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

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

We take a lot for granted

 

The Don Joy Off Loading Knee Brace

Yesterday, I went to the orthopedic surgeon for the results of my recent MRI. 

I was hesitant to hear what he had to say and speculated the worst - knee replacement surgery, but thankfully, that's not in the cards just yet. 

He did say I have a lateral meniscus tear, two subchondral pseudocysts, and severe arthritis. After giving me that news, he left the room, a nurse entered and drew up a syringe with Cortisone. I watched as she carefully laid out the bandages, a numbing spray, the long needled syringe, and some antiseptic wipes. As she left the room, I turned to my husband and grimaced. 

I'd had a cortisone injection in my ankle joint last year. It was extremely painful. I wasn't looking forward to another injection but knew it was coming. 

About five minutes later, the doctor came back into the room and had me sit on the exam table, pants rolled up, as he lifted the needle. "Just imagine yourself sitting on a dock dangling your feet over the edge of the water..." And then he jabbed me! Oh, gravy!!! The numbing spray helped some but there was intense pressure and pain. 

A couple of minutes later, he was done and ordering the nurse to take me over to the physical therapy department to be fitted with an off loading knee brace. He said we'd see how I did over the next 6 weeks and if I wasn't much better when I came back, he'd do arthroscopic surgery to remove the damaged tissue and hopefully keep me from having to have a total replacement. 

The off loading knee brace is a weird looking structure - a thick flexible plastic webbing with several large velcro straps. It's supposed to take the pressure off of the "bad" side of my knee and transfer it to the "good" side. 

As I walked/hobbled out of the doctor's office, I realized how much I take for granted. Being unable to bend my knee caused me to remember the days of immobility I suffered after a bad accident in 1991. During that time, I was confined to a wheelchair and couldn't walk for over 3 years. 

I knew my knees had been suffering. The creaks and groans they made when bending or stretching reminded me I was aging, but I didn't expect to suffer such damage just getting out of the bathtub. In one split moment, my knee was damaged. 

So today, as I maneuver through my house with my lovely brace on and a handy, dandy walker in tow, I think I need to be more cognizant of my health. I need to thank God for the parts that are still functioning and forget about the parts I've lost. 

It's really strange when you think about how a broken and scarred body can still function without so many parts - I've not only lost both breasts to cancer, I've lost my thyroid gland, my gallbladder, and my uterus. 

As a child, I remember playing the game "Operation." As I'd work carefully to keep from setting off the buzzer as I removed tiny, white, play bones, I never imagined a body could live without vital organs or parts. 

But I'm still here and I'm proof it is doable. 

I'm hoping I don't end up losing my knees in the near future. I've heard terrible things about knee replacement surgeries. Maybe this brace, the walker, the pain meds, and time will help my wounds heal and maybe, I'll focus on being a little more grateful for the pieces and parts I still have left inside of me. 

Life is so short and I still have much to do. I need functioning knees to help me accomplish those goals. Please pray I get to keep them.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

How did he feel?


 I was reading a cancer forum the other day and one of the participants posed a thought - "I always wondered how the doctor felt just before he told me I had cancer." As I read her words, I was stunned. I'd never given much thought to the doctor's feelings and I certainly hadn't considered his point of view. But as I began to think back to that fateful June day in 2014, I did my best to imagine the scenario. 

He stands outside a solid wooden door fingering the results of her recent biopsy. The news is not good. 

He wipes beads of sweat from his brow as he waits, listening. Inside the room, he hears the crinkle of the exam table paper shift beneath her wait. 

How long has she been waiting? Fifteen minutes, thirty? It must seem like an eternity to her. 

Slowly, he reaches out and takes the doorknob in his hand. As he gently turns it, he pulls slightly allowing the bright light from the room to filter into the hallway. He should have knocked first. In his haste, he'd forgotten so he pulls the door closed and raps three times. 

At the sound, she responds softly, "Come in." 

With determination, he opens the door and smiles as he greets her. "How are you today?" He asks but doesn't want to hear the answer. It's just a formality. 

He watches her eyes as he moves to his stool. She's fixed her gaze on the paper in his hand. She knows, he thinks...she knows. 

Taking a deep breath, he waits as he thinks to himself, I must do this carefully. Although I've done it thousands of times before, it's always difficult. In an instant, her life will change forever. 

Her eyes are so intense - those large brown, soulful eyes of hers bore into my soul. How can I tell her she has cancer? I can't choose to see her in any other way than professionally. The telling is part of my job. I'm just doing my job, he tells himself convincingly. 

