Monday, April 30, 2012

Recently completed projects

Despite the arm-wrapping (which continues, and shows a little improvement) I have been able to complete a few creative endeavors, and I thought I'd share...
 When Nikki and Emma were here the week before Easter, we made these little egg-shaped Easter cakes and cupcakes. They were double-chocolate cake with ganache icing and royal frosting decorations.  We took little plates of them to the neighbors, along with a little book about the true meaning of Easter.
I also finished a couple of matching pillowcase dresses for the cousins.
And, inspired by my friend Melissa and my creative card-maker Nikki, I made a bunch of note cards using my own photographs and a few scrapbook supplies.
Every once in a while, you've just got to make something beautiful, Gentle Reader.  It reminds you to notice the beauty around you, and reminds you to praise the God who cares about beauty.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sabbath Songs

I Greet Thhe Who My Sure Redeemer Art by Jean Calvin, 1545

I greet Thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
My only trust and Savior of my heart,
Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake;
I pray Thee from our hearts all cares to take.

Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place;
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of Thy pure day.

Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
Sustain us by Thy faith and by Thy power,
And give us strength in every trying hour.

Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast Thou and no bitterness;
O grant to us the grace we find in Thee,
That we may dwell in perfect unity.

Our hope is in no other save in Thee;
Our faith is built upon Thy promise free;
Lord, give us peace, and make us calm and sure,
That in Thy strength we evermore endure.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fires and other natural disasters

Today we walked in Frijoles Canyon at Bandelier National Monument.  This is our "local" park, and we have spent many hours there every summer for more than 25 years.  We have done school in the picnic area, played in the stream, hiked, and camped. It is a beautiful place that is dear to our hearts.  My last trip there was a hike with a friend last summer, prior to the Las Conchas Fire.  Fires and other natural disasters change things.  Not only did they back-burn in the canyon, but the massive floods and run-off following the fire have changed the place forever.  The lower part of the canyon is much the same-- the ruins trail remains unchanged, though there is no bridge to the picnic area, and the old visitor's center is closed for renovation.  There are barriers and sand-bags all around that area.  It is once you pass the ruins that the trail up to the Ceremonial Cave is almost unrecognizable. The stream has completely changed course, all the foot-bridges were washed away, along with most of the picnic area. While it is still a thing of beauty, it will never be the same old canyon we knew.

Yes, fires and natural disasters change the course of things. Whether it is flooding or cancer, earthquakes or disease, normal shifts around us in this fallen world. We loose our footing at times, and our perspective and sense of orientation at others. But the amazing thing is, the beauty still remains.  We grieve the losses, and struggle with the recovery, but the One who allowed the trial in the first place redeems even the disasters in our world and in our lives. The old normal is gone, but a new normal will eventually take its place, because God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, and continues caring for us, and for our world. His grace amazingly brings spring after blizzard, and new growth after fire, and refocus and healing after cancer.

He brings beauty from ashes. May He give us a glimpse of that beauty even today, Gentle Reader.

Friday, April 27, 2012


When I am discouraged, I go to this little box.  It is chock full of the cards, letter, and notes I've received since my surgery in January. When the day looks bleak, I pull out a few at random as tangible reminders of those who love me and are praying for me, and I don't feel quite so glum.

After I posted about how to be a friend to those who have cancer, I received e-mails, comments, and calls from several of my dearest friends.  They were all apologizing for being terrible failures at being my friends after they read that post. I hadn't anticipated that response at all!  And what's more, they have all been wonderful, caring friends to me. Now, if the Holy Spirit pricked your heart as you read my words, I would not want to discourage you from heeding His voice. But let me say this for the record: some of my "learning" that went into that list did come from thoughtless people.  But even more of those points came to me by observing the loving care my family and friends offered me. It has humbled and blessed me, and I am grateful.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Things accomplished today:
  • Had a lovely left-over breakfast of yesterday's omlet (green salsa, mushrooms, tomatoes and avocado)
  • Planted flowers outside into four different beds, and fertilized all the green growing things outside.
  • Completed my lymphatic opening exercises.
  • Walked for about 50 minutes down a canyon and back.
  • Had a lovely left-over lunch of cresent lasagna, celery, apples, and some apple-fritters for dessert.
  • Planted and arranged pots for outside the front door.
  • Made camping reservations in Zion National Park for next September.
Things yet to be accomplished today:
  • Unwrap my arm, shower, do MLD, and rewrap my arm.
  • Have a lovely left-over dinner of potato soup and popcorn.
  • Practice music for tomorrow- my first time helping with worship since last January, though I will only sing, NOT play the guitar.
  • Prepare food for our monthly Koinonia Dinner at church- a macaroni casserole and some kind of strawberry trifle, I think.  And maybe a salad.
  • Try to read the current chapter of my Sunday school book.
  • Fall exhausted but happy into my comfy chair, and fall asleep to something like a rerun of Psych.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to be a friend to someone with cancer...

