Thursday, December 16, 2010

Miracle of Healing

I had an MRI last week to take a look at the chest wall before seeing my breast surgeon next week.  I don't think about a cancer recurrence much in my daily life.  I believe I am healed and go about my business.

But I have known for a year that I would need to have this MRI right now - I see this doctor once a year and she wanted the pictures before my upcoming annual appointment.  Little did I know how much the anxiety of this test was roiling under the surface, even though I wasn't consciously aware of it!  Last week, it suddenly dawned on me, how much anxiety was right there all year that I had not acknowledged - it seemed so obvious all of the sudden and explained some of my bad habits this year (like eating too much).

I am not sure why this kind of denial was so important to me.  Maybe it's because I fear that thinking about a recurrence is to doubt my faith.  Maybe I just don't want to give cancer more of my thoughts and energy than it has already consumed.  Maybe it's just a survival tactic because I can't function as well if I am constantly living in fear.  Maybe it helps me focus on things that I can do and that I can control.

But the irony is of course, that the more I deny anxiety and fear, the more control it exercises over my actions and my life.  I am wondering today about how to live out some of the benefits I need without the unhealthy, unacknowledged anxieties underneath.  How do I live in the tension of consciously dealing with the fear and anxiety without giving it too much attention and energy?

This is still a challenge for me as I continue to progress to the significant 5-year survivor mark.  This month marks 3 years since my initial surgery.  I am overjoyed to say that the MRI results came back normal!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Celebrating the Moment

corncp3.gif - 10.1 KLast week I drove Daughter to a friends' house.  I saw two houses next door to each other - one with their Halloween decorations still on the lawn, and the other with their Christmas lights lit up.

Me?  I am just trying to plan Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Really Big God-Sighting

God showed up in an amazing way on Tuesday. I received a call from a social worker at the hospital down the street; she had a patient who fell while working his tree-trimming business.  He was in a wheel chair and needed to move to a rehabilitation center.  Sounded simple enough.  The problem was that they were out of money and did not have the gas to drive an accessible van four hours away to the center that could take him.  They had received some gas help, but needed more to make it there and back.
I am completely out of discretionary money for the year, but I wanted to help (I have a soft spot for tree surgeons because my brother is one).  I thought I could just take the money out of my own pocket; I told the social worker I wasn’t able to get the gas card until the later afternoon, but that I would bring it to the hospital by 4 pm.

I was making one more call from the office before I left to get the gas card.  I was checking in on a deeply spiritual member (I’ll call her Jane) and also conferring with her about a small blurb for the newsletter.  While I was talking with Jane on my cell phone, the church phone rang.  Everyone else had left the office, so I put down my blue tooth and answered the phone.  It was the wife of the gentleman from the hospital who needed the gas card.  I told her that I could get the card for a QT which they thought would be easiest to find, that I would do it soon and drop it off, and that no, I had not figured out how much it would be, yet.  Then I hung up and went back to my conversation with Jane.  This is what she said to me:

Pastor Linda, I couldn’t help but overhear that conversation and I have a $25 QT gas card in my purse!  I get them from work sometimes, but I don’t need it, so I was looking for someone to give it to.  I’ll go over and meet this family and pray with them and bring them this gas card.  Do you have a suggestion for a Scripture I could use?

We were both bowled over, because she had been home from work for a personal day and felt that this opportunity was an answer to her prayers!  We talked about reading Psalm 121 and off she went, living out missional church in her personal life.  Later that evening, we talked again and Jane emphasized that this kind of ministry is something she can do.  She offered to assist me with these kinds of visits and needs.  I was wowed again; I do need help, but it hadn’t occurred to me to ask.  Sometimes I think and behave as if this ministry is all up to me, but God keeps reminding me in big ways that it is not.  We do this ministry in a community of many and diverse gifts.

Photo: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Monday, October 18, 2010

Surviving Puberty after Cancer

Daughter just turned 12 – the third and last of our fall birthdays.  After school one recent afternoon, she was sitting on the couch reading her first Seventeen magazine, ordered through a recent school fundraiser.  I was picking up the house, cleaning the kitchen and generally organizing for the evening when I noticed she became very agitated and restless.  Soon Daughter started firing questions at me like, “Why do you give us those stupid frozen vegetables instead of fresh ones?” and “How come I get applesauce in my lunch instead of fresh fruit?  I hate grapes, why can’t we get something else?”

rib3.gif - 3.2 K I found this a bit strange coming from a girl whose primary food group is ice cream.

Silly me, I tried to answer her questions with reasonable answers, explaining that when we’re out of fresh vegetables, frozen ones hold the most nutrients, and so on.  She was not impressed.  She became more agitated and unsatisfied, looking as if she just realized that everything in her life is WRONG.

Finally she blurted out, “This magazine says that you can reduce your risk of breast cancer by exercising regularly between the ages of 12 and 24.  I told you I wanted to do volleyball and why won’t you go out everyday with me to roller skate after school?”

