrow And I know He watches me


Wednesday, June 30, 2021

7 Years is a Long Time to be Cancer Free

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Stage 2B with Metastasis to the lymph glands. When I heard the words, 2 jumped out at me – carcinoma and metastasis. I knew those words and knew they were bad. I didn’t pay much attention to the stage or the type of cancer. The only thing that concerned me was whether I was going to live or die. 

The first year was tough. Being thrust into the world of breast cancer is challenging. There were so many experiences I never dreamed I’d face, from surgery to treatment and then, learning to live life after those were through. 

It took time to learn to cope. Most days, I felt alone and helpless like I’d gone to sleep and had woken up in a bad dream, a dream that seemed as if it would never end. But as I fought through each challenge that came my way, I found myself becoming stronger. I was determined to live, no matter what the cost.

 As a person of faith, I found myself relying on God for each minute of the day. Whenever I was discouraged, felt unlovely, or like I didn’t matter, I turned to the Bible and found solace there. 

My family and friends were also a source of strength. They offered their love and understanding when I needed it most. Without them, I don’t think I would have made it. 

Learning to live as a breastless woman, I had to conquer the feelings of self-loathing and learn to extend myself grace. When I finally learned to accept my appearance, I found others did, too. 

I look back now and it seems a lifetime ago that my life was turned upside down, but it’s only been 7 years. 

 Seven, in Biblical gematria (the study of the significance of the usage of numbers in Scripture) has great significance. It’s the number of completion. That makes this cancerversary ominous for me. With cancer, a fear of recurrence is normal, but sometimes, especially in instances like this, the fear seems to loom and a sense of foreboding engulfs me. 

 I wonder how to shake the feeling that maybe, just maybe, my time of being cancer free is over. I can’t help but question, what I’d do if the cancer returned. 

I’d like to hope I’d fight with the same determination and resilience I did when I was first diagnosed but it might come back with a vengeance. If that happened, I might choose to do chemotherapy instead of refusing it, like I did 7 years ago. I might choose to take drastic measures to fight the cancer, instead of doing everything I could to fight it naturally like I’ve been doing for the past 7 years, or maybe not. Perhaps I’d just give in and give up…who knows. 

I don’t like to wonder and worry about something over which I have no control. That’s no way to live! I think I’ll make a conscious effort to stay in the zone of positivity. If I’ve survived for the past 7 years, chances are, the cancer won’t return. More than likely, at the age of 63, I’ll die of something else, right? And then I think of my dear friend who also suffered from breast cancer. She was diagnosed over 22 years ago and then, when she least expected it, her cancer returned and took her life. When that happened, I was devastated and even more afraid than ever. But if you give fear the power, you lose. 

Once I read an acronym for the word fear. It said, “Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. And that’s the truth, isn’t it? Fear causes us to accept the thing that appears to be true even if there’s no substantial evidence to prove otherwise. 

I can’t live that way. 

So today, and every day forward, no matter how many days I have left, I choose to live like it could be the last day of my life. None of us are ever promised tomorrow anyway. And if we choose to live like we’re dying, the choices we make will be profound.

I am not going to let go of my survivorship crown, the one I’ve been wearing for the past 7 years. I earned it and I’m going to trust God to give me many more years of life to live, love, and enjoy.

This survivor is grateful for every minute of life and I won’t let fear scare me any longer. I. AM. A. SURVIVOR, today and forever. 