I was recently privy to a conversation about living with cancer: this from a friend of a cancer patient, discussing what she, as a close friend walking beside a stage 4 patient, needed.  One of the things she mentioned took me by surprise: that she needed someone outside of her friend with cancer to unload to about the stresses and griefs of walking beside that friend with cancer.  Having been somewhere in the middle of cancer for myself or my husband or my mom for the last 20 or so years, it had never occurred to me that there could be a need of those in the next circle out from the patient that I hadn't considered! It was good to know that I can be an indirect support for a cancer patient by supporting their friends.

And then the question came: what do cancer patients need from their friends?   I have been pondering this, and while I'm sure there are more answers to this question than the ones I'll list here, these are the ones that readily came to mind.  These are the ones that I'd want my friends to know.  If you have others, please post them in the comments. I'd love to hear them. Here are my top 10, in no particular order:
  1. Pray for me.  Pray every day.  As you pray for me, God changes your heart towards me, and His Spirit gives you a tenderness for me that you could not otherwise experience.  Then, when you see me, I will know you love me, and that you are praying for me.  When Dave was sick, many people in a sister church in Albuquerque prayed fervently for him, though they had never met us.  We knew those people when we met them.  They couldn't hide their love for us, wrought by prayer.  So pray for my healing, but also pray because it will make your heart tender.
  2. If you don't know what to say, not wanting to bring up the "C" word in case I am not thinking about it, don't worry.  I am always thinking about it on some level.  You can just give me a hug and say nothing, or you can go ahead and ask a question, or tell me you're praying for me.  Any of those things tell me you care. If your choice is between saying something that might be foolish and staying away so you don't have to decide, please say something foolish.  There is a sort of isolation that can happen when friends don't know what to say, and so they steer clear. That feels terrible. Don't steer clear of me.  It's OK if you don't know what to say.  Just keep being my friend.
  3. Do avoid platitudes.  "God has a wonderful plan for your life" is perfectly true, but it rings empty.  It is the promises of God in His word that are substantive and bring encouragement.  So DO jot down scripture verses that you think might encourage me.  DO send me notes from time to time to let me know you are with me in the struggle. Those things will bring encouragement.
  4. Also avoid horror stories.  You may have an aunt who died a grizzly death from the same kind of cancer I have, but please keep that to yourself.  If that is all you can think of when you see me, just hug me and smile at me.
  5. We all have circles of friends- some are our closest confidants, and others are good friends, but more distant friends.  If you are in my closest circle of friends, be aggressive in keeping contact. You won't be forcing me into things to keep offering time together or phone calls.  I need to rally the troops around me. I need to be held accountable, encouraged, and connected.  If you are not in my closest circle of friends, offer contact, but don't be offended if I don't have the emotional energy or time to enter into a closer relationship with you at the moment.  Think about supporting those friends who were closer to me when the battle began, and are bearing the burden more fully with me. If you are a more distant friend, offer closer support, and allow me to decide without feeling dismissed.  I once offered to a distant friend whose husband was dying of cancer to be her prayer partner and sounding board.  She decided she needed that, and we walked that road together and became close friends. But sometimes, investing in newer friendships is just beyond the level of energy I posses.
  6. Support my decisions, and be careful with offering alternatives.  If you read about some nutritional supplements, or alternate way of treating my disease, I will likely want to hear about it.  Send me an e-mail, or give me a web site to look at.  Then allow me to look at that information or ignore it as I would like.  I will appreciate your thought, but I am in the midst of the battle for my life, and already fully engaged with medical and/or alternative support to fight that battle.  More information can be helpful, but it can also be overload.  Respect my decisions, and allow me to decide what I what to know when, how I want to wage my war, and what resources I will use to do so. Support those decisions even if you disagree.
  7. Tell me about your life with its joys and battles.  Just because my battle is more immediately life-threatening, does not mean I can't understand your struggles. I need to be connected to the world.  I can bring you a more long-term, eternal focus.  You can bring me the wonder and joys and struggles of life outside of hospitals and doctor's offices.
  8. Understand that what I'm going through is changing everything.  It is changing my focus, my priorities, my outlook.  It is making it both necessary and painful to walk into church and know that these people I love and who love me are heart-broken because of me.  This disease is shaping not only me, but also my children, my family, and my friends just as God wants them to be shaped, but I am His instrument of pain in their lives.  It is also forcing the rubber to meet the road in terms of my faith.  Do the things I have always believed prove to be true in this place of testing? Are they enough to carry me where I must go? These all make me very vulnerable. Try to cut me some slack, give me the space to grieve what is lost, and learn to trust God in my new circumstances.
  9. Do be willing to listen to my fears and let me talk honestly without hushing me by saying, "Don't talk like that!"  I need to speak things out loud sometimes, and if I choose to speak them to you, don't feel like you need to have an answer for me.  I am simply processing and speaking aloud those things that can be even more frightening if kept in the depths of my heart.  Listen. Hold my hand. There are often no "good answers" where I am, outside of God's sovereign hand leading and guiding, and sometimes I need to talk through things to find my way back to Him.
  10. Don't feel like you have to always be brave and cheerful to bolster me.  Sometimes seeing your pain for me, or having you cry with me, is the medicine I need. I discovered a long time ago that if God is sovereign over all things, He is sovereign over tears as well-- both when they fall, and in front of whom they fall. So we can trust Him, even with our emotions.
I will end this already-too-lengthy post with a short song by Charlie Peacock that captures something important about times of grief and pain.  Below is the recording from the album Coram Deo, and the lyrics are below.

