Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Happy Life

Okay so we got new phones. What kind you ask? Ummm… it’s black… and slippery… and won’t flip open. It has all sorts of little pictures so when I text, not only can I smile, but I can smile with teeth, or while donning sunglasses or a halo. How have I functioned this long by simply hitting the ( and the = to make it clear that I am not displeased with the circumstances? Or I could even hit the semicolon to wink if the situation warranted. But NOW I can express a multitude of moods. I am so (=

Yesterday as my new slick black phone charged, the screen lit up for no apparent reason. I checked to see why I was being beckoned. Actually I found my glasses and THEN checked the teeny tiny print of the beckoning. Would I like to fill out a survey to express my delight at having eaten at Biscuit King in Lexington?

WHAT?!! Hot displeasure filled my soul.

How dare they track my whereabouts! Every time that little permission thingy pops up I make sure to hit “deny.” I DO NOT want to allow the techno-nerds to have access to my personal preferences. It’s none of their business where and what I eat. Now everybody in cyber-sphere knows I like the hamburgers at Biscuit King so much that I intentionally pass seventy five other joints in my own hometown and drive all the way to Lexington to get one. They probably also know that I order French fries without seasoning salt. Next thing you know, I’ll go to order and my phone will pop up with a message to remind me that I like dill pickles on my burger.

Actually that wouldn’t be too bad as I forgot to add those Saturday.

But seriously! I was hot!

Just as I was expressing my justified indignation to my beloved, the message popped up on the black screen again. “Would I like to fill out a quick survey to rate Biscuit King in Lexington?” I only knew that because I had my glasses on.

I won’t tell you what I thought. But David knew. How could he not? We’ve been married forty three years. Okay… so I explained it to him in detail again. It’s nobody’s business…

I already said that.

But it’s not.

I ranted a while longer. What if they steal our identity or hack into our lives? They already know what I buy on Amazon. I know that because every time I get online an ad for Legos pops up on the sidebar. Facebook is the same way. Natural looking wigs modeled by Raquel Welch beckon me to buy as-if I would look exactly like that with the click of a button.

David’s solution was simple.

Calmly he advised. “Just don’t put on your glasses. That way you won’t know what they know.” He received a blank stare as he offered further wisdom.

“Besides, what if they steal our identities? One look and they’ll probably DEPOSIT money. Nobody wants our life… unless they see how we really live. We have nothing, yet we have everything.”

I thought about it and decided he was right. Maybe we’ll run up to Lexington and get a burger to celebrate our (=  life.

But you already knew that didn’t you? ( ;

Summer’s Over

For us it was officially the last day of summer. David’s job allows him to have the month of July off and of course the time had flown. Our insurance dictated that his blood work be done precisely on Monday, July 31, 2017. His appetite dictated the appointment take place as soon as the office opened so he could rush home and eat; and more importantly have his coffee. All went well and the day was shaping up nicely. I too had a doctor’s appointment to schedule the removal of my port: that surgically implanted device where I received chemo over the last year. Some people leave it in in case the cancer returns. Instead, I wanted it out. To me it’s like telling cancer, “Uh no. You may not have access to my space anymore.”

We sat at the table eating a leisurely breakfast when David casually asked if I was looking at the Cheerwine clock. Yep. Sure enough I was gauging the amount of time I had left to get ready by a clock that is approximately thirteen minutes slow. Who would keep a clock like that? I jumped up, threw on my go to the doctor clothes, penciled in some eyebrows, gathered my calendar, Kindle, and medications. Down the interstate we flew from Salisbury to Concord without a hitch. After waiting forty-five minutes for a three minute consultation, I wondered why we had hurried like bats out of… the basement.

BUT!

It seems the surgeon had a cancellation and therefore could do my out-patient surgery on Wednesday, only two days hence. Jackpot! We even splurged on apple fritters at the new doughnut shop, then swung by the produce corner for three bales of pine needles. Oh what a happy day!

