Wednesday, March 23, 2022

A lesson in humility


The year was 1991. I remember it vividly. Sitting in my wheelchair, my right leg swollen and angry looking, the metal through and through pins were throbbing. My foot was purple, which meant the circulation was impaired. The doctor had warned if it didn't improve, they were going to amputate my leg. I was so afraid. 

I could hear the children playing. My four loves were running in and out of their rooms laughing. School was out and I wondered how we'd manage over the summer. 

I knew my foot needed attention, but what do you do when you can't reach? 

It had taken every ounce of my energy to make it to the bathroom that day. Taking a shower was quite an ordeal. First, I had to wrap my leg in a large, plastic garbage bag and tape it up tight so no water could get in. That way, the pin holes wouldn't get wet, which could cause a major staph infection. Next, I had to figure out how to hobble to the shower and get in on one foot. Thankfully, a friend had lent me some safety crutches with rounded bottoms. I could use them to steady myself. Doctor's orders were no weight bearing whatsoever on my right leg, so that meant I showered quickly and usually only once a week because it was so dreadfully difficult. 

My body was clean except my foot. I knew I had to ask for help but which of my children would be willing? I didn't want to ask my 15-year-old son. He'd already taken on so many of the household responsibilities, I couldn't add another to his ever growing list. My 7 year old daughter would have been willing, but not strong enough, and my 4 year old daughter was simply out of the question. I knew the only other option would be to ask my then 9 year old daughter, Erin. 

Calling her into the living room, I said, "Honey, I need your help." Gladly, she smiled at me and said, "What Mom?" I told her to look at my foot. She did and said, "It looks so dark, it's almost black!" I replied, "Yes, and that's why I need your help." I told her I needed her help in washing my foot. I explained she'd have to be extremely careful and it wasn't going to be fun. "In fact," I said, "it's going to be really gross." The look on her face broke my heart. Although I knew she'd do whatever needed to be done, I didn't want to put that heavy weight on such a little girls shoulders. 

She looked at me and smiled saying, "I'll help you, Mom." So I told her what to do. I had her get a rectangular, plastic bin and fill it with a few inches of warm water. I watched as her little arms carried the heavy container back to where I was. She sat it in front of me. Using both arms I lifted my lifeless leg. When it was lifted, she slid the container beneath me and helped lower the injured limb into the water. 

I could barely feel the temperature on my foot. The car accident had crushed both bones in my right leg and had damaged nerves. I had no idea if the water was scalding or barely warm, but I had to trust that my little girl had done her best. 

I sat with my foot in the water for about twenty minutes. There were two reasons for soaking that long - one was to allow Erin to continue to play with her siblings, and the other was to soak away some of the stinky, dead skin that had accumulated since the accident and my inability to bathe. 

When I felt like the time was right, I called her back into the room and asked her to get some soap and a washcloth. Kneeling in front of me, I instructed her to gently lift my swollen, discolored foot and begin scrubbing with gentle circular motions. When she went to slide her hand beneath my foot, I noticed layers and layers of dead skin and grime float to the top of the water, but not once did she complain. Tears filled my eyes as I thought about another foot washing thousands of years ago...

Jesus and His disciples were in the upper room. They'd just partaken of their last supper together. Jesus had risen from the table, stripped, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Going to each disciple, He'd taken the role of a lowly servant, washing their feet. Those feet were filthy, covered in dust and dirt from the roads they'd traveled, but Jesus worked diligently performing a special act of love. 

If you've never had your feet washed by someone, you may not understand how this simple act can humble a person. 

My little girl's young hands were so small and tender as she worked to remove layers of dead skin. I hated to rely on her for such a nasty chore, but I had no choice. Through tear filled eyes, I watched as she worked. She never complained about the smell or about the filth, but I knew it bothered her. 

There were many other times I had to ask Erin to wash my foot during the year my leg slowly healed. Without her help, I would have surely lost my foot and more than likely my leg. There were no home health nurses available to those without insurance and since my attorney hadn't finalized the lawsuit against the man who hit me, there was no money to hire someone to help. 

It's been 31 years since that horrible motor vehicle accident but I still remember so many things God used to teach and humble me with during that time. My children were changed, too. They had to grow up too fast during that year, but not all of the experiences were bad. They also learned a lot about God's faithfulness and His provision. 