Now is the time for tears
Don’t speak
Save your words
There’s nothing you could say
To take this pain away
Don’t try so hard
You can just simply be
Cry with me don’t try to fix me friend
That’s how you’ll comfort me
Heavenly Father cover this child with mercy
You are my helper through this time of trial and pain
Silence the lips of the people with all of the answers
Gently show them now is the time
Now is the time
Now is the time for tears

Monday, April 16, 2012

This blessing has fallen to me...

Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
 I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.
This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts.
~Psalm 119 54-56
Sometimes our sojourning is wearisome.  But this blessing falls to us: we can obey.  We may not be able to read Camus, plant our garden, or  finish paying the bills.  We may never finish Brothers K, understand Spanish, or finish that quilt. We may be so tired we can't stay awake when we read, or think while we try to finish up lesson plans. But this blessing falls to those of us who know the Lord: we can keep his precepts.

Previously in my life, I think I've overlooked this blessing.  My life is so full of things I'd like to do and can't seem to accomplish.  I am praying today, Gentle Reader, to catch this blessing as it falls: to obey. God tells me what to do.  May it be enough for me to do it, and for you, too.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sabbath Songs

Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder by John Newton

Let us love and sing and wonder,
Let us praise the Savior's Name!
He has hushed the law's loud thunder,
He has quenched Mount Sinai's flame.
He has washed us with His blood,
He has brought us nigh to God.

Let us love the Lord Who bought us,
Pitied us when enemies,
Called us by His grace, and taught us,
Gave us ears and gave us eyes:
He has washed us with His blood,
He presents our souls to God.

Let us sing, though fierce temptation
Threaten hard to bear us down!
For the Lord, our strong Salvation,
Holds in view the conqueror's crown:
He Who washed us with His blood
Soon will bring us home to God.

Let us wonder; grace and justice
Join and point to mercy's store;
When through grace in Christ our trust is,
Justice smiles and asks no more:
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God.

Let us praise, and join the chorus
Of the saints enthroned on high;
Here they trusted Him before us,
Now their praises fill the sky:
“Thou hast washed us with Your blood;
Thou art worthy, Lamb of God!'

Hark! the Name of Jesus, sounded
Loud, from golden harps above!
Lord, we blush, and are confounded,
Faint our praises, cold our love!
Wash our souls and songs with blood,
For by Thee we come to God.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Life with LE

I promised an upate a few ddays ago concerning the physical stuff, so for those of you interested, here is the scoop currently.