All the joyful activities of the morning had worn me out, so I settled into the couch with a warm fritter and a hot cup of Earl Grey. David had his book and all was right with the world until the phone rang. It seemed that if I were to have surgery on Wednesday, I must have an EKG prior. She offered, “Can you come now? We don’t close til six-thirty.” I glanced at the clock, added thirteen minutes and decided we could do it.

4:47 pm

Again I jumped into my go to the doctor clothes and out the door we flew. Suddenly the interstate came to a standstill. We had already passed the point of no return… that place where there are no exits until one reaches the magical ramp called Lane Street. As far as we could see, no one was moving. At least with all the construction there were barriers on each side so that no one could go zipping down the shoulders past everyone else as if they were more important. Not that that sort of behavior makes me think murderous thoughts in my otherwise pure heart.

We sat there so long that daddies began taking their children out of their vehicles and stepping over silver guardrails into the woods for potty breaks. I gazed across the scrub brush and undergrowth calculating the height verses width plus the viewing angles of nearby truckers. The sixteen ounces of hot tea consumed earlier reminded me that desperate times call for desperate measures. Just as I was about to hop a guard rail the ocean of traffic opened before us like the Red Sea. We were actually moving. I checked the time.

6:07pm

Quickly we made our way to a place we’d never been. David pulled up to a door. I ran inside trying not to think of my bladder. A kind lady directed me to another building with the hope that we might still make it. I checked the clock in the truck.

6:27pm

Again David pulled right up to the door. I lept from the truck and bolted inside. Down the hall I ran like a… gazelle.

The lab door was locked.

BUT!

I spotted a restroom. From the depths of my soul I prayed.

Dear Jesus if You love me at all, please don’t let it be locked.

The door swung wide and I relieved myself of all my… fears. A quick hand wash and a deep sigh later I stepped into the hall where David stood wondering.

“Closed?” he asked.

“Yep,” I sighed. “But the bathroom was open!”

He looked at me as if impressed with my weird happiness. Apparently he had no idea of the struggle inside my… soul. Hand in hand we walked back through the empty parking lot to the truck.

“Let’s go to Cracker Barrel,” he suggested. “I have a gift card.”

7:27pm

“How was your food?” the cashier asked with a smile. David quietly related to her that it was pretty bad, and that his lovely wife had actually sent hers back and requested something else which turned out to be worse.

“Would you like to speak to a manager?” She tried to be helpful.

David shook his head. “No thanks. I think I just want to be done with the day.”

We scooted up I-85 without a hitch.  The sun slipped down making the sky golden as we pulled in the drive. Like kids who spot those dreaded back to school sales we realized.

Summer is over.

But life has just begun in the Clark house.

I’m cancer free!

Carry Me

I’m so proud. I have a bang. And three eyelashes. It’s been a year, two weeks and one day since my very kind friend Jennifer came over and cut my hair down to the fuzzy nubs. She is a professional and has done this many times for others going through chemo. But for me it was a first. She brought all her gear to my tiny bathroom, pulled up a chair for me and set about her work. I dared not look in the mirror. I was just thankful she offered to come by the house instead of having me meet her in the salon. When she finished, I turned to look and immediately burst into tears. She held me and let me cry while I tried to make jokes. I tend to handle hard things with humor. It didn’t work this time. She wasn’t buying the comments about my high forehead reaching all the way to the back of my neck. Instead she took the other seat in the room and told a story of her past. It was heart wrenching and very personal. I don’t know what prompted her to share something so private at that particular time. But I’m glad she did.

It wasn’t like, “Oh honey, you think that’s bad. You haven’t been through anything yet!” It was just a gentle recounting of something very hard that somehow she made it through. Then quietly she took my hand and said, “You have God in your life and you’re strong. You will make it too.”

She hugged me again then left. I checked another mirror and cried some more. I seriously doubted her words and really didn’t care whether I lived or not… except for my beloved David.