Amen.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Power to Forgive

I'm a writer. I write all the time. I was probably born with a pen in hand. My mother used to get so mad at me because I was constantly writing. Every slip of paper in our house was fair game for me. I'd write on scraps, napkins, even toilet paper! As far as I know, I never wrote on anything other than paper but I could be mistaken. There were always so many thoughts running through my head I just had to record them. Usually I'd write with a pencil but every now and then, I'd write with a pen. The only problem was, when you write in pen, it's not easy to erase. As I grew older, I gave up the pen and pencil opting for the ease and speed of a typewriter. Whiteout became my best friend until I learned to type quickly and efficiently. My first typewriter was a manual Royal, a heavy machine, from the 1950s. I loved that typewriter and still have it to this day. When computers came along, I was in heaven. Not only could I record thoughts quickly, I could store them easily on disks or hard drives for posterity's sake. But, there was one key on the keyboard that gave me absolute power - the delete key. In an instant, I could wipe out everything. I loved depressing the delete key and seeing the words permanently gone. I could start over with a clean slate and if I didn't like the words I'd written, I could delete them and start over again. Thinking about the delete key, I wished we had one for life. A few weeks ago, one of my family members hurt me. In a volatile situation, words had been shouted and the wounds cut deep. I stood in shock as I listened to venom spew from that person's mouth. It was evil and ugly. I cried myself to sleep that night wondering where the poison had come from and why it had poured forth so easily, but deep down, I knew. When we walk in the flesh, things can get nasty in a hurry. My heart had been hurt. I loved this person. And I knew, Satan wanted me to allow a root of bitterness to grow up in my heart. He wanted me to be angry and for our relationship to be strained and broken. But God wanted restoration. I wished we could delete the incident and start over. That's when God reminded me of the delete key. He spoke to my heart and said forgiveness is like the delete key on a computer. When we choose to forgive, it's like giving a promise - the promise that we'll never bring up the offense commited against us again. Forgiveness gives us the power to delete the mental record of the pain of our hurt. We eliminate it. It's as if the sin never occured. And isn't that exactly what God does for us? When we ask Jesus to forgive us, when we repent of our sin, He doesn't say, "Oh, no... you owe me." No. His arms open wide and He says, "Yes, beloved! I forgive you." And not only does He forgive us, the Bible says He forgives us as far as the East is from the West. And He remembers our sin no more. Now if God can do that, why can't we? Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. Why hold onto an offense that will constantly remind us of an unhealed wound? The power to forgive is a gift from the Father. I hope you use it and use it often.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Don't Waste Any Time

Frances McDormand as Fern
Today I finally watched the acclaimed movie, Nomadland. I'm always a day late and a dollar short, it seems, when trying to stay up on the most recent social media items, but I try. I'd heard about it from my youngest daughter and made a note to watch as soon as possible. 

The movie won best picture in the 2021 Oscars and Frances McDormand did an excellent job in her role as lead character, Fern. Following the economic collapse of Empire, a small town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off exploring life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad.

I found myself in a pensive and introspective mood as I watched. This hard working woman, recently widowed, left everything she knew and loved due to circumstances beyond her control. She was a seeker on a journey to find herself. 

As I watched, I immediately became entrenched. As an avid camper, hiker, and backpacker, I loved all the beautiful scenery in the movie and paired with beautiful music, it really touched my heart. 

Watching as Frances/Fern traveled in her van from place to place, I was reminded, the Earth is not our home. We're all just wandering here on this planet and the majority of us have an inner sense that we don't really belong here - that's because God has placed the desire for eternity in our hearts. 

Throughout the movie, Fern meets one person after another on her life's path. Some become good friends and others are just casual acquaintances. But in every instance, each person was meant to touch her life in some small way or, vice versa. 

There was one particular scene where Fern and another woman are talking. The woman tells Fern about her husband buying a beautiful sailboat and how he couldn't wait to retire so he could enjoy it, but ten days before he retired, he died. The woman admonished Fern saying, "Don't waste any time." And when she said that, I felt an arrow pierce my heart. 

Time. So valuable and so precious. Yet, every single day, we waste it. Why? With such a priceless commodity, we should be wise about our expenditures. 

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I stopped wearing a watch. I didn't want to know what time it was any more. I wanted to focus on being present in the moment. In the past, I'd let time slip away but from that day forward, I resolved, no more. 

Daily, I push myself to the limit, often to my detriment. In fact, my husband and children often tell me I don't know how to rest. My husband, Phil, is always encouraging me to partake of Dolce Far Niente, the art of doing nothing. He says it's okay, but I feel if I do, I'm wasting precious time. Only those who've gone through cancer can truly grasp that concept. 

A Facebook friend send me a beautiful painting the other day. At the bottom of the painting are the words, "Sometimes you have to rest. The world can wait!" It's a reminder that sometimes I need to slow down. The Bible reminds me, too, "Be still...and know that He is God." Being still is hard for me, but I'm trying. 

There's a big difference between resting and wasting time, between being still and frittering away the moments. 

It can be difficult to find a balance, but we must. 

Oh to be a nomad, wandering from place to place, with no responsibilities or encumbrances! 

Though we're tethered to this Earth right now, there's a constant tugging at our hearts for home. That's why we can't waste even a second. We must use our stories to point others to Christ and that way, we won't have wasted any time.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Little Things

The day started out bright and early, earlier than I'd intended. 5 a.m. isn't my idea of a "normal" wake time, but today, it happened that way. So I jumped out of bed, put my phone on speaker so I could listen to a sermon, and hopped into the shower. (I'm a multi-tasker,  a vice I've had since birth - typical type A, you know the drill.)