Finally, we were getting somewhere.  I stopped trying to answer her questions and sat down on the couch next to her.  I asked gently, “Are you feeling afraid that you will get breast cancer?” 

Daughter glared at me through her bangs, “Yes!”  And with a little more defiance in her voice, she added “and it’s all your fault!”

Indeed.  I cannot argue with pubescent, capricious reasoning.  Neither can I wrap my head around what it must feel like to be a pre-menstrual developing girl, newly growing what your mom recently had cut off.  How does one blossom into womanhood with confidence and self-acceptance when it feels like you’re growing a couple of ticking time bombs? 

I do know what it’s like, however, to be the mom of such a girl.  Most days it feels like I am flunking.  I try to walk the thin line between honesty and hope, between past events and future possibilities, between living healthily and letting go of haunting anxiety.  This is a tall order for a grown woman, much less a young girl with a rapidly changing body. 

I know that this is beyond me; I cannot fix or control her experience.  I do try to embrace that the real gift is that I am here—I am here to grow through this with her.  I pray that in the long run, this will make all the difference.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sweet 16

This week, Son#1 turned 16 and earned his driver’s license.  I have known this was coming; we even bought a third car so he can help us with errands in addition to driving himself to school.  Because we planned for this and in many ways looked forward to it, I did not think I would be upset by this life transition.  Not so surprisingly, I wrong.

Car keys.I am usually out of sorts in September before all three of our children have their birthdays within a span of 2 weeks.  A new school year has begun, they are moving forward in their lives, and time has brought us to this moment before I am ready or feel old enough to be here.  I want to shout at the passage of time which makes all of my kids closer to moving away from home. 

So, this year was harder than usual.  I had a good cry during my devotions on the morning of Son#1’s birthday, and realized how so many things changed on that day.  I am afraid for his safety on the road and my inability to protect him. I am sad that as he grows older, he needs me less often and for fewer things.  I am worried that I just won’t see him enough and that I have now lost the time we used to have in the car.  I am called to be a different kind of mom. 

I would love to have a family “blessing of the keys” to mark this transition, but I need this and Son#1 does not.  I will take my cues from him and bless the keys in the quiet of the morning before he rises and drives away. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Answered Prayer or All You Need is Love

Earlier this month I was pondering a relationship in which I was getting frustrated.  I didn't want to be angry and needed a new way to talk about a few things without discomfort or tension.  In the shower one morning, I prayed and prayed, asking for help and guidance in what to say and do.

A few minutes later, I was busy putting on my makeup.  The clasp on my compact is broken, so I have a rubber band holding it together.  I took off the rubber band and threw it on the towel I had lining the counter while I quickly proceeded with my morning transformation.  When I was done, I looked down to pick up the rubber band and was stunned at what I saw.  The rubber band fell in the shape of a perfect heart.  Not a lopsided heart, not a broken heart, not an imagined heart - one that if you turn your head a certain way and squint your eyes, it might look like a heart - but a perfect heart with a small circle for the indent at the top.

I stared at it for a moment and began to realize it was the answer to my prayer!  All this person needs is LOVE.  When I love them and focus on that, all other things will work out in time.  A sense of peace flooded over me.  I can make things so complicated sometimes when the answer is pure and simple.  Then I grabbed the camera.

I followed this message of love in my next conversation with the individual I had prayed about.  Of course the interactions with this person improved.  Later on, when I was feeling down and frustrated about myself, I thought about the rubber band heart.  The message was for me also.  When I generated loving thoughts toward myself, I immediately began to feel peaceful.  The Beatles were right, all you need is love (and open eyes to see answered prayer).

Monday, September 6, 2010

God Moments

I can see that God is up to something at the congregation I serve.  New energy and movement in our community mission and outreach pumps through some of our projects, people actually see the Holy Spirit at work, and some new people are visiting and joining.

As a response to these happenings, I have changed my morning prayer to something like this:  God, I can tell you are up to something - How can I help what your doing?  How can I get out of the way, so I don't hinder what you are doing?  Please us me to serve you today.

This helps me pay better attention to what is going on around me and in my interactions, pulling me out of my own head and my never-ending to-do list.  When I am focused on my agenda and tasks, I can blow right by the God-moments that are there for me and for others.  I can't sit and wait for them, of course.  It's a mental trapeze act for me - pay attention and work; be present and productive.

One day last week, I was in my office late in the afternoon- a time I am not normally there; I was hoping to get some things done when no one else was around.  I barely got started when someone stopped by.  At first I was a little annoyed because my plan was not working out; however, as we sat and talked I slowly caught on.  Deep conversation, prayer and encouragement took place that was a blessing to us both.  When this person left, it became even more clear to me why I felt compelled to be at the office at a time outside my normal schedule.  It was a God-moment.  This week I hope to pay attention to more of them.