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Another time, another place

I often hear people talk about how they wished they had been born in a different time period.  We have movies like “Back to the Future” and the “Time Traveler’s Wife” and others where people can be transported to different eras.  I have given that thought myself before and decided the “olden days” were good when things were simple but not so simple that there were no modern conveniences.

I have also thought about how I was born and raised in the United States.  I have been to third world countries and have seen firsthand how hard it is for some people just to survive from day to day.  They do not have access to clean water, food, shelter, education or jobs.  We recently finished a book in school on one of the Lost boys from Sudan that came to the U.S. and it got me thinking again about how I take for granted the fact that I was born to parents in this country.

It gets my brain on overload when I start to wonder, “Why me?”  Why was I chosen to be born where I was and when I was?  Many have even come before me that were fortunate enough to be born here in the U.S. but it was during a time when women didn’t have many rights or you had “washing day” where you had to spend an entire day washing your family’s clothes by hand and hang them out to dry (after you made your own laundry soap). Ugh!  I am counting my blessings!

Did you ever really think about why you were born when you were and where you were?  I’ve read this before but today it popped out at me.  “From one man he made all the people of the world. Now they live all over the earth. He (God) decided exactly WHEN they should live. And he decided exactly WHERE they should live.” Acts 17:26 NIRV  And do you know WHY He made us?  So that we could search for God and find Him (v.27).  Every human being is placed on earth with the purpose of seeking God.  You were specifically planned down to where and when you would be born!  

I no longer wish that I had been born at another time or even in another place (other than NJ).  I was thinking about the cancer diagnosis I received last year.  If I had been born years earlier, my cancer probably would not have been diagnosed in the early stages.  The aggressive cancer I had would have advanced quickly, and most likely it would have been too late for any treatment at all.  Any treatment that I received would not have been as effective as what I was able to get either.  If I lived elsewhere I might not have had access to the healthcare I was able to receive.  I literally pass by the hospital/doctors I use on my route to work each day so treatments were very convenient as well.  Right now I am happy to do just what I was put here for…seeking God.

 

 

Persistence pays off

At what point do you give up?  I guess that would depend on how bad you wanted something or how important it was to you.  After my car was junked and we had to find a cheap replacement quickly, we acquired a vehicle that  was mechanically sound enough to get me to work and back.  My husband had taken it for a test drive and came home with my “new” car.  As my son and I took it out for a spin I climbed in only to plant my feet on a sopping wet mat.  My husband deduced that the previous owner must have left a window open.  We aired out the rugs and started fresh.

Enter the first day of rain.  Floor mats are once again soaked.  At the first opportunity we spent several hours with Protected Carbuckets of water and then a hose trying to see where the water was coming in from.  It was impossible to find the source so we covered the car with a tarp the next few times it rained.  Once again, my husband spent several hours with a friend trying to find the source.  No luck.  Each time we came up with a different idea…was it the windshield, the door, underneath the car, was rubber rotted on a seal, the hole where the antenna came out of, etc?

Finally another friend helped my husband and they discovered that one of the tubes for a drain from my sunroof had become disconnected and the water was running down inside the frame.  It was a simple fix but had taken hours to figure out.  What if we hadn’t been persistent?  It would have been easy to give up.  It would have been very aggravating every time it rained if the source had never been found.

Now that we found the source of the interior leak, there is still one more to find.  I kept hearing a “sloshing” sound.  After investigation I realized that after a heavy rain my rear passenger door fills up with water!  Fortunately it does not leak INTO my car and I have to remember to drain it after a rainfall.  I guess with some more persistence we will be able to solve it.

It reminds me of a very persistent widow in Luke 18.  Jesus told a story about her to encourage his disciples to pray consistently and to not give up or lose hope.   How easily we can give up after praying ONCE about something.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 can be translated as “pray without ceasing,” “never stop praying,”  and “pray constantly.”  And what is prayer?  Simply talking to God, pouring out your heart to Him.  It’s not difficult to keep up a conversation.  He’s always listening and ready to hear what is on your heart.  I love the way The Message translates  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”  It’s an attitude of gratitude that flows from your heart despite your circumstances.  If you are a thankful person it’s much easier to continually be communing with God or talking to Him.  It’s natural to want to spend time with Him and persistently be in His presence.

