Thursday, May 25, 2023

How do people react when they smell you?

Those who know me well know I like a certain perfume. I've enjoyed it for many years and have received many compliments on it. I guess it mixes well with my body chemistry and creates a pleasant aroma. When I walk into a room, inevitably someone will come up to me and ask what scent I'm wearing. I used to hesitate to tell them fearing my secret scent would be stolen, but now I share openly when I'm asked. It's a nice feeling to know others want to know the name of my perfume because they like it. 

Some people are very sensitive to scents, that's one reason I like mine. It's a light scent that doesn't overwhelm or arrive before I do when I enter a room. 

I remember, as a child, sitting in church with my mother. In front of us was an older woman who apparently couldn't smell very well because she doused herself in perfume. It was an overpowering smell and would cause me to feel nauseous. I told myself I'd never do that so when I started wearing perfume, around the age of 15, I did my best to find light, floral scents. 

It took a while to find one that mixed well with my body chemistry. At first, the scents I chose seemed to sit on top of my skin and linger there. Other times, they'd mix with the warmth of my skin and the scent would grow increasingly stronger throughout the day. I didn't find that attractive at all. 

I loved visiting the department stores where perfume reps would offer tiny free sample bottles of perfumes. I'd take them home and try them, often throwing them in the trash after one application. Years later, instead of giving free samples of perfume, the reps would spray the perfume onto a white piece of cardstock with the name of the perfume and the manufacturing company's logo on it. You could still smell the fragrance, but it was slightly diffused and would evaporate quickly. 

As I got older, I'd go into Macy's or Belk's and sidle up to the perfume counter perusing the various shapes and sizes of bottles displayed perfectly on ornate mirrors along the countertops. Sometimes, the shape of the bottle would entice me but more often than not, the scent won me over - that is, if the price wasn't prohibitive. Some perfumes were extremely expensive!

I never liked the knock off brands. They tried their best to copy an original scent's formula but never quite got it right. Though they were less expensive, those knock offs didn't last long and would often smell really bad after a month or so. 

When I finally found my "signature scent" I wore it all the time. Whenever I was out shopping, I'd buy an extra bottle just in case my stock was getting low. I didn't want to run out! 

One day, I went to buy my perfume and found it had been discontinued. I was mortified. Immediately, I got on Amazon and started looking for small businesses that had purchased large lots of the discontinued scent. I found several places that still carried it and ordered immediately. As months passed, I found it more and more difficult to find my favorite perfume and with much chagrin, decided to find a new favorite. 

It took a great deal of time and energy before I finally found another I liked as well as the first. Thankfully, my new favorite hasn't been on the market long so it's still very popular. I get the same type reaction whenever I wear it. People want to know the name of the scent and I gladly tell them. 

But did you know, even if you're not wearing any perfume, you still carry a fragrance around with you? And I'm not talking about how you smell after you've been outside working in your garden or mowing the lawn! I'm not even talking about how you smell if you've just cooked a big meal of fried chicken or some other smelly food. I'm not talking about how you smell after a good long shower or a hot bubble bath, either! If you're a Christ follower, you carry around a very unique fragrance. You carry the aroma of Christ. 

What does the aroma of Christ smell like? Well, it's hard to describe. It's not an actual scent, per se. It's more of an atmosphere or inner beauty exuding from your pores. When Christ dwells in you, you carry Him around with you wherever you go. 

Have you ever had a complete stranger come up to you and start talking to you like you're an old friend or have you repulsed someone without saying a word? If so, you've had a reaction to your scent. Those who are either saved or in the process of learning about Christ, or being drawn closer to Him, will find your scent attractive. You'll be like a magnet to them. They'll want to be around you because they sense something different in you. But those who are unsaved, or those far from Christ (They may have even chosen to reject Him completely) will want to get as far away from you as possible. Christ in you will repel them. 

Carrying around the aroma of Christ is a great responsibility and one we shouldn't take lightly. If you have the honor and privilege of wearing that fragrance daily, it's your duty to share His Name, the name of your special aroma, with others. 