 Mrs. Annis, I have bad news...no. I can't start like that. Mrs. Annis, I have your test results here. Let's go over them, shall we? Much better. Professional but not condescending. 

And then he reads. And she begins to weep. 

Oh no, he thinks, here we go again. I hate my job. 


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

4 words

There are four words in Psalm 46 that seem to be a command - “Be still, and know..."

 As I think back to my eighth grade English days and re-read those words, I understand there's an indirect subject there - "You, be still and know." And if I break it down further, I can personalize it - "You, Bonnie, be still and know." Inserting your own name, the 4 words become even more powerful. But that's not the entire passage. Here's what it says in its entirety:

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress."

Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11 NIV

As I write, the world is still in the throws of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lives have been turned upside down and many have contracted the coronavirus. Thousands have died. And all of us have been impacted in some way.

Responses to the virus have covered a wide spectrum. Some deny the seriousness of the disease. Some see it as merely a government plot to gain more power over ordinary citizens. Others see it as God’s judgement on a people who've turned away from him. Many simply want it to go away so they can get back to normal.

Without question, this virus has disrupted lives across the globe. In a world of constant motion, our typically busy and chaotic lives have become abnormally slowed. And this slowness has created a great opportunity.

When life is so full, it's often hard to find time to fit God into our schedule. Sure, we might satisfy ourselves with a couple of hours on Sunday and maybe some other activity during the week, but do we ever slow down long enough to sit at Jesus’ feet for a while. Do we truly take time to enjoy His presence and get to know Him on a personal level?

COVID-19 has given us time. It's like the ultimate time out from life. We can take time to actually be still. 

Turn off the TV. Put down the book. Move away from the pantry. Stop whatever you have been doing to fill your time. Find a quiet, solitary, and comfortable location. Still the voices that fill the emptiness and meditate on who God is and what He has done for you. It will be hard at first. but if you persist, you will find it well worth your time.

Be still and know - really understand, truly comprehend, that He is God. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Covid bubble and a year of self reflection

 

It all began around March 11th when the pandemic arrived. It seemed we were all living the same nightmare and although everyone wanted to wake up, they couldn't. 

When people began to panic things got crazy. People holed up in their houses in quarantine. Hoarders began hoarding toilet paper. Homemakers began sewing face masks and we all became instant germophobes. 

We sat glued to our televisions as daily updates came in. President Trump, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and others emphasized the seriousness of the China virus and we became concerned. 

 Our vocabularies began to include words and phrases like Covid-19, coronavirus, Wuhan, shelter in place, and social distancing. 

Many were controlled by fear. Many got sick and many died. 

It seemed our world had been turned upside down. 

No one expected the virus to spread as quickly as it did and no one knew how to fight it. 

But as of today, two pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have developed vaccines. The intial doses are being given to doctors, nurses, and adults over 65. But no one knows the potential side effects of the drugs and many have decided not to take it. 

May businesses closed but thankfully, Phil's company was considered an essential business and was allowed to remain open. That was a huge blessing for us! They did require daily temperature checks and for the employees to wear masks. If an employee registered a fever, they'd be sent home to quarantine for 2 weeks, but every day, we prayed for God's protection and He answered our prayers. It's been ten months now and neither of us have become sick!We also asked for God to protect our family members. To date, only my son, Dave, has been affected and thankfully, his case was mild.  Many have required hospitalization and have need to be placed on respirators.

But there were some good things that happened while we were in the Covid bubble. Our grandsons, Alex and Marc became engaged. Both of them have planned their weddings for this Fall. We're so excited for them. 

Phil, Me, and Jamie

Our grandson, Matthew, began his military career at North Georgia military Academy. We're so proud he's following in his big brother Marc's footsteps and will be serving our country. 

Marc began officer's training in Virginia. Currently, he holds the rank of Second Lieutenant. After he completes his training, he'll move to Colorado and serve there. 

My granddaughter, Heather, began her second year of homeschool. She's doing great under the tutelage of her Mama, my daughter, Laura. 

My Texas Longhorns are starting back up with their homeschool studies under their Mom's guidance. My daughter, Erin, has her hands full teaching 5 littles. Gavin, the oldest, has become very involved with Boy Scouts and has learned to be a Ham radio operator. Kaitlyn, next in line, wants to study photography and piano. Caden, enjoys playing Army with his brothers, Braeden and Garrett. 

I finally completed my book. Now I'm looking for a publisher. It was quite the labor of love as I relived my breast cancer journey. I am thankful to have it completed and I'm ready for my next project. 

God took me out of my comfort zone by having me teach art to a class of 12 students ranging in ages 4-86. The 86 year old woman had Alzheimer's. It was quite the challenge but I completed it and was proud of myself. 

