Wednesday, May 5, 2021

I am a Poem


A new day beckoned and I awoke

With a dream to write a poem

When the new day spoke:

"I am a poem", said the day.

"I will be a sonnet to your soul

If you choose to listen on your way."

"A scent of lilacs and freshly mowed grass

If you choose to breathe deeply

And not let the moments pass."

"A masterpiece of flowering trees

Shared with you for a fleeting moment

Before the petals dance to the ground on the breeze."

"Like fragrant snowflakes filling the air

And creating a carpet of pink

Placed by God with tender care."

"Live fully each moment of me

With gratitude for your every breath

And you will truly see"

"I am filled with new mercies and unending love

Peace and hope for today

From your ever-present Father above."

"My gifts to you are a reminder that God will never fail

Joy comes in the morning

....Be still and exhale."

"And when night begins to wrap you in darkness

I am a poem written upon your heart

poignant memories that whisper in the quietness."

"Every word, every line;

Some filled with sorrow, some with joy

Each one a testimony to God's peace sublime."

"I am a poem", said the day.

"Will you read me?"

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Bitter and the Sweet - 5 years

January 20, 2016. The day that I was assigned the diagnosis: stage 4 lung cancer. The day my life changed forever. The day this Unexpected (and Unwanted) Journey began.  We all have those markers in our lives. For some of us, it's a single moment in time. For others, it slowly unravels before us. 

And so, today is my 5 year celebration day. One would think that I'd be full of joy and laughter. I should be, shouldn't I? The sun is even peeking through the clouds to help. But it really is a bittersweet kind of day. 

My most recent scans show "no significant change". That is sweet. And I'm so grateful. They also show cancerous spots throughout my lungs and bones. As bitter and unnerving of a reality check that is, no change is good. This is life for each one of us - the smooth days, the bumpy days. How do I respond to this? How do I live this life with joy and gratitude and sadness and honesty and faith and doubt and hope? 

This morning I've spent time listening to worship music, reading God's word and remembering God's faithfulness through the years. There have been joyous shouts of thanksgiving and there have been tears. I enjoyed a donut from Jerry. In the event that it's true that our loved ones in heaven can see our "special" moments, I blew a kiss to those watching me and cheering me on: Mother, my precious grandparents, Irvin and Joyce and Mel and others. I took a nap and soaked long in the bath. I will get a massage from my daughter and eat yummy food with my sister. I video chatted with grands. And opened gifts from a faithful friend (one can never have too many mugs!). 

And I'm writing to you. To encourage you in your Unexpected Journey, whatever that looks like. Through it all, God is faithful and He will never leave us. Holy Spirit is our comfort. Jesus is our Redeemer and Peace. Call to Him and He will answer you and show you great and glorious things....even on this rocky road.

"Let everyone everywhere shine with praise to Yahwah! Let it all out! Go ahead and praise Him! For He has conquered us with His great love and His kindness has melted our hearts. His faithfulness lasts forever and He will never fail you. So go ahead, let it all out! Praise Yah! O Yah!"   Psalm 117 TPT

"Whenever my busy thoughts were out of control, the soothing comfort of Your presence calmed me down and overwhelmed me with delight.....For You are my True Tower of Strength, my Safe Place, my Hideout, and my True Shelter."   Psalm 94 19, 23b

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Hair Dye and Verse of the Year?

 It's been so long since I've written here! So first, a health update. I'm currently doing fairly well. My next scans are the end of January. As usual, the closer the scans get, the more "reality" sets in and the battle intensifies to keep the faith. But God is good and faithful. On January 20 I will celebrate 5 YEARS ON THIS STAGE FOUR CANCER JOURNEY!!!!

And now, on to the story...

It's 2021 (finally!).

A friend recently asked me about my "verse of the year". Do you choose a "verse of the year" or "word of the year"? I've never been inclined to do so but her question got me thinking and listening.

In the past few years I've observed my sister and several friends make the transition from coloring their hair to embracing their natural (changing) color. Hair dye has been a part of my life since my late twenties. That's a long time, folks! Our hair is one thing in our lives that we CAN change and yet know that it's not permanent. I finally feel ready to embrace my silvers or white!

But I've been hindered by 2 factors. First, my hair grows so slowly due to the cancer medication that I'm taking. But this is the same medicine that has brought me my fun curls and volume. For that I am most grateful.