Foot washing is such a beautiful act of service and humility. Jesus gave us such a loving example of it in the book of John. The disciples didn't understand why He would stoop so low and perform such a menial task, but it was merely a foreshadowing of His upcoming crucifixion and the sacrificial gift of love He'd share there. As Our Lord and Savior hung humbly on the cross, beaten, scorned, and broken, I've often wondered if even one of those men looked at his nail pierced feet and remembered the feeling of His gentle, loving hands as He knelt that day to wash their soles...their souls. 

1 Peter 5:5-6 says: "Clothe (apron) yourselves, all of you, with humility [as the garb of a servant, so that its covering cannot possibly be stripped from you, with freedom from pride and arrogance} toward one another. For God sets Himself against the proud (the insolent, the overbearing the disdainful, the presumptuous, the boastful) - [and He opposes, frustrates, and defeats them], but gives grace (favor, blessing) to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves (demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation) under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you." 


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The telling of the felling

When I was in 5th or 6th grade, the world of poetry was opened to me by one of my favorite teachers. She would sit before our class, open a book of poetry and mesmerize us with its beauty. Her soft, delicate voice, barely above a whisper, drew us in. That's when I fell in love with poetry. It touched my soul profoundly. Today, I was reminded of a poem I first heard in grammar school - Joyce Kilmer's poem, Trees. 

Now many assume Joyce was a female, but that's not the case. Joyce was a man with sensitive heart. He wrote heartfelt poems that became memorable to aesthetes like me. 





I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.


A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Today, we killed a tree. It was a large, beautiful Pine tree, over 100 feet tall and more than 50 years old. The tree was too close to our house and with recent tornadoes, we knew if it was ever affected by high winds, it would severely damage our home and may have even killed us. So, it had to come down. I didn't want to wound it, really I didn't. That tree had provided shade to our yard and had given shelter to many a squirrel or bird. As I stood at the base of it, looking up, I begged its forgiveness, but the reality of what we were about to do didn't hit me until I felt the ground shake hard as it fell to Earth. That loud, heavy thud shook me to my core. What had I done? In that instant, as the workman's chainsaw was still smoking hot, I began to cry. Only God can make a tree and only God should be able to end its life. But I'd interfered. I'd given the hired hand permission to fell the tree. 

A tree that looks at God all day and lifts her leafy arms to pray...

I was sad. The fragrant smell of Pine filled my nostrils as I stood and watched the tree cut into



pieces. And then, as they pushed the segments into the chipper, it was even worse. That huge majestic tree was no more. That's when I made a promise. I promised the tree I'd remember it. I'd tells stories about it and make sure to leave a legacy. I'd write a children's book for my grandchildren. I'd help them understand by telling of the felling. 

And so I shall. 


Saturday, March 12, 2022

A divine appointment

We'd just walked into Walmart on the coldest day of the year. There were no shopping carts in the corral, so Phil volunteered to go outside and get one. I moved deeper into the store, away from the cold blast of air that came in each time the automatic door opened and found myself standing near a growing stack of Coca Cola products. I watched as a young black man lifted and stacked cases one on top of another. After a few minutes, I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit. "Talk to him about me."

So, I walked over to the man and said, "That's the best song ever, isn't it?" Before he could answer, I noticed he had earbuds in his ears and wondered if he'd heard my question. Pulling one out he said, "Yeh." And I continued, "Don't you just love Dobie Gray's, Drift Away?" Day after day, I'm more confused... the music played on as I talked to the young man. I was thankful I had his attention. He stopped working and listened as I said, "Can I ask you a question?" He answered, "Sure, Ma'am." I said, "How can I pray for you today?" I could see him take a step back and slightly hesitate before answering. He said, "Wow. Just wow. I don't believe it." I asked what he didn't believe and he said, "I was just having a moment and then you came up." I asked his name and he said, "Howard." I said, "Howard, my name is Bonnie. Let's step over here and I'm going to pray for you." I took his arm and we moved to the side of the cases of cola, out of the line of foot traffic entering the store. Bowing my head, I began to pray. 