After showering, I stood, wrapped in a towel, staring at myself in the mirror. "Who are you and what are you doing here" I asked myself. Analyzing my face, I realized the number of wrinkles there had multiplied. No doubt about it, I was getting old. 

63, by most standards, isn't really old, but some mornings, I beg to differ. Bones creak and muscles ache and yet, I'm thankful to be able to feel them. And as we age, body parts start to need special attention, most recently my left eye.

Around 2008, I began to notice cloudiness in that eye. It grew more and more bothersome until I went to see the ophthalmologist who said I'd developed cataracts in both eyes. In 2011, I had surgery to remove the cataract in my left eye and insert an artificial lens. In 2012, I had the same done for my right eye. Then, in early 2020, the outer edge of the left eye became clouded and I thought another cataract had formed. Once again, I made a trip to the doctor and he told me I had been leaking vitreous fluid. I'd need another surgery called YAG. That surgery would involve a laser and I was assured it wouldn't hurt, so I had it done. For a couple of months, it seemed to have cleared things up and then, I began to have eye pain and loss of vision. Another trip to the doctor revealed I'd continued to have issues with leaking vitreous fluid and needed another surgery called an Anterior Vitrectomy. In March 2021, I had that done and have been recovering from it since. 

Months before the YAG surgery, during my prayer time, I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart. He whispered, "You're going to lose the sight in your eye, but don't be afraid." When I heard that message, I questioned whether or not I was actually hearing from God or if, perhaps, I had some underlying fear that was expressing itself. Pushing the thought to the back of my mind, I'd almost forgotten about it, until 2 days after the anterior vitrectomy when everything went pitch black in that eye. Instead of freaking out, which I would have normally done, I remembered the word I'd received. I chose not to be afraid but to wait and see what happened. Gradually, over the next week, my eyesight got a little better each day. First it was like looking through a thick, dark curtain. Then, it was like the curtain had been changed to a sheer brown one. A day or two later, it was like looking through a hazy, gold curtain and then, everything was just fuzzy but noticeably clearer. I was so thankful! The doctor had warned, before I was sedated for surgery, that there was a small possibility that I could lose vision in that eye but he hoped that wouldn't be the case.

Since eye surgery, I've had to shield my eye from bright light and foreign objects. Daily, I've followed the medication regimen of 4 different eye drops four times a day. It's been tedious and frustrating, but anything to protect my eyesight is worthwhile.

I stare at myself In the bathroom mirror. Leaning in close, I notice my eyes look weak partially from the bright light and partially from the lack of makeup. It's been over a month since I've been able to wear eye makeup. That may not seem like a big deal to some, but for the woman with sparse lashes, mascara can be a lifesaver. 

Today was the day I was going to try it. At my appointment last week, I'd asked the doctor if it was okay to resume using eye makeup and he assured me it would be fine, so why was I hesitant to bring the mascara wand close to my eyeball? 

Fear paralyzed me for a few moments before I had enough courage to move the mascara wand lightly across the lashes of my left eye. Slowly and methodically, I applied a light coat of black mascara. I'd made sure to purchase a new tube at the drugstore in anticipation of this day. (They say you're supposed to discard mascara every 3 months, so I even took a Sharpie marker and wrote the date on the tube so I'd know when to ditch it.)

When I'd completed my makeup regimen, I looked in the mirror and smiled.

There I was! I'd missed mascara more than I realized. 

Isn't it funny how the little things in our lives seem to matter so much? The things we can control seem to help us understand who we are and why. But there are so many things we can't control, and those things tend to make us wonder and worry. God doesn't want us to worry, even over the little things. 

In the Bible, we're told many, many times not to worry or be afraid. Why? I think God wanted to emphasize that worry accomplishes nothing and fear can keep us paralyzed. He wants us to enjoy freedom and peace. 

Little things, like my mascara, remind me I can only enhance the beauty God's already given me and even without mascara, He sees me as His beautiful daughter. 

As I slip the tube of mascara back into my makeup bag, I hear a quote in my mind - "Vanity, thy name is woman." And you know, I'd have to agree.

The Bible says, "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

I'd much rather be known as a woman who fears the Lord than a woman who looks good on the outside and is hollow on the inside. 

It's always the little things...

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Where do the wounded go?

 

Where Do They Go?

By Bonnie Annis

 

Where do the wounded go when the cut is fresh and deep? 

Where do they hide to keep others from tasting the bleeding?