The other reason was the uncertainty of my future. The fact is that at some point the medicine that is keeping the cancer at bay will become ineffective. That is barring a miracle (which I believe is possible). It looks like one of the next steps in my treatment IF that occurs is chemo and potential hair loss. Why not just wait for that to happen and make the big change at the time??

Indeed. Why not? The bottom line is that I don't want cancer to define me or affect my life more than absolutely needed! I don't want cancer to dictate my decisions. And so, I'm in. I've begun the fun journey of looking even more like my dear mother. And I'm ok with that. 

Is there an area in our lives where we are allowing a condition, situation or limitation control more than it should? Let's do what we are passionate about, being intentional with this brief life, walking in obedience to God. Hair is such an unimportant thing! But sometimes baby steps are what is needed. Sometimes baby steps are all I can do! Right foot, left foot.

And so my "verse of the year"? Isaiah 46:3b,4:

You who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb; Even to your old age I WILL BE THE SAME, even to your graying years I WILL BEAR YOU! I have done it, I WILL CARRY YOU; And I WILL BEAR YOU and I WILL DELIVER YOU.

So if you see me at the grocery store (one of my big outings these days) and notice my gray shining through, rejoice with me for the gift of time and the faithful God who is with me, carrying me to my final breath here with joy and anticipation in this journey.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The New Hallway

At the top of the stairs, I always turn right.
Right takes me to the cafe.
Right takes me to the Image Recovery Center.
Right takes me to Infusion.
For nearly four years, I've been coming to this cancer center. These places have become familiar to me. I'm comfortable there, I know the drill.

But this day, I needed to turn left.
Left takes me to the Radiation Department.
Left is completely unfamiliar and unwanted.
But, left is where I walked.
Down the New Hallway.

After the report that the initial tumor in my lung has grown slightly, this is where I need to be. We will radiate the small spot and blast those cancer cells to death. I'm thankful that this procedure doesn't require needles and should have very little side effects. I'm so thankful that the medicine I've been taking for 2 years is still working everywhere else! I'm thankful for this option of treatment.

But that doesn't make the New Hallway a place I'm eager to be. BUT GOD. I'm so glad that He knows we are weak. He knows and understands. And He provides. 

Glancing around the waiting area I saw a familiar face! One of my Dad's cousins, a retired Mennonite minister, was reading. He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. Of course, the tears came again as we shared our stories. He was there with his wife, who is the patient and fighting her own cancer battle. This couple is so gentle and caring. I immediately felt God's reassurance and comfort. I received the reminder that I'm SO not alone in this walk! There are many others who are bravely facing much more severe challenges and living in joy and hope. 

Take courage from this powerful passage in II Chronicles 20 that recounts Jehoshaphat's response when faced with a scary report:

"...and he said, 'O Lord, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You...for we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.'
...thus says the Lord to you, 'DO NOT FEAR or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's...You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf...tomorrow go out to face them for the Lord is with you.'
Give thanks to the Lord, for His LOVINGKINDNESS is everlasting.
When they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes..." 

Even though cancer and other difficult issues are my journey, I can do this thing with God's help. I will trust and not be afraid. God's peace will carry me down each and every hallway.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Case of the Disappointing Muffins

I came home from a busy day craving a baked good. Something sweet but sorta healthy as well. So I decided to make the good old standby Graham Gems muffins from my well-loved More With Less Cookbook. It's a recipe that I've been making for years and years.

But at the end of the baking time, they just didn't look right! So I baked them for five minutes longer. But they still looked a little odd. They tasted slightly interesting as well. I scoured the recipe several times looking for what I missed. What did I do wrong?? Should I not have put coconut oil instead of melted fat? I rarely bake with white flour but did that make a difference this one time? Seasoned baker's may already know what I did...

As I looked at the recipe the next morning it finally dawned on me! Yes, I had used baking POWDER instead of baking SODA. These ingredients look so much alike and yet serve such a different function. Since I don't understand those functions, I'm constantly in danger of making this mistake. One small change of one teaspoon can make a HUGE difference in a recipe. One time I forgot the salt in my bread dough recipe. BIG DIFFERENCE! (For your information, sprinkling salt on baked bread is just NOT the same!)