Day after miserable day I could barely lift my bald head. If it wasn’t for hurrying to the bathroom to empty the few contents of my stomach, I wouldn’t have moved at all.

But here I am, one year, two weeks and one day later, with a bang and three eyelashes. With an eyebrow pencil I draw in what’s lacking on my face. If only it came with an eraser for those dark circles. But like Popeye the Sailorman, “I ams what I ams.”

Besides, Jennifer was right! I DID make it! I even find myself smiling and trying to do normal things again; like work in the yard.  In my head I am strong and have big ideas of where to move my Lenten roses. I want to divide my beautiful blue hosta and split the chartreuse ones so I can share. The holly bushes are devouring the front of the house and my heart shaped garden around my bottle tree is being attacked by wire grass.

But for today I must let it go. I will rejoice in how far I’ve come. Food tastes really good again and sleep comes each night without a fight. Hot flashes are less and I no longer feel like I may burst into flames from the inside out. Occasionally I have a case of internal combustion but so far it hasn’t scorched my bang nor my three eyelashes. In fact I fully expect to wake one day with three bangs and seven eyelashes and maybe even bushy brows. But for now I will remind myself that when I was weak, the Lord was strong. Like a little kid I reached up toward my Daddy and said “Carry me.”

And He did.

PS:

Just as I finished writing this, I got a call. The growth the CT scan revealed on my liver is benign. No sign of cancer. I’m bawling like a baby and thanking God again for His tender mercy. Next thing you know I’ll have bangs… plural!

I had a CT scan this week. It is the last of the tests to see if my cancer has been defeated. It’s been a long hard year and a real struggle. But today is also the last opportunity I have to praise God before knowing the results of the scan. You see, I’m still having unexplained pain in my lower back. It’s different from the usual everyday stuff. And as you know my beloved mom-in-law had breast cancer too and seemed to be improving. Then suddenly her back began to hurt. Sadly the cancer had moved there with a vengeance, eventually taking her life. So I can’t help but wonder.

However, today is the day I can praise the Lord and trust Him ahead of time, no matter what the test reveals. It’s not that I am sure He has taken the cancer away. Many good people with much more faith than I, have died of the nasty stuff; like my sweet mom-in-law. Instead, my faith rests in the goodness of God. He alone is wise and holy and knows the best path for me. So today I will praise Him.

During the past year some of my best encouragement has come from the Psalms. The folks who wrote those words were just regular Joes like me with all kinds of problems. When I saw these words, I wondered if the writer had been watching the last year of my life.

Psalm 107:18-21 says, “They couldn’t stand the thought of food, and they were knocking on death’s door. ‘LORD, help! They cried in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He sent out His word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death. Let them praise the LORD for His great love and for the wonderful things He has done for them!”

Author Philip Yancey says, “Confidence in what the Lord will do springs from the knowledge of what He has done.” When I recall the goodness of God in my past, His lovingkindness, and His many answers to prayer, it fills me with confidence that no matter what the future holds, I can trust Him.

Though my body is weak, my faith is small and my brain is tired, my heart can’t help but praise Him. For His unfailing love is higher than the heavens! His faithfulness reaches to the clouds! [from Ps. 108:4]

 

Lest you misunderstand, let me tell you what you already know. I am no saint. However, this is not my first rodeo.

Obviously.

But this one thing I’ve learned.

The Lord can be trusted.

“‘LORD help!’ they cried in their trouble and He saved them from their distress.

He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.

What a blessing was that stillness as He brought them safely into harbor!” –Psalm 107:28-30

When I look at my trial as an opportunity to trust Him, it feels like victory rather than defeat. And like the regular Joe begging Jesus for help I pray,

“I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” –Mark 9:24

Beloved reader, may the storm you are navigating today be calmed to a whisper and the waves be stilled. And may the stillness in your soul be a blessing worthy of praise and thanksgiving.