Where do they go when healing begins, or when it's too slow in coming? 

Where do they go? 

Where do they go when the wound has mended? 

When scars once raw no longer weep? 

Where do they go when the pain has eased but the trauma remains? 

Where do they go? 

And when the scar is old but still reminds, where do they go? 

I'll tell you. 

They go where they've always gone, into that dark, quiet place. 

The deep space inside where warriors live. 

The place of solitude and strength. 

The place of sorrow and tears. 

The place of resilience and hope. 

That's where they go. 

How do I know? 

It's where I live. 

Day in and day out. 

Until cancer came, it was a secret place. 

But then, I received permission to enter. 

That’s when I discovered I was not alone. 

There were others. 

Invisible to me, but they were there. 

Kindred spirits.  

We were the wounded warrior women. 

The ones without choice in the matter.

But we bore our scars with dignity. 

 © Bonnie Annis 2021

Thursday, March 4, 2021

So I did a thing

So I did a thing today. I don't know why I did it, but I did. 

For years, I've been struggling to find the right prostheses. Either they've been too heavy, too uncomfortable, or too something. None of them have felt right and believe me, I have quite the collection thanks to annual insurance benefits and lots of out of pocket dollars! (Fake boobs are very expensive - normally between $400-$600 each and I have to have two!)

I don't like to have unnecessary things in my house and this morning, as I was Spring cleaning, I noticed all the unused prostheses. I have boxes of them on a shelf in my closet and drawers full of them in my dresser. What a shame, I thought, to have all those silicone boobs and not use them on a regular basis. It seemed like such a waste. 

But silicone prostheses disintegrate over time so they always have to be replaced and the breast surgeon warned me, right after bilateral mastectomies, that if I didn't replace the weight of my breasts, my spine would suffer as my body curved forward in a protective measure. So I bought the boobs every year when the insurance company notified me it was time. And my collection grew, and grew, and grew. 

It's been 7 years now and I have 7 sets of silicone boobs as well as some lighter weight poly micro bead ones and some homemade poly fiberfill ones but there have been problems with all of them, mostly with the weight. They're either too heavy or too light and then, there's the size issue. I have them from a giant B cup down to a double A. 

And that's why I have gone flat most days, especially when home. When I go out, however, I try to wear prostheses so I look feminine. During the winter, I don't worry so much. My puffy down coat and scarf camouflage my breastlessness but in the summer, you can't hide. 

Today, I got to thinking - what if I could make a camisole with built in boobs - one that was comfortable and light weight? Would I wear something like that on a daily basis? I thought I probably would so I pulled out 2 camisoles, my sewing machine, thread, scissors, and a big bag of microbeads and got busy. I was going to figure out how to make this work. 

I'd seen an advertisement a few years back from a fellow breast cancer survivor who had struggled with the same dilemma and had formed her own product and home based company but I wasn't willing to pay $150 for one product when I could make my own for a few dollars. 

Taking the two camisoles, I cut the top front from one of them and placed it over the front of the other. Pinning the cut pattern in place, I began to sew. Within a few minutes, I'd stitched around the bodice of the complete camisole and had adhered the pattern in place leaving an opening for slipping in the microbead prostheses I'd make next. 

Microbeads are nasty little suckers! They stick to everything and they're so tiny the static electricity makes them next to impossible to work with, but I did it! I got 2 breast forms made, filled, and inserted into my makeshift camisole. 

Holding the project up, I looked it over - front and back. It looked great and it had been so simple to make. 

Next came the chest test. Slipping it over my head and pulling the camisole into place, I was surprised at how lightweight and comfortable it was. Maybe I was on to something!!! 

I put my shirt on over the top of the camisole and buttoned it up. Turning side to side, I liked the profile my new boobs gave and there was no back pain from the weight of heavy silicone. 

What a relief to finally have something I could wear on a daily basis. I was so proud of myself. 

Rounding up all the silicone boobs, I loaded a box to donate to survivors who don't have the financial ability to purchase prostheses. My hope is that those boobs will find good homes and meet the needs of women who've battled cancer. 

Now that I've freed up tons of space, I feel so much lighter - emotionally and physically :)

So I did a thing, a useful thing and I'm so glad I did.



Monday, March 1, 2021

New month, new beginning


Today's the first day of a new month and I must say, I'm thankful. It felt so good to bid adieu to January and February. Neither of those months had been kind to me. 