I don't know how long we stood there and I can't remember exactly what I said. I know the Holy Spirit was giving me the words and Howard was listening. When I ended the prayer, I looked up and Howard's eyes were filled with tears. I told him that God cared about him and He planned our meeting on this day. Howard agreed that God had brought us together. I wished him well and turned to see my husband standing there with the cart. As we moved toward the produce, I turned to smile and wave goodbye to Howard. 

Moving up and down the aisles, we gathered various grocery items packing our cart to the brim. As we pulled onto the aisle with cases of water, there was Howard again. I smiled a big smile, pointed, and said, "HEY! We've got to stop meeting like this." He smiled a huge smile and said, "I knew I'd see you again." I walked closer to him and he said, "Can I have a hug?" I gave him a big bear hug and turned to walk away but remembered something in my purse. Reaching inside, I pulled out a small, leather CWT New Testament I'd been given many years earlier when I was part of the Christian Witnessing Training program. I'd cherished that slimline Bible and loved that it fit so neatly in my purse, but at that very moment, I felt like I was supposed to give it to Howard. 

Turning to John 14, I slipped the book marker in place and handed it to him. I asked him to read John 14 and 15 when he had time. I told him I'd marked it for him and though the Bible was in the King James translation, I told him God would help him understand it. Before I left, I read him verse 1 of chapter 14 aloud, "Do not let your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me." Howard looked stunned and said, "Wow" again. Digging through my purse, I tried to find a pen. I wanted to inscribe something in the Bible for Howard but couldn't find one. I was frustrated. I always have a pen in my purse because I'm always writing, but for some reason, today, I didn't have one. 

I asked Phil if he'd mind running over to the school supply area and picking up a pen for me. I assumed I'd see Howard again before we left the store and then I'd have a chance to inscribe the Bible for him. While Phil went to get the pen, I continued shopping. 

Fifteen or so minutes passed before we crossed paths with Howard again. This time, he spoke first, "I knew I'd see you one more time before you left the store!" He sounded excited and happy. I grinned at him and said, " I want to write something in your Bible for you." He handed it to me and I wrote a sweet sentiment for him. As I handed the book back to him, he said, "I'll never forget this day." 

We didn't see Howard again as we made our way to the front of the store to check out, but I prayed our conversation blessed him. I don't know why God allowed our paths to cross but I could tell that Howard was struggling. 

Over the years, I've learned to stop and obey when the Holy Spirit speaks to my heart and prompts me to witness to someone. In those times, I've come to the realization that I was not only giving, but receiving a blessing. 

I could have pretended not to hear the Holy Spirit's voice when He said, "Tell him about me." I could have kept walking past the young black man stacking boxes. I could have never looked him in the eyes or spoken a word to him and he would have kept on working - nothing about his day being different in any way. But God. God wanted me to have a close encounter. He wanted me to SEE Howard. He wanted me to care about Howard's needs. He wanted me to share some of Christ's love with Howard. 

I have no idea what Howard was dealing with. He didn't share a lot of detail about his life. Even though I don't know his needs, God does, and when we were praying, I asked God to meet each of Howard's needs in a very special way so I'm sure He will. 

I told Howard I wanted to see him in heaven and I sure hope I'll get to see him there one day. There are so many people living their lives in a state of confusion, especially in these rocky times in our world. It seems we're all sort of drifting away, but we don't have to. Those of us who know the truth of God's Word have to be ready to share the hope of our future with others. We have to give them something to cling to - the one and only something- Someone who matters - Jesus. 

If you ever hear a tiny whisper in the back of your mind that says, "Tell them about me.." Do it! God will use your obedience and He will bless it. I know. He's done it over and over again for me. 

Friday, March 4, 2022

Cancerphobic

Every year, on our way to our favorite beach, we pass Eglin Air Force base. As we drive past, we're always looking to see which way the large radars are pointing and what the sign in front of the base shows regarding their security status level. We've passed when the radars were pointing west, pointing east, and pointing north. When they're tipped upward, we get concerned, especially if the security alert is on high. We know, if the status is high, there's danger. And while we're thankful our military is always watching; the public isn't always aware of impending danger. 

For the person touched by cancer, it seems our antenna are always on high alert. We're always watching and waiting. While we watch and wait and hope cancer never comes back, we know there's a real chance it could. We pay more attention to our bodies. Every ache, every pain, every random soreness could be an indicator that something needs attention. That's when we realize we've allowed ourselves to become cancerphobic. 

