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.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

"You're an Artist! You're a Real Artist!"


Months ago, I was contacted by a woman I'd met on our trip to Israel. She explained she'd started a tradition of gathering family members together and having them participate in some sort of art project. She'd only done it once before, but thought it would be something worth continuing after last year's success. I thought it was a neat idea and immediately agreed to be the 2020 artist.


After agreeing to lead the class, I asked for details. What did she want me to do? How many people would be in the class? Etc. Etc.

I came up with a lesson plan and purchased supplies.

As the time drew near for teaching the lesson, I became very fearful and felt ill equipped. Satan was doing a number on me and I asked some of my online friends to pray.

The day of the event, my husband I drove to North Georgia, van loaded with easel and boxes of art supplies.

Arriving at the church, we set up in the fellowship hall and watched as her family members began to arrive. I knew the group would be composed of adults and children but was surprised to find we had people from 4 to 86 and the 86 year old woman had Alzheimer's disease.

As the class members took their places at the tables, I passed out supplies and we got started.

I was nervous as I began to paint. As I worked, I explained each step of the process having the people in the room attempt to follow along, but it wasn't that simple. In between painting, answering questions, and resupplying medium, I was also trying to keep my composure and train of thought. I'd never taught a group before. The span of ages was also a challenge as I tried to make the lesson simple for the children and keep the adults on track at the same time. Somehow, I worked from 10:30 until 2:30 and we got our paintings completed.
Rose, 86 with Alzheimer's

I wanted to thank those who prayed for me. Your prayers undergirded me that day and helped me remain calm. I think I held my breath those 4 hours because when we got into the car to leave, I broke down sobbing.

You see, I've never considered myself an artist. In the first place, I've never had an art lesson. I taught myself everything I know by reading, watching, or observing others. But God must have wanted me to do this project because I needed to be taken out of my comfort zone.

I'm not an extrovert but by agreeing to teach the class, I was forced to be one. And, I don't even know why I accepted the offer anyway. Normally, I would have said, "Let me think about it and I'll get back to you," but that day I said yes immediately.

God taught me somethings about myself that day. He made real to me the verse that says "when I am weak, He is strong." He also extended me plenty of grace that day as the woman who asked me to teach and all of her family members sat patiently and willingly as I tried my best to led them in a fun project.

The day turned out to be a success, but boy was I glad when it was over! A professional photographer had been hired to document the day and although I haven't seen any of the photos yet, I'm sure she got some doozies.

Right before I left the building, I decided to make a pit stop. As I was coming out of the restroom, one of the students, a cute, long haired 4 year old girl came skipping toward me saying, "You're an artist! You're a real artist!" I couldn't help but smile at her proclamation over me.
My little encourager


I wonder if God knew I needed to hear those sweet words just before leaving? I think He did and he used that beautiful, inquisitive little one to speak truth into my heart.

Bottom line and lessons learned that day -
1. God had already equipped me to teach the lesson! I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:13)
2. There was no reason for me to be afraid! "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.(Isaiah 41:10)
3. Obedience always brings blessing.

After I'd gotten home and we'd unloaded the car, I had time to revisit the day's events. Although the lesson didn't go as planned, I did have fun and think the students did, too.And just think, if I'd said no to the offer, I wouldn't have received the blessings God had in store for me. The best part of the day was seeing that sweet little girl, with her bright pink headband, skipping down the hall and hearing her words drip with honey as she said, "You're an artist! You're a real artist!" 
 
You know, I think she just might be right. Perhaps I do have a right to claim that title now.

Friday, January 1, 2021

This morning I was thinking about the home I grew up in. It was an old cinder block home, nothing fancy, in fact it was an architect's final build in order to get his license to build. 
 
Inside that house, on the second story, inside the bottom cabinet of the bathroom was a laundry chute. Those weren't too popular in the late 50s and early 60s, but we had one.
My brother, sister, and I thought it was great. Though it was built for convenience, we used it for sending toys and other things down into the laundry area of our carport. 
 
I can still remember standing over the top of the chute, hands ready to let some precious cargo speed down the chute while yelling "Bombs away!" And I can still see the wide eyes of my sibling peering up through the chute at me, waiting to retrieve the payload. 
 
Those days were filled with childhood fun. We made good use of that laundry chute, but so did Mama. It made her life easier not to have to carry loads of clothing down our long flight of stairs. 
 
As I was thinking about that laundry chute today and our cries of "Bombs away," I thought, that's a good motto for this New Year. Instead of holding onto the past events that have traumatized us, we need, in our hearts, to be willing to let go with a proverbial bombs away. 
 
We also need to be willing to expect God to provide all we need for the New Year. 
 
While the Israelites were wandering through the desert for forty years, they didn't have much in the way of food. They got tired of their typical diet and begged God for something different. God heard their cries and answered, providing them with a new breakfast food called Manna. 
 
The manna every morning. The Israelites were given specific instructions on gathering it and they were not to store it up for the following day. If they disobeyed and gathered some manna to save for the next day, it would spoil before they could eat it. 
 
This year, perhaps we need to wake each day looking for our manna - God's perfect provision for whatever the day holds. 
 
As we look for it, I hope you can envision a "heavenly laundry chute" with God at the top and yourself at the bottom eagerly looking up to see what He's going to send your way. 
 
I doubt seriously that you'll hear God yell, "Bombs away," like we did as children, but I imagine, if you could see His face, you'd see a huge, loving, kind smile and eager, heavenly hands ready to bless you.
Last year was a terrible, awful, very bad year in many ways, but, if you think back, I'm sure there was some manna tucked in there, too. 
 
This first day of 2021, Look up! The Lord is your Provider! He is Jehovah Jireh. Let Him take care of all your worries, all your cares, all your needs. He wants to bless you. And if you keep your gaze locked on His beautiful face, nothing else that touches your life will matter because He has the manna. And He's going to make sure you have just enough for each and every day. 
 
© Bonnie Annis
 
You can read more about Manna in the Bible in Exodus 16.


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 ...