PS:

Special thanks to my daddy Seabert Pittman who took the beautiful pictures used in my story. He has an appreciation for every sunset and sunrise God gives, and also an eye for contrasting darkness with light… just like the Lord. As our Father says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” –Psalm 30:5

Also, I got a call from my oncologist before I put this story out. The CT scan revealed a cyst on my liver but she does not believe it is cancer. I will have an MRI on July 14th. So again we wait, and walk by faith.

Our firstborn daughter was recounting a recent teen mission trip by way of her daily video. Each morning she visits with Facebook Nation and gives a little insight into everyday life. This time she quoted something I say that went with her talk on critical words and thoughts.

“It’s one thing to let those birds fly over your head. Just don’t let them make a nest in your hair.”

Though the adage is not original with me, I was happy to be associated with it. It made me wonder what other “wise sayings” I will be remembered for. Probably something motherly and nurturing like, “If you shrug your shoulders at me again I will jerk your arm off and beat you with it.”

Since the recent loss of my mother-in-law Nina, we often find ourselves quoting her. She loved to say things like, “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger!” “Lipstick fixes everything.” “You can learn a lot from T.V.” And her favorite “One monkey don’t stop the show.”

She also said something so funny that I laughed much louder than I meant to at her own mother’s funeral. Nina being a woman of many words advised that when she died, we’d have to “cut her tongue out and beat it to death.” Later on in a church service we sang the old hymn There is a Fountain Filled with Blood that includes the words, “When this poor lisping stammering tongue lies silent in the grave…”

Suddenly I thought of Nina.  Laughter came and tears ran down my face from trying to hold it in. I wanted to bring my thoughts back to holy things but it was a lost cause. Those birds set up shop in my curly red hair and had their way. I didn’t hear another thing the preacher said.

Last month as we stood in line greeting all the wonderful folks who came to pay their respects to Nina, I noticed that her daughters had placed a tube of lipstick in her hand. The woman never went anywhere without it. No need to start now.

Right on cue my sister whispered, “Did y’all have to cut her tongue out and beat it to death?” Even in our sorrow, we smiled at each other tearfully remembering Nina’s great humor. Once again she made us laugh.

As I’ve talked about the loss of her with our preschool grandchildren, Able said he is happy she is in Heaven, probably eating Pringles. Jesse announced after our lunch time blessing one day that we didn’t have to pray for “Nanny” anymore. I asked him why and he confidently stated the obvious. “She is all better now!” I asked him and his sister Marie what they thought she was doing. Jesse decided she was listening to Jesus music like they have at church. Marie laughed and added, “She might be dancing!”

Like her great-grandchildren I picture her there too; eating Pringles and reapplying lipstick often. As her sisters and friends gather round, she is likely talking a mile a minute, catching them up on the latest news. If they happen to ask about her family she will probably add with a rose colored smile, “Oh they’ll be fine! What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger!” With a twinkle in her eye I’m sure she’ll add, “Besides, one monkey don’t stop the show!”

Daddy’s Hands

When I look at my hands I see my daddy’s. His are larger but ours are both rough and shaped the same. His are more calloused from all the work he does. I just use my little man hands to type and occasionally dig in the flower beds. But they are still pretty rough for such a delicate woman. I also inherited my daddy’s sense of humor, his feistiness, and his love for sharing a good story. Oh how I wish I had them all recorded so you could hear them too. He told me one the other day about sneaking out to swim off the coast of the Philippines when he was in the Navy. The next day they pulled a shark from those same waters large enough that daddy said he could’ve easily crawled inside it.

“Still sends shivers up my spine!” Daddy laughed as he recalled it. I’m just glad he lived to tell about it.

Daddy came from a family of twelve children. His generation raised their kids with a firm hand. Being blessed with three daughters, I’m sure daddy tempered his words many times though I can’t remember any examples of that at the moment. I don’t know how the man lived with three teenage girls in a house with one bathroom. We knew better than to mess around when daddy spoke. However, I never doubted that he loved me.