I am rejoicing.  My mechanically sound car got me to Pittsburgh over Memorial Day weekend to visit with my daughter, son-in-law and other relatives.  It rained on the way out and the way back and we were safe and dry!

Together with some of my family in Pittsburgh

Together with some of my family in Pittsburgh

Becoming your Mother?

My mother and I

My mother and I

As Mother’s day nears it got me thinking about how the older I get, the more I find myself becoming my mother.  I think it first starts when you have children of your own.  You start to hear yourself say some of the same things that she said to you when you were a kid.

Me with my mother's hair

Me with my mother’s hair

As you continue to age you not only find yourself sounding like her but you start to look like her too!  Now for me this was the real kicker because I always looked more like my dad…skin tone, facial features, hair, eyes, etc.  Both my mom and my mother’s mother, Nana, had the kinkiest curliest hair you ever saw.  My hair always had body and some wave but I would never have even used the adjective “curly”.  I was thankful that I never had their hair.  All my hair fell out with chemo treatments and when it grew back in this year, it was curly!  I now have my mother’s hair!

Is becoming your mother a bad thing?  I guess that would all depend upon who your mother is.  In my case, it is truly a compliment if I have indeed become my mother.  You see, my mother is giving, compassionate, and humble. She loves the Lord and is a prayer warrior.  She would do anything for anyone.  Right now she is recovering from some physical problems and has been sidelined.  It is killing her to have my dad and other people do things for her and to be on the receiving end of things.  She is in her element when she can be helping someone else.  From the time I was little to the present  there is hardly a holiday that I can remember where we didn’t have at least one non-relative guest sitting at the table with us.  In her 70’s now she is still bringing a group to a nursing home monthly to visit with the patients.

My mother with her curly hair

My mother with her curly hair

The strange thing is Nana was all of these things.  She was such a pillar that when my mother became a grandmother to my daughter, she didn’t want to be called “Nana” because there was only one “Nana” and I think she didn’t feel like she could live up to that.   Nana always saw the good in everyone and rarely spoke negatively about anything or anyone.  Now I see that my mother became her mother!

I see this as a legacy being transferred from one generation to another. Timothy had this legacy. “That precious memory triggers another: your honest faith—and what a rich faith it is, handed down from your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice, and now to you!” (2 Timothy 1:5 MSG) I hope and pray that I can leave as valuable a legacy to my children even if they don’t end up with curly hair!  Nichole Nordeman sings a song called “Legacy.”  You can listen to it here   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KEe-dA3a4M 

The chorus says:

” I want to leave a legacy                                                                                        

myself, Nana with her wild hair, my father and older brother at Ellis Island

myself, Nana with her wild hair, my father and older brother at Ellis Island

How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy ” 

I feel blessed that God chose to give me my earthly mother.  I can think of no higher compliment than “becoming my mother” although my husband may disagree…ha ha.  Happy Mother’s Day Mom!  I love you!

Spilt milk

There is an idiom that says not to cry over spilt milk.  There is no use crying over a past loss or something that cannot be undone or changed.  This saying came to mind when my car broke down the other week.  I had to be towed and after why store cord bloodtaking a look under the hood the car was not worth fixing and had to be salvaged.  As I emptied the contents out of my vehicle I noticed that I had only gone 15 miles on a full tank of gas!  We asked the mechanic if we could siphon out the gas somehow.  It was impossible and we abandoned the car with a full tank.

It was bad enough that now we needed to purchase another vehicle but it really bothered me that I had just filled up the tank the night before the car died.  It hurt.  I was annoyed at what had happened.  I was dwelling on it and realized it was only spilt milk.  I had to mop it up and move on.

The other container of milk that spilled was the fact that my car broke down because it needed a new timing belt.  We had the timing belt replaced 16 months ago by a different garage.  This mechanic showed us the current timing belt that needed replacing…dry rotted and missing “teeth”.  There was no way that this was a belt that was only 16 months old yet we had the receipt from the work showing it had supposedly been done.  We called the previous mechanic but it was already over 12 months and 12,000 miles so it was no longer covered and it was his word against ours that it had indeed been replaced.  We could argue but it didn’t seem like it would get us anywhere and could drag on or we could simply mop up the milk and move on.