I won placement in a National Cancer magazine's art calendar for one of my pieces entitled the Unseen Woman. I was also featured in our local newspaper for my winning work of art. 

It seems God has been shining down His blessings upon me! 

We celebrated all of our family members' birthdays and anniversaries. Phil and I celebrated our 27th anniversary. 

In October, a tornado came through Newnan. God's hand of protection was on us once again and we received no damage to our lives or home. We did have several large trees down in our neighborhood and the power was out for a couple of days, but it could have been so much worse. 

We didn't get to travel as much as we usually do but did enjoy a mini vacation to Mineral Bluff, Georgia the last part of November into the first part of December. While staying in a cabin there, we enjoyed a beautiful snow and celebrated my 63rd birthday. 

We spent our first Christmas at the beach. It was very different, but very much needed. The only thing that would have made it better was if the beach house pool had been heated while we were there. (The owner stopped heating after Thanksgiving.) Although most of the days were chilly, we did have several days of warm, beautiful sunshine. We enjoyed walking the beach and even took an airboat ride through the estuaries of the Apalachicola River, thanks to my youngest daughter, Jamie. 

During our time in the Covid bubble, Phil and I both read many books, watched good movies, conversed with friends via FaceTime or Skype, ate a lot of good home cooked meals, and enjoyed each other's company. We did visit a couple of family members and made some good memories with them. 

There were several things I learned about myself during my time in the bubble: 

I Am Brave. Cancer taught me how to fight through adversity.

I Am Resilient. Cancer gave me the tools to stand strong in a storm. 

My faith is most important. Without God, I could do nothing.

I love art and have enjoyed creating art to give to others.

I love to write. Writing is cathartic and healing. 

This new year will more than likely be filled with some unexpected surprises, but hopefully, they'll be good instead of bad. We have a bright future ahead and we're trusting God to take good care of us. 

I have a bone scan coming up in the next week or so. I'm praying it comes back clear. That's the thing with cancer, you never know when it will reappear.



Sunday, January 10, 2021

Understanding Suffering

This morning, during my quiet time, I was in the book of Philippians. A verse in chapter one caught my attention: :For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him."

This is a rather unsettling verse. Paul says it has been granted unto us to believe in Christ and also to suffer for him. Few believers probably have any issue with the first half but with the second half, that's a different story.

The word “granted” means “to show favor, grant, bestow, graciously confer." We've been given the privilege of suffering for Christ. Now generally we don’t think of suffering as a privilege. But Paul does. Why?

Perhaps it has to do with the suffering Christ did for us on the cross. Since He underwent such agonizing pain and suffering for us, shouldn't we be willing to gratefully accept suffering into our lives?

Suffering is never pleasant, but the Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12 "all who would live godly lives will suffer." Instead of complaining about suffering, shouldn't we be proud to be counted worthy to suffer for Christ's sake?

In Romans 8:17-18, Paul helps us understand a little better by connecting our sharing in the suffering of Christ with sharing in His glory. He expresses the glory to come will far outweigh our current suffering. Here's what those verses say:

17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Could it be the ones most privileged to suffer here will experience the most glory in the age to come? If that's the case, then living free from the threat of much suffering may not be as big a blessing as we suppose it to be.

God has used suffering in my life to help me grow. Through my physical trials, He's taught me so much more about His grace and mercy than I would have ever known; therefore, I can truly say I am thankful for the privilege of suffering. 

But when someone I love is suffering and I can do nothing to help or fix the situation, it's a different story. All I can do then is ask God to be their strength and trust them into His care. 

Suffering is merely a tool God uses to teach us more about His love and compassion. He always wants the best for us and if suffering is a way to accomplish that, we should be willing to accept it with open hands.  

Psalm 22:24 says, "For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help."

This helps us understand when Jesus permits suffering to enter our lives, He doesn't leave us alone in it. He is there with us answering our cries for help, comforting us and caring for us. 

Consider the valuable lessons Job learned during his time of trial. God used suffering to strengthen his faith and bless him. 

No, suffering is never easy and when it comes into our lives, we want to push it away as quickly as we can, but next time you're faced with a physical, spiritual, or emotional trial of suffering, hopefully you'll be able to consider it differently. 

And finally, 

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-8

Finding joy in suffering seems like an oxymoron but from personal experience, I can tell you, it's doable. And that joy is more precious than any other if you can understand sometimes suffering is a gift from God's hand. 