We live in a sour and stinky world! It definitely needs a good dose of "smell good" (that's what one of my children called my perfume when they were small.) Never forget that you carry around a sweet perfume, a scent like no other - the aroma of Christ and you take it with you everywhere you go!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

When the fear of cancer recurrence becomes detrimental to health


For the past nine years, I’ve struggled with waves of overwhelming fear of cancer recurrence. I knew I had an issue, but until recently, wasn’t aware of how much fear was affecting my life.

cartoon drawing of blogger and breast cancer survivor, Bonnie Annis

The fear began to manifest in physical problems. First, I noticed my heart would race even though I wasn’t exerting myself, so I started seeing a cardiologist. I’d had problems with hypertension in the past, but this was something new. After running a slew of tests, the doctor assured me I was OK and the three medications I was already taking were doing a good job. He told me not to worry, so I tried my best to heed his advice.

Next, I began having trouble sleeping. I’d done a lot of reading about aging and sleep problems, so I wasn’t too concerned, but when I started waking up exhausted. I knew something wasn’t right. The cardiologist suggested we do a sleep study, so I agreed to it. The test revealed I had sleep apnea, so I found a pulmonologist to address that.

I started having stomach issues and wasn’t able to digest my food well, so my primary doctor referred me to a gastroenterologist. After several tests, it was determined I had legitimate concerns. I was afraid I had esophageal cancer — the cancer that took my brother’s life — but the doctor assured me he’d do more testing. I endured two endoscopies and a colonoscopy, and even had my esophagus stretched. While I awaited the results from those tests, my fear grew.

An enlarged lymph node on the side of my neck freaked me out. Immediately, I called the oncologist and set up an appointment. She ordered an ultrasound. When the test was inconclusive, I panicked. I wasn’t ready to face cancer again. The doctor ordered a CT scan of my neck and one of my abdomen just to be sure there was no cancer there. I was thankful she was proactive.

When I received an email alert through the patient portal of my cancer treatment center, I just about lost it. Why was the oncologist calling me in to see her? If it was good news, wouldn’t she have called and told me? The fear inside reached epic proportions.

I called my husband at work and asked if he could take a vacation day to accompany me to the appointment. I didn’t want to face bad news alone. Immediately, he went to his boss and made the request. I felt a little more at ease knowing he’d be with me.

The night before the appointment, I didn’t sleep a wink, even with my CPAP machine. My thoughts were all over the place. What would I do if I had to face cancer again? I didn’t think I could do it.

In the morning, as we drove to the cancer treatment center, my husband held my hand. He talked softly to me and assured me that whatever the news, he’d be right with me.

After waiting in the lobby for about thirty minutes, my name was called. Grasping my husband’s hand, I tugged on it hard as I stood up to follow the nurse. Together, we walked into the exam room and waited for the doctor.

I did my best to control my breathing as the nurse took my vital signs. The nurse asked if my blood pressure was normally high. I replied, “No.” She turned the screen to reveal my systolic pressure was 157. I told her I guessed I was nervous.

The doctor came in with a scribe and her medical assistant. She barely greeted us before sitting down and opening her laptop. I tried to read her body language but couldn’t. She seemed to be all business.

As she pulled up the report for the CT scans, she said, “There’s no cancer on your scans, so you have nothing to worry about. And I see here that that you’re coming up on nine years being cancer free, so I don’t need to see you but once a year now, unless you have something that pops up in between time.” She stood and folded her laptop, then headed toward the door.

“But wait!” I said anxiously, “Are you sure? This wasn’t what I was expecting.” She nodded her head and put her hand on the doorknob. As she turned it, I felt a rush of cool air brush my face.

When she’d exited the room, I turned to my husband, tears in my eyes, and exhaled. We were both in shock. Neither of us expected to hear good news delivered in such a cavalier fashion. Sure, the appointment was probably the last of the day for the doctor, but gee, didn’t I deserve a high five or something?