I'm still sick. It's going on three weeks now and this junk just won't let go. I am so ready to be over it! Now that the round of antibiotics and prednisone are complete, I'm hoping and praying I don't take a turn for the worst. I'm continuing to doctor myself at home - taking lots of vitamins, Elderberry, and Tylenol. I'm also trying to get in some good fruits and veggies each day to pump up my immune system, but I can tell my body is weak and out of whack. Perhaps a good week long fast would do the trick...

It's another overcast day and it feels oppressive. Days like these make me feel sad and depressed. And since I know that, I try to counter with the weapon of joy. It's not easy to overcome depression with happiness but when you study the Word, there are so many verses about joy, it's hard not to be happy. 

Psalm 5:11 "But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You." What a powerful verse! Let all who take refuge in YOU be glad. Yes, that's exactly what I have to remember - because I am hidden with Christ, I have His protection and love guarding over me - that's a good reason for rejoicing. 

My word for the year was SAVOR and as I've focused on tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, He's interposed the word JOY. So I guess I'm supposed to not only taste and see that He is good, I'm also to rejoice in Him. They do seem to fit well together, don't they? 

In this crazy, mixed up world it's a challenge to seek joy but I think that's exactly what God wants us to do. When we focus on all the mess, we miss the message. He's still on the throne and He's still in control. That should give us hope, peace, and joy. 

So on this first day of the month of March, I hope you'll be a joy seeker. If you take time to look, you can't miss it. It's all around us. 

"Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say rejoice." Philippians 4:4 The Hebrew word for rejoice is gil. It means to be glad, be joyful, to spin around. And that makes me think about my childhood. 

One Easter, when I was about 5 or 6, I got a new dress with a crinoline skirt. It was so pretty and flouncy, after putting it on I began to twirl around the room. Spinning around and around, in my little black patent leather shoes and my white lace topped bobby socks, I felt special. I couldn't help but smile! I was so filled with joy! It was rare to get a fancy, store bought dresses back then. Mama made all of my clothes, but that Easter, I had a complete ensemble including white cotton gloves and straw hat. I'll admit, I probably looked like a silly, little girl twirling round and round but I didn't care! I was happy and wanted everyone to know it. 

I think that's kind of how God wants us to be - unabashedly joyful! Maybe that's why Paul says "rejoice." RE-JOICE...DO IT AGAIN! And again, and again...TWIRL!!!! Yes!!! Thanks, Lord. I've got it now. " Rejoice in the Lord always, and again...I say rejoice."




Friday, February 19, 2021

Sick, sick, and tired of being sick!

Get ready to hear me b---- and moan because I'm going to do it. 

A few weeks ago, while attempting to get out of the tub, I missed raising my leg high enough to get over the side of the tub and twisted my knee in the wrong direction. Barely able to walk, I knew something was really wrong so I went to see an orthopedic doctor and he did xrays and an MRI finding I'd torn my lateral meniscus, had two weirdly named cysts in my knee, and a severe case of arthritis. So...he put me in an off loading knee brace in an attempt to allow my knee to repair itself over the next 6 weeks and, he said, if that doesn't happen, I'll need arthroscopic surgery and if that doesn't work, then a total knee replacement which I definitely don't want to do. 

The knee brace has been helping but is very uncomfortable. When I take it off late in the day (when I have had all I can stands and I can't stands no more - insert Popeye voice over here), I immediately feel pain and realize it's probably inevitable that some kind of surgery is in my future.


 On top of all that, I got some kind of crud and I mean CRUD! I've never had anything like this before. It's a cross between flu, bronchitis, pnuemonia, a really bad sinus infection, and fibromyalgia all rolled into one. No, I don't think it's Covid, although it could be. I haven't been tested so I don't know for sure, but I'm hoping it isn't. I've been doing homeopathic remedies for the past 9 days and yesterday had the slightest feeling that I needed to go in to see the doc because I wasn't getting any better. 

I called the doc expecting to be worked in but that wasn't the case. The receptionist said they weren't seeing anyone with upper respiratory illnesses right now but she'd patch me through to the nurse. While on hold, I fumed. Why wouldn't the primary care doc see me when I was sick??? Oh yeah...COVID, duh!

The nurse was kind. She asked my symptoms and I told her I'd been experiencing pain in my lower back just over my lungs, headaches, fatigue, inability to smell, nasal congestion, sore throat, and mild fever. (Sounds like Covid, right?) So she talked to the doc and they called out some meds - a Z pack and prednisone - typical upper respiratory regimen. Before we hung up, she said, if you don't start feeling better after a few days on these, you need to go to the hospital. Gee thanks...