It's not a place we choose to be, it just is what it is. Cancer does a number on a person. It causes one to go into an anxious and high stress state. It doesn't feel good to know there are things that happen with our bodies over which we have absolutely no control. So, we find ourselves always on high alert. 

When two small spots popped up on my face last year, I wasn't overly concerned. I assumed they were from years of sun exposure. They were small and unobtrusive. I covered them easily with makeup, but when they began to grow and change color a bit, I started watching them. 

Years earlier, I'd had a small black melanoma removed from the top of my right hand. The doctor had done a punch biopsy to remove it and I'd had 3 stitches to close the wound, leaving a tiny star shaped symbol on my had. All of this had happened before my diagnosis with breast cancer. I knew how dangerous melanoma could be. I'd lost a high school friend to melanoma. He'd had a black mole on his back and thought it just an ugly mole. Within a few months, he was dead. That incident caused all of us to examine our bodies closely. Who would have thought a simple mole could be so deadly? 

The places on my face didn't look like melanomas to me. They weren't large. They weren't black. They didn't look bad, but they were there, and they didn't used to be. I didn't want to take a chance, so I contacted a dermatologist and went in for an exam. 

The dermatologist took a complete medical history on me and then began the physical exam. She had a specialized tool that would allow her to magnify and exam the spots in detail. After the exam, she said she didn't think they were cancerous but couldn't be sure without biopsies. With my history of cancer and my family's history, too, I asked her to go ahead and remove them. 

First, she gave me an injection of lidocaine to numb my face. Then, she began to use a tool to shave layer after layer of the places away. When she had removed the growths, she took a cautery tool and began to cauterize the surgical sites to prevent bleeding. As I sat in the chair smelling my own skin burning, it was odd. I was thankful she had the expertise to help, and I was thankful I was being proactive. 

I should receive the results of the biopsies in a week or so. I'm praying there's no evidence of any cancer. 

Melanomas can develop anywhere on your body. Most of the time, they develop on areas of the skin that have been exposed to the sun. Those areas include the face, arms, legs, and back. But they can also appear on other areas of the body, like the soles of your feet or under the nails. 

Normal moles are usually one color - tan, brown, or black. They usually have a uniform border and are usually smaller than a pencil eraser, but they can change over time. 

If you notice changes, remembering to look for the ABCDEs can help in your assessment: 

A represents asymmetrical shape. These moles are uneven and if you were to slice the mole in half, the sides would be very different in shape. 
B represents border. Moles with unusual borders may have characteristics of melanoma. Pay attention to scalloped or notched borders. 
C represents color. Moles come in all kinds of colors but are usually one color. If you find a mole with more than one color, or one with an uneven distribution of color, pay attention. This could be indicative of melanoma. 
D represents diameter. Any mole larger than a pencil eraser should be checked by a doctor. 
E represents evolving. Watch your moles. If they begin to change over time, there may be something wrong. Pay attention to the shape, size, and color. If the mole begins to bleed or itch, consult a doctor right away. 





Melanomas occurs when melanocytes become damaged. Those are cells that give color to your skin.

There are many ways the cells can become damaged. Exposure to tanning beds and excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation are the most common causes of melanoma, but there are other risk factors. Those with very fair skin are at risk because they have less protection from damaging sun rays. Family history of melanoma can increase one's risk as well as a weakened immune system. 

The best way to protect your skin is to love it. Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. When you are out in the sun, use a good quality sunscreen, preferably with an SPF of 30 or more. Sun damage can occur even on overcast days, so it's a good policy to use sunscreen any time you're outside. It's also important to reapply the sunscreen every couple of hours and apply it generously. 

It's normal for a person who's experienced cancer before to feel cancerphobic now and then. Cancer is a very serious and life altering condition, but a fear of recurrence shouldn't prevent one from enjoying the outdoors. Your skin is the largest organ on your body. It does so much for you - it protects you from germs, it helps regulate your body temperature, and is the first layer of defense from injury. Doesn't it deserve to be loved and taken care of? We only get one "body suit." I'm going to take good care of mine by watching it closely. How about you? 







Almost a firecracker

Happy Saturday! Today would have been my Daddy's 90th birthday. It's so hard to believe he's been gone for 11 years now. I sure ...