It made me think about how one small change can make a HUGE difference in the quality of my life. So I'm wondering if is there is an area where I need to make a small change. Is there an area where I'm not getting the right result; but one small change could make all the difference? Could transform failure to "success"? Something slightly odd to something completely delicious?
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." James 1:5 TPT
I'm asking. I'm trying to keep an open heart and mind as God reveals to me areas in my life that need small adjustments. How about replacing worry with worship? Criticism with appreciation? Small changes; huge results. Will you join me?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

handing over the keys

Yesterday I handed over my keys and said a final goodbye to my corner office space. After 16 years there is no longer a designated spot for me to claim at Black Rock Retreat.

Those keys gave me access to many closets and rooms on the grounds. They were a symbol of belonging. They also were a sign of responsibility. With them I was tasked with making things happen. With planning and smoothing out details, with making things right for our guests. With carrying my part of the "load" at BRR. I loved it! I wonder how many miles I logged in over those years - setting up, tearing down, setting up again, the endless checking of details. I loved the weight of it all. The "satisfaction and pride of a job well done". The deep knowing that I was fulfilling what God wanted me to do as a faithful servant. I rarely forgot what an honor it was to have a job that was also a ministry at it's very core.

But, the day came when those duties were more of a burden than a blessing. When I didn't jump into the fray arms wide open but took hesitant, dutiful steps. The day when God said, "It is time, Nancy". 

And so with a deep sense of gratitude, I handed over my keys to Jamie. One last time I closed down the computer, turned off the lights. Took one more glance back into the space now devoid of my personal touches. Closed the door and walked down the hallway. As I stood outside saying goodbye to a co-worker I was telling her that, to my surprise, the strongest emotions came when I handed over those keys. It was a defining moment. With a smile this young girl said, "AND NOW YOU'RE FREE." 

YES, Sherry! Free indeed. With a deep breath and a smile on my face I started my car and headed down the driveway into the future.

PS. Thankfully I'm not severing all ties with my beloved Black Rock Retreat. I'll remain an employee working very part time in the gift shop and helping with fund raising events. This fact certainly helped yesterday go a bit easier!!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Best Decade

Hi friends! I recently turned 60 years old!!! When I began this blog, 3 years ago, I wasn't sure I would see this great event! :-) In celebration a dear friend gave me a custom-made necklace with six interlocking rings on it representing each decade of my life. As I thought about those specific decades, I tried to come up with a word to represent each one. And as I looked back over those years, though there were many good moments in all of them, there were so many struggles. Sadly, most of the challenges came from within me. But, much to my surprise, and against all logic, the decade that had the most joy, the most peace, my best decade was this last one - from 50 to 60!

Of course a huge part of that would be becoming "Grams" and the addition of my five precious grandchildren! But in general that doesn't really make sense. The last decade brought a diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer. I probably cried every single day that initial year. I also found myself prostrate flat on the floor crying out to my God for forgiveness, for mercy, for healing. It brought a health challenge for one of my grandchildren. But it also brought a deepened peace in my relationship with Jerry. We became empty-nesters and were compelled to relate without the distraction of others. I've become more at peace with who I am, weaknesses, brokenness and all. I finally let go of the idea of perfection in this life. I've become more confident in who God is.

Your thinking changes when you live in the shadow of death - the blessing of a heavenly perspective. Isn't this is how God wants us to live anyway? With a remembrance of who we are and who He is and the shortness of this life and the "foreverness" of the next life. I am learning to be still and KNOW that He is God and I am not alone. Never. He is truly GOD WITH US, Emmanuel. THIS is my great comfort.

Don't be obsessed with money but live content with what you have, for you ALWAYS have GOD'S PRESENCE. For hasn't He promised you, "I will NEVER leave you alone. NEVER! And I will NOT loosen my grip on your life." So I can say with confidence: "I KNOW the LORD is for me and I will never be afraid of what people may do to me."
Hebrews 13:5,6 The Passion Translation

The old-time song says, "He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No never alone. No never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone." May this truth ring loud and clear as we face our next decade, this new dawning day. In the natural realm my next ten years would involve me going to heaven but I'm believing for a miracle. Perhaps I'll be given another decade of healthy life...or more :-). But if I don't reach that milestone, it's okay. This earthly life is a small dot at the end of a rope that goes on forever. I know that my rope is going to be awesome. I pray that you have that confidence as well. If you don't, please talk with someone you trust about your place in eternity. Feel free to write to me! I'd love to hear from you, fellow traveler on the journey.

I am a Poem

  A new day beckoned and I awoke With a dream to write a poem When the new day spoke: "I am a poem", said the day. "I will be...