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!

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“Blooming” trials

This week I heard the word “blooming” used in a way I wasn’t familiar with.    I had always thought of blooming only in the sense of flowering or blossoming.  The word “blooming” can be used as an adjective or an adverb, rhyming with crewman or human,  is chiefly British and was probably a euphemism for “bloody” as in a bloody fool.  It is used as a generalized intensive.

Photo credit: Joshua Siniscal

Photo credit: Joshua Siniscal

This happens to be one of my favorite times of the year.  I love to see all the trees budding and flowers blooming, the grass turning green and lawns getting cut, flower beds being cleaned up, and gardens started.  Unfortunately for so many with seasonal allergies this is not a favorite time of year but one of dread.  Green dust covers our cars and the pollen count climbs higher.  I see many with puffy itchy eyes and congestion.  It makes me wonder how something so beautiful can cause so much heartache and discomfort?  The pollen’s got some blooming nerve!

At the same time, there are horrible things like cancer or many other trials and tribulations that are not beautiful in and of themselves but can bring forth beauty.  It’s like a bulb or seed in the ground…ugly, dead, lifeless, hidden.  After a period of time and nurturing in the soil, with some warmth from the sun, and some water, a new life pokes out of the ground and blooms for all to see!

My lilac tree

Patience, the lilac tree

This is the same in our lives.  A bad report, some unwelcome news, a loss, or a heartache happens.  Our heavenly Father holds us in His bosom, comforts us, cradles us, gives us hope, warms us in the Son, refreshes our spirit with His Word, and once again we are ready to bloom in a new place where He has planted us for yet another season in life.

My oldest daughter loves lilacs and when we moved to our current house I planted a lilac tree that was only about 18″ high.  It took several years before we even had one bloom on the tree and while we waited she aptly named the tree “Patience.”  It is now tall and full of lovely blossoms but they didn’t come overnight.  It took a lot of love and nurturing, some very cold winters, and a time of waiting before others could enjoy the beauty and fragrance that it gives off.

“I will put beautiful crowns on their heads in place of ashes.  I will anoint them with oil to give them gladness instead of sorrow.  I will give them a spirit of praise in place of a spirit of sadness. They will be like oak trees that are strong and straightThe Lord himself will plant them in the land.  That will show how glorious he is.” (Isaiah 61:3 NIRV)

Blooming where you are planted (amidst your trials) is a bloomin’ good place to be!

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.

Seasonal changes and survival

Seasons.  After what seemed like a long winter we finally got a taste of spring.  A few  days of unseasonably warm days.  Windows were finally opened for a bit. People were outside cleaning up yards.  Motorcycles were taken out for a spin. Everyone seemed happier.  It was a tease for a few days but a welcome one.  Each season brings some kind of change.  Some “seasons” in our life are brief; others seem like they will never end.  Some are welcomed, others dreaded.  How do we handle these changes when they are big and not welcomed?

Rock ptarmigan

ptarmigan

In school this week my students had read about some animals that live in the tundra and taiga where the ground is frozen and it snows a lot. How do they handle the seasonal changes?   The arctic fox and the arctic hare are  brownish grey in summer and white in winter. Their camouflage  helps them to survive.  The ptarmigan, an arctic bird, also changes to pure white in the winter but additionally grows stiff feathers between its toes so it can walk on the frozen ground. They can also fly into snow banks and nestle in the snow to sleep and keep warm.  By doing this they don’t leave tracks for predators to follow either. The wolverine grows thick fur and has flat paws so it can walk on top of the snow.  Other animals like the arctic ground squirrel simply hibernate and sleep the long cold winter away.

Seasonal changes for animals and adaptation.  God has equipped animals with ways to adapt in order to survive.  Amazing!  More amazing is that God has done the same for us humans and we are much more important to Him.  “You, beloved, are worth so much more than a whole flock of sparrows. God knows everything about you, even the number of hairs on your head. So do not fear.” (Matthew 10:30-31 VOICE)

So what are the ways we have been equipped to handle major changes in our lives?  I was thinking how different my life become almost overnight one year ago.  For me it was a cancer diagnosis.  For you it may be a different type of health issue, or a job loss, your marriage, financial woes, or problems with your children.  How do we weather the storm or season we are in?

I believe that our survival mode must include prayer.  Prayer is simply talking to God and hearing His voice.  We need to know what direction to go, what to do, and how to do it.  We need to trust God and follow His lead.  This is our GPS to get us through it.  He has given us the scriptures, His Word, our survival manual.  “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 MSG)  If we release our burden to God, we are no longer carrying the weight of it.  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

We could choose to hibernate from our problems but they would still be there when we “woke up.”  They aren’t going to go away while we sleep or try to ignore them; in fact, they would probably get worse. We will never get to the next season until we go through the one we are currently in.  Some seasons will be better than others.  I find comfort in the fact that if God has equipped animals with ways to survive the seasonal changes and He cares more for me, then I know He has equipped me with what I will need to endure and embrace whatever changes come my way.  “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair;  there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 GNT)  We are not alone.  We will survive!  Spring is in the air!

“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

Depressing Debt

The “price tag” on an expensive item can send us into sticker shock.  Some things we decide we can do without because it’s more than we would care to spend but sometimes it is not optional.  This is the case for necessary medical treatment and procedures, especially if it life threatening.  I don’t want to get into the whole health insurance debate because it turns my stomach but to make a long story short my health insurance switched as of the first of the year.  I am just now receiving bills through my new insurance.

Cancer treatment is very expensive.  Every treatment is thousands and thousands of dollars.  It can throw you into sticker shock when you start to scrutinize every statement and then the bills that follow.  It’s one of those items that you really can’t do without, can’t purchase second hand or find on Craig’s List, or  bid for on E bay.  I was trying to figure out how to pay the deductible that had been met and then got billed for the out-of-pocket max already for the year.  To add insult to injury next came the estimate and bills for my root canal, post and crown with my new dental insurance.

Going through treatments is bad enough but having to deal with the paperwork, billing and financial price tag on top of that can be very overwhelming.  I can easily let this eat away at me and get depressed which was starting OR I can choose to focus on the fact that my God has always provided.  He tells us not to worry, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,'” Matthew 6:34 (NIV).  I can rest in the fact that HE has not changed.  He is faithful and has promised to provide for my needs.  “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:19 (NIV).  Matthew 6:26, “ Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (RSV)  If He takes care of a little sparrow, how much more will He take care of my needs?

I was watching the new Bible mini-series on tv last week.  One of the scenes that always grabs me is where Abraham takes Jehovah Jireh 1his only son Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him in obedience to God.  So many thoughts run through my own mind when I think of what must have been going on in both Abraham’s and Isaac’s minds.  To everyone’s relief, especially Abraham’s,  God comes through and provides a ram for the sacrifice.   Jehovah Jireh (YHWH Yireh), is one of the names of God.  It means the Lord who provides or sees (to it).  This is exactly what happened here in this account in Genesis 22.  WOW…The Lord will see to it that not only is my every need met but that it is met in just the right time, and not just financial needs either.  Check out this two minute video on Jehovah Jireh…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgU8re8b8aA

No one likes to have any debt, especially large financial ones.  The good news is that the BIGGEST DEBT any of us has ever had, has already been taken care of!  God has already provided the ultimate sacrifice through his son Jesus.  “God bought you with a great price,” 1 Corinthians 16:20a (NLB)  “Christ died for our sins, just as Scripture said he would,” 1 Corinthians 15:3b (NIRV)  That is one debt I could never repay even if I tried and am so thankful it was PAID IN FULL on the cross.