As we left the cancer treatment center, I suddenly realized I wouldn’t be coming again for an entire year. I had mixed emotions. On one hand, I was happy to be walking out with good news, on the other, I wondered how I’d let fear overpower me so easily.

When I got home, I went into the bathroom and cried. The tears were a much-needed emotional release. Until that point, I hadn’t realized that every time I’d felt any kind of physical malady I’d subconsciously defaulted to “it’s cancer.”

I’m a pretty grounded person, but that afternoon, I realized I had some unresolved post-traumatic stress to deal with. I’d thought that I’d done most of that healing work over the past nine years, but I guess a barb of fear had lodged itself deep in my spirit.

Fear is a powerful weapon the enemy uses against us. The important thing is to learn to recognize it and disarm it.

If there was one piece of advice I’d like to give others facing the overwhelming fear of recurrence, it’s to give yourself grace. We’re only human. It’s normal to dread a recurrence of cancer, especially when it's come into your life and done a number on your mental and physical well-being. Sometimes, it’s necessary to get professional help to conquer it and there’s no shame in that. But please, don’t let it control your life like I did.

I once read a powerful quotation by Emily Freeman I’d like to share with you, “Worry is a thief, fear is a liar, and anxiety is their trembling, furrow-browed baby.” That sums it up perfectly. No one deserves to live under that kind of stress.

Nine years is a long time to deal with the powerful side effect of fear that cancer brought into my life. So today, I choose to release myself from it. And if it ever tries to rear its ugly head again, I’m going to lop it off and scream, “NOT TODAY! I am alive and doing well.” That, my friends, is my new mantra. I’ve fought too hard to let down my guard ever again. I am blessed and I’m going to start living like it.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

The babies are about to leave!

For the past couple of weeks, we've been watching a nesting box in our backyard. It's hung on a huge Pine tree, about 4 feet off the ground. Inside the box are 5 baby Bluebirds.

One of the things we loved when we moved here was the fact that our home was surrounded by all sorts of trees. Living on a wooded lot, we've enjoyed all sorts of wildlife everything from tiny Hummingbirds to majestic deer, but the thing we enjoy most of all is when the Bluebirds come. 

Every year, around the end of April, a nest of pine straw begins to form in the nesting boxes we've put out. Slowly and methodically, the mother bird carries bits of straw, twigs, dryer lint, and even hair from recent haircuts. We try to leave a few bits near the base of the trees to help her out. 

Sleepy babies

After the nest is built, she'll sit there and lay her eggs while the male Bluebird brings her worms to eat. We don't disturb her when she's on the eggs. When we see her flying out to go get her own food, we know the babies have either just hatched out or are about to. 

From that point on, we watch and wait. About 2 weeks in, we start closely monitoring the nest. I watch to make sure the parents are away hunting food and gently lift the front door to the nesting box. As I peek in, I can see the growth of the babies and compare it to a chart I have that tells me about how old they are. I snap a quick photo and close the door. From what I've read, Bluebirds don't have a keen sense of smell so I can do this without upsetting them. I never touch the babies or the nest though, just in case.

As the babies grow and change, they begin to get more and more feathers. They start out a dark gray color and eventually start getting a bluish tint. Most of the time the babies are sleeping when I check on them, but occasionally, they'll have their eyes wide open waiting on Mama's latest catch to appear. 

Alert and waiting on Mama to feed them

They're so cute! I really want to pick one up and hold it, but know I can't. 

Bluebirds are only in the nesting box about 19-20 days, so these little ones are just about ready to fledge. Mama bird will come to the front of the nesting box and begin coaxing them out. One by one, they'll ease out and fly down to the ground. After their wings get a little stronger and the baby a little bolder, it will fly up to a low hanging branch and wait for the mother to coax it on its journey. 

I've been able to capture that with past broods and hope to with this one as well. 

It kind of makes me sad to see them go. It feels almost like it did when my kids were growing up. I knew one day they'd leave, but I didn't want them to. I wanted to keep them with me forever, but that's not healthy. Our job is to give them roots and wings. 

