Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving...A Year Later

It was just about this time last year that I received one-of-those-phone-calls- you-never-want-to-get from my daughter.  My five-year-old grandson was in the hospital.  He was behaving very strangely and they were running tests.  One of those tests was on his head...his brain.  In a flash, I was in the car headed up I-95 as fast as the law would allow. 
That was Monday before Thanksgiving.  My other daughter and her family made the same kind of hurried trip from their home in Tennessee.  My husband stayed behind rather than leave his mother alone at holiday time. 
The next three days are just a blur. We were in and out of the hospital room, waiting for tests and fearing results. Our phones kept us connected. Finally, on Wednesday morning, we got the final results. Everything was fine...except his ears. Our little guy's strange behaviors were the result of a profound hearing loss. One ear is totally down, never to return. The other is down about half. Their only explanation: a possible virus that went undetected.
 Compared to the visions of awfulness that had danced in my head, this news gave us all a sigh of relief. Of course, there were tears at first, especially from his mother. But by Wednesday evening, we were picking ourselves up and thanking God for his otherwise good health.  

This year our family has learned about pediatric hearing aids and the ways the public school system works with hearing challenged children. And our little boy is learning to handle his own paraphernalia, which now includes glasses. And he is a pure joy...a first-grader on the A-B honor roll. 

Like every family in the world, ours constantly has its on-going challenges and concerns. Some of them are very heavy this Thanksgiving. But compared to my fears as I raced up the interstate that Monday a year ago, we are okay. We can say with assurance that God is good...better than we deserve.
From the pen of Ann Voskamp, we hear it this way:

So the deal is, God?  We aren’t about to let anything steal our thanksgiving.

We aren’t letting hard times steal our thanksgiving.

We aren’t letting hard sells steal our thanksgiving.

We aren’t letting hard knocks steal our thanksgiving.

Because all of us folks down in the trenches know it:

If you let something steal your thanksgiving…

You let something steal your joy.

And if you let something steal your joy?

You let something steal your strength.

So today, in the midst of our Big Things, our Ugly Things, our Hard Things, in the midst of ALL Things,

We give thanks to You, God – not because of how we feel but simply because of Who. You. Are.

We’re on it, O Beautiful Lord and Giver of All – the one thing we must pray to be great at is thanksgiving – because it’s the one thing that makes You, God, great in our lives.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Words For Uncertain Times

These days when violence fills the world news, we need to be reminded of the rock of our faith.  Isaac Watts wrote these words in the early days of the 18th century.  Based on Psalm 90, we can find no better thoughts for today.  I pray they give you hope, as they do for me.

O God, our help in ages past,  Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home!

Under the shadow of thy throne Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone, And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood, Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God, To endless years the same.

A thousand ages, in thy sight, Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night, Before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever rolling stream, Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come;
Be thou our guide while life shall last, And our eternal home!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

No Bad Hair Days

I quickly worked the pick through the streaks of my hair.  It was time to head to church for my weekly appointment with my lunch ladies.  My devotional thoughts waited in the red folder on the kitchen table, ready for me to pick them up on my way out the door.

As I finished fooling with my hair, I examined the results in the mirror.  That's when I had a strange thought. 

"I don't have bad hair days anymore." 

Indeed, every day that I can look in the mirror and see hair - my own hair - growing out of my head is a good day.  Of course, the thought has its roots (ha ha!) in vanity.  My very first question when I was told I would need chemo two years ago was simply "Will I lose my hair?"  The straight answer came back quickly.  "Yes." 

It may have been vanity at the time, but on this side of that battle my hair has become a symbol of life.  Of recovery.  Of having faced an enemy and moved on.  And I had this thought for the first time:  cancer changes the face of gratitude.  To be grateful for every strand of hair is to be grateful for every breath of life. 

Later in the day, I chatted with my friend, Linda Ruding.  Linda's cancer was three years before mine.  She's the parish visitor at my church, First United Methodist in Vero Beach.  Linda had two rounds with triple negative breast cancer and she was amazing during her treatment.  She rarely missed work and always looked terrific.  Of course, we knew she was sick but we could also see the resolve not to let this dastardly thing bring her down. 

I asked Linda about being grateful on this side of the disease.  Her first response was so very HER.  "I was so thankful it was me and not my sisters."  This terrible gene runs in their family.

To Linda, the world took on a more majestic aura.  She spoke passionately about trees in particular.  Trees to her symbolize living things and the beauty of creation.  She gestured widely with her arms.  "EVERYTHING is so much brighter and more alive!"

Hair figures into her feelings as well.  Hers has come back curly and a lovely salt and pepper combination of dark gray.  "I'm grateful I don't have to fool with coloring my hair or using a curling iron!" 

Being the "people person" she is, Linda is most grateful for the many women she meets who are part of this vast sisterhood we all now belong to called Survivors.  Since her job involves meeting and getting to know people on behalf of the church, she says she meets a new Survivor every week.  Truly, I feel that we are legion.  More and more of us every day because more and more are surviving than ever before.

It's now the end of a month devoted to awareness of breast cancer.  The football players can put away their pink socks and gloves.  The NASCAR cars can do new paint schemes about other things.  Men who never before would have worn such a thing can take the pink ribbons off the lapels of their suits. 

We who are survivors don't need pink anything to show our gratitude.  Gratitude now has a new face that is reflected in the world around us.  And yes... even in our hair.  I do keep one thing hanging in my closet, just because it supports the attitude I have. 

It's a simple tee shirt that says "Yes, they're fake.  My real ones tried to kill me!" Thank God I'm still here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Armor of Light

So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
                                                           - Romans 13:12

I sat in my totally dark bedroom, reading by the beam of my little book light.  My husband snored peacefully in bed while I sat in my comfy recliner.  He can't stand a bright light in the room and I refuse to go to the other bedroom by myself.  That's just the way it is.  So we have made peace with the darkness and my insomnia thanks to that little bitty light. 

I can't clip it onto anything and keep it shining where I need it, so I held it in one hand and managed the book with the other.  Page by page I was the Queen of Sheba traveling to visit Solomon thanks to the magic weaved by Liz Curtis Higgs.  My focus was totally on the pages. 

Until I happened to look up.  I realized that beyond the small curtain of light I could see nothing but darkness.  Could make out no details of the room - not the doorway, not the mirror above the vanity, not even the small glow of the nightlight in the bathroom.  There was a canopy of light and beyond the edge of the light there was a stone wall of the darkest dark. 

I have never thought of light as being armor.  But that night, in that darkness, light was as sharp as a real suit of armor.  Lighting my space and nothing more.  Contained.  Solid.  With real edges. 

The light came and the darkness could not overcome it (John 1:5).

Life gives us so many little examples of God's truth.  And so many new lessons.  Like seeing light as armor.  Have you ever seen it this way?  Do you have faith breezes that have taught you new ways to see light?