Even regarding cancer it would be easy to say, “I should have eaten better or exercised more or ….” and maybe it would have made a difference.  As parents we regret some of things we did or didn’t do in raising our children. There are so many areas of our lives; education decisions, job choices, something that was said or shouldn’t have been said, a purchase we made, an opportunity not acted upon, etc. etc. etc.  Yes, the choices we make in life do have an impact on our life but once made cannot be retracted.  The thing to look at is how we go on from there.  Do you chose to move on or are you living with regret with the “What if’s” and “I should/shouldn’t have” ?  It’s spilt milk.  Mop it up by dealing with the consequences and then move on.

My full tank of gas and a mechanic’s error are really minor in comparison to major things to move on from;  for me they were big at the moment.  Finances are very tight right now and it hurt.  Not only would I need to purchase another car but I would have to fill it up again!  I could have let it really get to me and get me down for a few days but I chose to see it as spilt milk and move on.  One thing I did to turn this into something positive was I purchased Conquer Cancer license plates for my “new” (ha ha 17 years old) replacement vehicle.  I feel like I’m continuing to kick cancer’s butt each time I approach my car and glance at my plates.  I haven’t been able to participate in a walkathon but most of the plate fee and 100% of the minimal annual renewal fee goes to cancer research.

Matthew West has a song called “Hello, my name is.”  The first stanza is “Hello, my name is regret. I’m pretty sure we have met. Every single day of your life I’m the whisper inside that won’t let you forget.”  He goes on to say that listening to those voices and lies causes defeat in our lives and that we can be set free by who we are in Christ adding,  “I am no longer defined by all the wreckage behind.”  Watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuJWQzjfU3o

Forget the things that happened in the past. Do not keep on thinking about them. I am about to do something new. It is beginning to happen even now.  Don’t you see it coming? I am going to make a way for you to go through the desert. I will make streams of water in the dry and empty land.”  Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIRV) Why live with regret whispering in your ear when we can have hope for something new and different with the Lord?  No more crying over spilt milk!  Mop it up and move on.

“I can see clearly now…”

I was nearing the end of my supply of  contacts and went to have my eyes checked.  Imagine my surprise when my doctor was puzzled why my eyesight in one eye had rapidly gone down hill…I  couldn’t even make out the big letters on the chart.  He started asking me if I had had a head injury recently and other  related questions.  I was getting more worried by the minute and so was he.  He proceeded to do some tests and use some different instruments and was able to establish the fact that there was no internal damage to my retina or anything but that one eye was inflamed and scratched and dry causing my vision to blur.  I had conjunctivitis about a month ago and apparently that had never fully cleared up.

Prescription eye drops 4 times a day and artificial tears hourly were to be part of my routine for at least the next week along with check-ups every few days.  When I left his office I closed my good eye and realized I couldn’t see out of my “bad” eye even with my glasses on.  How long had this been going on?  My good eye had been doing such a good job overcompensating for the lack of vision in the affected eye that I had not even realized the vision had deteriorated in one eye so drastically.

The good news is that my vision was back within two days but the eye was still not healed.  Next I was switched to eye drops that were both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory as well. We realized that the other eye was extremely dry as well. Unfortunately although it appears the infection did clear up, the inflammation is  still under my eyelid.  I continue to hydrate my eyes and be treated while we figure this out.  The doctor is a little puzzled and is not sure yet if I will be able to wear contacts anymore.

The more I thought about this it occurred to me that it had been almost a year that I have been having some “problems” with my eyes and that it was almost a year ago that I had my first chemo treatment.  I wear contacts daily and rarely wear my glasses but over the past year my eyes had been bothering me in some way or another.  At times my vision seemed blurry, my eyes were red, they were sensitive or itchy, even excess tears and I would have to leave my contacts out for days or a week at a time until the redness or irritation went away.  I had so many uncomfortable side effects from chemo that I was dealing with that I had paid little attention to a minor one such as the eye irritation or my vision.  It wasn’t until this eye exam that I finally put two and two together and realized that dry eye syndrome was yet another marvelous side effect from cancer treatment.  It is not listed specifically for the drugs I had been given, but I see it listed in general for chemo treatment and see in forums where many patients complain of it.  I was unable to see any information about whether this goes away in time.  If anyone has more information about that, I would be anxious to know.  Dry eye syndrome is also more common in those over the age of 40,  in menopausal women, and in those taking blood pressure medication so it could be a combination in my case.