Saturday, January 9, 2021

Making sense of breast cancer

Bonnie has the rabbit pin on her shirt
 

Today is the third anniversary of my friend, Bonnie's death. A post I'd written about it popped up in my Facebook memories. I'd almost forgotten about today being the anniversary of her death, but Facebook is so good to remind me year after year. 

It's so hard to make sense of cancer. When my friend, Bonnie Ferguson, and I met, shortly after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, she told me she was a 22 year survivor. That gave me such hope. My diagnosis was barely two weeks prior and I was so scared. Knowing that she'd beaten breast cancer helped me be less fearful. 

But then, at the midpoint of my radiation treatments, Bonnie began to come and go more frequently. I'd see her little golf cart coming up the gravel road by our house and I wondered where she was going. One day, on her way back from the produce market down the road, she saw me out in the yard and stopped to give me some tomatoes. We talked for a few minutes and then she dropped the bomb. After 22 years, her cancer was back. 

I don't know if it did, but I felt my jaw drop. How could the cancer return after 22 years? I was dumbfounded. And that's when the fear for my own mortality kicked in. Was I fooling myself to think I'd actually survive cancer and live a long and happy life? 

Understanding cancer is like trying to pick up a drop of mercury from a dropped thermometer. (If you're as old as I am, you'll remember they used to be glass and held a large drop of mercury in them. If, by some chance you dropped the thermometer and it broke, the liquid mercury would slide into many different sized balls of silver, impossible to gather together and clean up.)

I have several I love right now facing cancer battles. They're all in various stages and all have different outlooks on their future. At first glance, a person with no cancer experience would think they're doing quite well and fighting the good fight, but for one with a personal history of cancer, the truth is so evident. 

There's no understanding cancer. It is no respecter of persons. 

And yet, those in the fight choose to keep on fighting, because they want to live. 

Bonnie was that way. She did what she had to do to survive and though she gave it her best shot, cancer won. 

This year, I'll celebrate my 7th cancerversary. I'm looking forward to that day, but I'm not naive. In the next week I'll have a bone scan to check for possible metastasis to my spine. And while I pray for a good report, I know the good hand I've been dealt may suddenly be snatched away. 

The only thing a person affected by cancer can do is live one day at a time. That's all we've been given anyway. The Bible says God's mercies are new every morning and it also says we're not to worry about tomorrow. Those two reminders help me get through each day. 

So today, as I look out on this cold, gray day, I'll remember my friend, Bonnie. Her life was colorful and fun. She loved to garden and share her plants. She loved to paint and share her art. She loved people and shared herself. 

I am blessed to have made her acquaintance and I'm thankful she took time to let me be a part of her life.

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Measuring

Tuesday thoughts: (in case you'd like something to focus on other than all the political mess!)
 
I don't remember when he first started it, but my Daddy loved to take measurements of his children as they grew. Just inside the entry way to our kitchen, on a piece molding, he'd record each number.
One by one, he'd call us to him, then, taking a wooden ruler, he'd place it tenderly on top of each head and make a mark on the molding with number 2 pencil. 
 
Back then, we didn't think much about it. It was just a routine occurrence in our home. I don't know about my siblings, but I used to think everyone's father did the same thing. 
 
As we grew older, the marks on the wooden molding made their way farther up the wall. It was fun to pass by and see how much taller I was than my brother and sister, for a while. 
 
Many years later, as my siblings and I began having our children, Daddy continued the process with them sliding their measurements in between ours and also recording the names beside them.
Such a tiny thing gave him great joy. 
 
Today, I was thinking about that piece of molding and how I wished I had a photo of all the markings, but over time that house was sold. 
 
When Mama and Daddy moved into a new house, one of the first things he did was begin to record height measurements on the molding between the kitchen and formal living room. While he was living, every grandchild and great grandchild, had a special place on that wall. Those markings signified the passing of time but also signified growth. 
 
I wonder how we'd record the passing years of our lives? There's no way we could ever record every event with a pencil mark upon a wall, but God keeps a very accurate account. Psalm 139:16 says, "You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." What sobering thought!
 
I'd like to imagine, when we reach Heaven, God will pull out a sort of heavenly video projector and do a quick run through of our lives. We'd get to see an instant replay of not only the good things we've done, but also the bad. I don't think God would share that with us to cause us undue pain and suffering, but merely to help us realize He was with us through every single moment, recording, measuring, and caring. 
 
My earthly father is no longer marking on the walls. He's missed recording some of our newest family members measurements, but God hasn't. 
 
Today, as you think about your life, know that God sees each moment. And remember, He's promised never to leave or forsake us. That means even when we can't see Him or sense His presence, He's still there.

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, wh...