Lymphedema is a huge time-sink.  If you think of the lymph system as a plumbing system in your body, we think that both messing with my lymph nodes in my armpits and the total amount of surgery burden I had in doing basically two major surgeries at once, has clogged up that plumbing.  So I am spending most of my days with lymphedema, not-so-affectionately known as LE in lymphedema circles.  I am either learning about LE, treating LE, or being inconvenienced by LE, almost all day long.  Here are some of the things LE has added to my life:
  • Daily manual lymph drainage (MLD- a series of massage/exercises that open the lymph system and help the fluid to move, (1-2 hours a day)
  • Daily ecxercise that encourages lymph movement (1-2 hours a day) Some of this is my regular exercise.  Some specific exercises for LE have been added
  • Daily compression wrapping of the left arm (fingers to pit) (15-25 minutes a day)
  • Daily washing of compression bandaging (10 min, a day)
  • Research and reading to learn as much as I can (I would hate to estimate the time spent on this over the last week-- but I hope that time will lessen as I learn more.)
  • When I am wrapped, I need help with everything that takes two hands to do, or anything that requires me to hold a bent left arm, or touch my left hand to anything that requires it to bend.   For instance, I can't put deodorant under my right arm, put in my own earrings, or wash/lotion my own hands.
Add to that the hormonal changes of menopause, the side-effects of an aromatase inhibitor, and the brain fog  that comes with breast cancer, and I am in a sorry state some of the time.  But the other part of the time I am awed by God's grace.  I am encouraged by my sweet husband and friends and students, I am reminded of God's amazing love, and I am grateful that things are not worse. 

So if you run across me in the grocery store and I am cheerful and chatty, praise God for His gracious providence.  And if you run across me and I am a quivering, weeping mass because I couldn't get my jacket off and I am about to spontaneously combust right in the frozen food aisle, just help me get the jacket off, pat me on the shoulder with a smile, and praise God for His providence anyway.  I know all things work together for my good and His glory.  But that doesn't mean it isn't sometimes painful or annoying.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sweet Adeline

 Our Sweet Adeline turned 3 months old yesterday.  How is that possible?

She is sweet, growing fast, and too far away from all her grandparents!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A spiritual update

In some other post, Gentle Reader, I will tell you the nitty-gritty of life with lymphedema. But for today, let me give you the spiritual update. I had thought that losing all my female parts would empty me, making me a fit vessel for Christ somehow.  I seemed to be just hitting my stride when the arms started to swell, and I slowly came to the realization that this wasn't temporary, nor trivial.  The physical stuff is inconvenient, but the spiritual shrapnel was worse.  I found myself disoriented, angry, frustrated, feeling tricked.  I wallowed.  But the catch of it is, wallowing is not all it's made out to be.  In the end I was no happier, and felt alienated from God. I ran across a description that fit me perfectly this morning:
My tongue has had a razor edge and my eyes have rolled haughty and my neck has been stiff and graceless and I have lived the filth ugly, an idolator, a glutton, and a grace thief who hasn't had time for the thanks.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts p.116
The most amazing thing is that in the midst of all my fruitless rebellion and self-focus, somehow beyond reasonableness, God continues not only to love me, but to send me tangible tokens of that love, And as thick-headed and hard-hearted as I am, even I, like that prodigal long ago, eventually get the point: you can choose to keep wallowing there in the filth, or you can live over here in His love. So, I again, and not for the last time, repent, and am grateful. There is no mire so thick, no pit so deep, that his love cannot reach me there. And He never tires of me.  How amazing is that?

Believer, come near the cross this morning, and humbly adore the King of glory as having once been brought far lower, in mental distress and inward anguish, than any one among us; and mark His fitness to become a faithful High Priest, who can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities. Especially let those of us whose sadness springs directly from the withdrawal of a present sense of our Father's love, enter into near and intimate communion with Jesus. Let us not give way to despair, since through this dark room the Master has passed before us. Our souls may sometimes long and faint, and thirst even to anguish, to behold the light of the Lord's countenance: at such times let us stay ourselves with the sweet fact of the sympathy of our great High Priest. Our drops of sorrow may well be forgotten in the ocean of His griefs; but how high ought our love to rise! Come in, O strong and deep love of Jesus, like the sea at the flood in spring tides, cover all my powers, drown all my sins, wash out all my cares, lift up my earth-bound soul, and float it right up to my Lord's feet, and there let me lie, a poor broken shell, washed up by His love, having no virtue or value; and only venturing to whisper to Him that if He will put His ear to me, He will hear within my heart faint echoes of the vast waves of His own love which have brought me where it is my delight to lie, even at His feet for ever.
~C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Morning, April 12.