Your immune resistance is lowered during chemo and you are more prone to infection.  This, in addition  to the dryness in my eyes, Drawing the human eye by echo1180allowed for more irritation as well. When  my hair fell out after the start of chemo, I lost my eyebrows and most of my eyelashes as well, allowing even more bacteria to enter my eyes.   Wearing the same soft porous lenses for a month at a time did not help.  My doctor said switching to daily wear contacts would be better with a lesser chance of infection since they are disposed of after one use.  Another option may be going back to hard lenses as they not only cover a  much smaller portion of the eye, but would not be sitting in solutions overnight and would carry less bacteria since they are not porous.

 

On a humorous note, one of the tests that my doctor does is put drops of Fluorescein in my eyes.  Fluorescein is a yellow dye that stains the cornea where the epithelial (surface) cells have been worn away because of the lack of an adequate protective tear film.  With the use of a “blue” light it will help identify abrasions or scratches present on the surface of the eye.   Somehow the bright yellow dye ends up outlining my eye and appears bright orange once it is on my skin.  After I left there the first time I was unaware of the dye left until I walked into the store to meet my daughter and she wanted to know what was the matter with me.  When I looked in the mirror we both busted out laughing at the orange circle around my eye!

I still don’t know for sure where this will end up but it got me thinking about many things…how we take our vision for granted, how we tend to the more urgent things but allow smaller things to fall by the wayside, and especially how we can easily end up allowing something to be “acceptable” or the norm and take a foothold in our life, learning to live with it, even becoming insensitive to its presence in our life.  The last thing you would want to happen in your spiritual life is to “give the devil a foothold in your life” (Ephesians 4:27), allowing him to stay and putting up with his presence to the point that you are not in tune to the spirit.  We do not want to become complacent or numb but want to remain sensitive to “irritations” in our lives that have no place being there.

“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.” (1 Peter 5:8-11 Message)

 

Face to face

Girlfriends ClipartThere’s something to be said about a face to face meeting, especially when it comes to friends.  It’s nice to get a phone call, or an email or a letter but there’s nothing like seeing someone in person.  I had the pleasure recently of a visit from an old friend.   Although we keep in touch we figured out that it had been two years since we had been together in person.  Even though our visit unfortunately could only be for an hour, this brief encounter was a gift and a bright spot to my day.

We quickly tried to run through updates, answer questions, share stories and pictures, and laugh.  Priceless was our “hello” and “good-bye” hugs.  She left me refreshed and blessed, feeling thankful for having such a good friend in my life, one where we can easily pick up where we left off the last time.  I also was left feeling challenged to make the most of every encounter after hearing some of her stories.

My beautiful roses from my friend.Joshua Siniscal photography

My beautiful roses from my friend.
Joshua Siniscal photography

The following day I had the pleasure of getting together with three other women from my graduate school cohort.  We were all part of a pilot program for career changers who had not been in college for quite some time.  It had  been a difficult 18 months and we all clung to each other as we navigated our way through.  That program ended almost two years ago and from time to time we get together.   We email occasionally but seeing each other in person is different, there’s more of a connection and bonding.  I had not seen them since before my cancer diagnosis and when we met for coffee one of the gals had a dozen roses for me!  It is so good to connect once in a while with people that you don’t want to lose in your life.  They have played a significant part of your past and face to face is a must.

During my break from work this week I had yet another opportunity to meet with another friend I had not seen in quite a while.  She treated me to lunch and we sat there until they were almost getting ready for the dinner crowd!  It was great to get caught up and share things with someone with a kindred spirit and be encouraged and refreshed.  Especially touching (and a little humorous) was when she shared that she prays for me daily when she is in the shower as part of her “routine.”  What a gift to a friend!  Again I was challenged in different areas and believe that God speaks through others to us.