I'm on high alert for the rest of today, tomorrow, and the next day. I'm pretty sure I've gotten the timing right and the babies will be leaving no later than Tuesday. I'll keep you posted! 

Monday, May 1, 2023

Love Hate Relationship With My Phone

Cellphones. Love them or hate them? If I had to answer honestly, I'd say both. Sometimes I love the convenience of having my phone always with me and sometimes I don't. I love being able to receive instant messages, alerts, and phone calls. I love the quick and easy access to a pocket sized camera that takes decent photos, but I hate that my phone seems to control my life. 

Several years back, we had a house phone and our cell phones. When we were home, we could turn off our cells and rely on communication through our home phone, but that didn't last long. People began ditching their home phones to avoid an unnecessary bill and since most cable companies and cell phone providers didn't provide battery backups in case of power outages, home phones weren't what they used to be - the old timey kind that were wired in and received data from cables attached to utility poles. 

After a while, we cut the cord, too. It seemed unnecessary to have a home phone if we wouldn't be able to use it in the event of a power outage. It felt odd after we did it, kind of like we'd cut our lifeline to the world, but over time we've gotten used to the era of digital calling. 

But sometimes I feel like we worship our phones. I don't know if many would look at them as idols, but when we spend more time on them that time with God, that's exactly what they are. 

This morning, as soon as I got out of bed, I pulled my cell phone out of my nightstand drawer. I keep it there overnight with the do not disturb feature omn so I can sleep. I have it set so immediate family can still interrupt even if that feature is on, but I don't have to deal with other calls or notifications, which is a nice thing. 

After turning off the do not disturb feature, my phone instantly starts pinging with various notifications - Incoming messages, Facebook messages, news alerts, weather reports, and phone calls. I thought I'd gotten immune to the sounds, but this morning, they really bothered me. 

For one hour, I noticed how many irritations came in through my cell phone. In that brief time span, I was inundated with "stuff" (I could have said another word here, but I didn't.). I got tired of it so I turned my phone on silent and in the silence, I heard the Holy Spirit speak to my heart, "Which do you love more, God or your phone?" Whoa...There's no contest there. I love God WAY more than I could ever love a silly cell phone. Then, I felt Him saying, "Prove it." 

At that very moment, I was on the phone with my youngest daughter who calls me every morning as she's on her way to work. She's so thoughtful to call and check in on me and I appreciate it. We usually talk for about 30 minutes or more and in between the time we're on the phone and when we get off, my husband goes on his morning break at work. He always shoots me a few text messages to tell me he loves me and to check in on how I'm doing. Again, I love getting those messages, but in between talking with my daughter and receiving and replying to texts from my hubby, other notifications start coming in. A barrage of little dings and beeps keep me picking up and looking at my phone. Some days I feel like it's my tether to the world and other days I want to pitch it out the window, so I did something radical. I turned it off. 

With the phone off, I pulled out my Bible and had my quiet time, which was beautiful and sweet. I love communing with God. 

As I read His Word, I got the message loud and clear, He loves me and wants to spend time with me but sometimes, I let other things get in the way. Shame on me! 

The cell phone doesn't own me or control me and I needn't act like it does. And I shouldn't allow it to frustrate me to the point of exasperation either. It's supposed to be a useful tool at my disposal, so how did it become so much more? 

I think many have allowed their iPhones or Android devices to slowly but surely become idols in their lives. Though we may not bow down and worship them, we certainly give them more time and attention than we do God and that needs to stop immediately! 

1 John 5:21 in the Amplified version of the Bible says it so well - "Little children, keep yourselves from idols (false gods)  - {from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God, from any sort of substitute for Him that would take first place in your life}. Amen (so let it be).  

Forgive us, Lord, for not spending as much time with You as we do on our cell phones. Help us turn off outside distractions and focus on You. Show us truths from Your Holy Word about how we are to live, love, and occupy until You come back for us one day in the very near future and help us remember, You created us to worship You and You alone. Amen.

A robot is going to do my surgery?

My innards have decided they don't want to work anymore. For the past 3 years, I've been having issues. First, it started with diffi...