I remember warning a guy I dated not to be afraid of my father just because of his rough exterior. He picked me up one Saturday and admitted later that he had polished his shoes in hopes of impressing my dad. Bless his heart. I could’ve saved him the trouble. Daddy was not impressed with any of the young men who expressed interest in his daughters. And this particular guy had very long hippy hair. I’m sure daddy’s steely gaze never made it down to the poor guy’s polished ankle boots.

They say that a girl will ultimately choose a husband who reminds her of her dad. The man I married is nothing like my dad… except that he too has three daughters who knew better than to mess around when he spoke. He loved each one of them through the teen years, coached their teams and watched their suitors with a careful eye. Come to think of it he has a great sense of humor and loves a good story too.

Like my father he loved his wife unconditionally through the horrors and uncertainties of cancer; through good days and bad; through the raising of daughters and eventually their marriages. With a firm hand he taught them the importance of obeying authority and especially that of the Lord. They watched as he quietly started every day with time in Scripture and prayer for his beloved ones. Though his daughters did not inherit his giant man hands, they certainly inherited his heart; his gentle but firm leadership in their own families; his smiling eyes and great sense of humor; and best of all his love for the Lord.

I think that when I get to Heaven, the first thing I’m going to do is check out my Father’s hands. I have a feeling they look like my daddy’s: calloused and worn from all the things He’s protected me from. But when I look into His eyes, I bet they’ll sparkle like my husband’s with kindness and love.

Happy Father’s Day to my two favorite men! Because of your example your daughters chose well when picking men who would become daddies too. May the resemblances continue through the next generation. And may we all live to tell about it.

Adventures at Sea

It’s been right at a year since the cancer diagnosis. Thankfully my strength has gradually returned. I decided to give it a try. We hadn’t been sailing since last June and the sparkling water beckoned. The Captain charted our course pulling out a map that made little sense to me. It hardly mattered. I was content with a comfortable place to rest where I could soak in the day. The first mate loaded all the gear. After tossing life jackets, fishing rods, extra towels and a picnic on board, she untied the boat and off we went.

The sun hit my face along with a stiff breeze and a gentle spray. I was glad to finally be over the sickness of chemo and able to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes. Just as I was beginning to relax the water became a little choppy. The first mate offered me a snack and looked at me with concern. I assured her I was fine. Nothing was going to spoil our day.

Suddenly the sky darkened and the seas became quite rough. The Captain assured me he knew a shortcut to our destination and took a hard right into the waves. I held on for dear life as the boat climbed each wave and landed with a monstrous splash. It seemed to me we were taking on an awful lot of water. The first mate advised me to put my life jacket on instead of just holding it in my lap. My heart pounded as I followed her instructions. Up and down we went over wave after wave. I tried not to think about it as my tummy reminded me of the omelet I had for breakfast.

Suddenly the Captain shouted, “There’s too much water coming in! I think we have a leak! I’m going to check it out!” Overboard he went.

“You stay here! I’m going to help!” With that the first mate abandoned ship as well. The two seasoned sailors disappeared under the boat.

Alone I waited.

There was no sign of either of them.

I closed my eyes trying not to panic as I wondered about the sharks they had spotted earlier.

A voice broke into my thoughts.

“Mom? Are you sick or just playing boat?” My daughter asked as she stood looking at my bed full of pillows and blankets and snacks. “Where are the kids?”

I clutched the pillow I was using as a flotation device and smiled. “They’re under the boat making repairs. But don’t worry. They can hold their breath a really long time. Besides, Jesse knows a shortcut to California and Marie brought lots of snacks.”

While my daughter peeked under the bed at her giggling four year olds, I rested against one of the extra life jackets. It felt so good to be back in the land of the living. After a year of cancer treatments, playing “boat on the bed” was way more fun than I remembered.

I’m just glad Jesse can read a map better than I can.