I am looking forward to our annual women’s retreat next month.  I always enjoy the teaching sessions but just as rewarding is being able to spend time with women I love.  Sure, I “see” most of them on a weekly basis but don’t really get the opportunity to spend time with them and catch up on anything.  This will be quality “face to face”.

There’s only one person that I am aware of that had a “face to face” experience with God.  Moses was allowed this privilege.  Exodus 33:11 says, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (NIV) Wow!  I think this might have been just a little bit scary for Moses.  On the other hand, get ready because one day WE will all get this chance; “Then, the Arrival of the Son of Man! It will fill the skies—no one will miss it. Unready people all over the world, outsiders to the splendor and power, will raise a huge lament as they watch the Son of Man blazing out of heaven. At that same moment, he’ll dispatch his angels with a trumpet-blast summons, pulling in God’s chosen from the four winds, from pole to pole,” Matthew 24:30-31 (The Message).

In 1 Corinthians 13:12 it says, “Now we see only a dim likeness of things. It is as if we were seeing them in a mirror. But someday we will see clearly. We will see face to face. What I know now is not complete. But someday I will know completely, just as God knows me completely.” (NIV)  We’ll get all our questions answered.

Like the apostle John, although I write to you with “pen and ink” in my blog, I look forward to the times when I can see you, my readers, face to face!  2 John 1:12 says, “Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full.” (NASB)

As we celebrate this holy week of Easter, remember what your best friend did for you, dying in your place for your sins so that you could spend eternity with Him.  Friendships are truly a blessing, but the relationship you have with Jesus should be golden.

One of my favorite songs about the return of Jesus, being able to finally see Him face to face, is “We shall behold Him” by Sandi Patty.  Here it is with a video portraying what this meeting may just look like.  Enjoy!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dadf7JHQmuw

Words

Words… Words are a way we communicate with one another. They can be spoken or written but either way they can impact another person positively or negatively. It’s amazing to think that words are only something made up of speech sounds or written or printed characters but they have the power to change a life. They can make or break someone’s day or change a course of a lifetime.

Think about it; the power of even one or two words. “I do.” “Yes.” “No.” I had quite a number of medical appointments and tests done last week…thyroid biopsy, breast MRI, echo cardiogram, Pabst smear, infusion, bone density, root canal, etc. The results came back in drips and drabs over the course of the week. Each time it was a simple “normal” or “benign” and even a “beautiful” was thrown in there. Just one simple word told me all I needed to know or cared to know. I was thankful those were the words I was told, especially after what I went through medically in the last year.

Today, March 1st, is World Compliment Day.  Think about how something as simple as a compliment could put a smile on someone’s face or brighten their day.  You know the old adage, “Think before you speak” or “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say 560166_10151427374636530_552397826_nanything at all”? There’s a lot of wisdom in that. Proverbs 10:19, “The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.” (Message) There’s a time and a place to say certain things as well. “The right word at the right time is like golden apples in silver jewelry.” Proverbs 25:11 (NIRV)

The third chapter in the book of James is about taming the tongue, or I should say our inability to do so. He alludes to the bit in the mouth of a horse and to a rudder on a large ship. It controls or steers it in the direction the rider or pilot wants to go. It is a small thing but it does a big job, good or bad, like a spark starting a forest fire. The tongue can be used to praise or to curse. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.” (NLT) At the same time, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” (NASB)

When we read or hear the Word of God, it is soothing and satisfying to our whole being.  Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (NIV)  The Message translation puts it this way, “Your words are so choice, so tasty; I prefer them to the best home cooking.” Wow! These were especially prepared for us to devour and feast off of.  They are truth and show us how to live our lives not only here on earth but an eternal offer as well.

I really like a new song that has been played recently on a station I listen to. It’s simply called “Words” by Hawk Nelson and how words can build us up or break us down. Part of the chorus goes like this, “Let my words be life/Let my words be truth/I don’t wanna say a word/Unless it points the world back to You. This is exactly how I feel about this blog. Although I hope that it has been both informative and encouraging to others with breast cancer or anything else they may be going through, I cannot write a post unless my words are pointing back to God. This blog may be about my experiences but it’s purpose is not to point to me but to the Lord and what He is doing with a broken vessel. He gets the glory for everything and anything good in me or that may come from me.

Here is the official Youtube video of the song “Words.”  Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anVweXDcxhA