I'm a pretty tough cookie when it comes to pain. I've been through an awful lot in my life, but whatever this is has knocked me for a loop. I sure hope the meds help. I am so over this junk but I will say, in the famous words of a wise old woman I knew, it could have been worse. I could have ended up in the hospital on a ventilator or other life saving equipment so I'm thankful that's not the case. 

Okay. My b---- fest is over. 

On a side note, and a little positivity here, I have lost 5 pounds - probably because I haven't had an appetite and haven't been able to smell anything. You always have to look for that silver lining right?

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Sowing fruit

Several weeks ago, my youngest daughter had told me about the Insta Cart service. She'd used it before and found it convenient so I thought I'd give it a try.

 I placed an order with Publix. Ordering was quick and easy. I was pleased and made a mental note to use them again. So today, when I'd been crazy busy and the day was half over, I realized I needed to go to the grocery store. We had no fresh produce in the house and anyone who knows me knows I love fresh fruit and veggies so I had to do something about that. 

Whipping out my phone, I pulled up the Insta Cart app and perused the various vendors. I didn't need a full grocery order, so I opted for Aldi. Although we'd only shopped there once or twice in the past, I wondered how their produce would be and decided to give them a try. 

After placing my order, I received a text stating my shopper's name was Dana. I shot her a quick message and thanked her for being willing to help me with my shopping today. She responded back quickly with the typical Chick Fil A type response, "My pleasure." I smiled and got back to work. 

About half an hour later, I got a message from Dana. She had made all my selections and was on her way. Within twenty minutes, she'd be at my house. 

Walking into my studio, I selected a painting I thought Dana might enjoy. I wrote a little note and slipped both the painting and the note in a large ziploc bag. I put the gift on top of the ice chest I'd placed outside the front door hoping Dana would see it as she opened the chest to slip our milk inside. 

When my personal shopper had pulled out of the driveway, I began the task of bringing the groceries inside. Dana had left all the bags neatly in a row out front on our porch. It was evident she'd taken good care of our food. 

 After I'd brought all the bags inside, I began the task of opening them and putting away the contents. I was surprised to find beautiful selections of fruit. There were no bruised or damaged items. I was pleased. 

Opening a box of strawberries, I picked up a ripe piece of fruit and held it in my hand. It was a gorgeous red, luscious berry, odd for this time of year - strawberries aren't in season here until May, but I knew the fruit was from another state, more than likely California. 

Next, I unpacked apples, bananas, mandarin oranges, kiwi, and all the lovely veggies. My counters were covered in an array of color and that's when part of a verse of Scripture hit me : "...you are to bear much fruit." The Bible says the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, all of which are evidence of the nature of Christ in us. Had I born fruit today? 

To bear spiritual fruit is evidence that we love and honor Christ. When we do this, we bring Him glory. I thought back over my day. I'd passed out a little love and kindness as I gifted Dana with a piece of art and as I'd thanked her for her service in a text message, but other than that, I hadn't shared lasting fruit with her. But maybe, just maybe, that tiny bit of love and kindness had sown a little seed of hope where she needed it most. 

The fruit we bear is to feed others, to bring the gift of life in Christ to spiritually starved humanity. To bear much fruit means to take what we have been given and use it to reach the lost. As we ‘seed’ ourselves into the world around us, the Spirit quickens and empowers us. Real faith must manifest in works, but the works are not the fruit. We may bear much fruit through kingdom work, but it is the fruit that glorifies God, not the works. When we bear much fruit, our fruit is the visible evidence of our discipleship. The fruit we bear indicates the nature and depth of our relationship with Christ. 

Dana probably didn't think much about selecting my fruit today. She was just doing a job that brought in a paycheck, but hopefully, as she left my house today, she was touched by a tiny little act the Holy Spirit prompted me to do. 

As I share this today, please don't think I'm patting myself on the back for a job well done - that is not my intention. I'm merely sharing it to give you a practical example of how easy it is to bear fruit in these hectic days. 

I pray God was glorified and that Dana, if she doesn't know the Father, will wonder why a complete stranger gave her a beautiful oil painting today and, I hope she'll be blessed by the verse of Scripture written on the back of it, that she might hunger to know Him, that she would "taste and see that the Lord is good." 

 "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." (John 15:8) ©Bonnie Annis Everyday Devotions

4 words

If anyone had to sum up my life in 4 words, they’d either choose the phrase, “She loved the Lord, or “She was a planner.” And while both of ...