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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

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!

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Faith of a Regular Joe

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.

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Pansies in the Dark

From March 2012:

My mom-in-law Nina gave us a little scare last week. She’s 86 and one of the sharpest funniest people I know. Her heart got out of rhythm and she had to go to the hospital. I told her she had been eating too many Javi’s Duros De Harina [chili and lime seasoned wheat chips]. She loves those things and stocked up when she found them on sale for a dollar a bag. No wonder her heart was doing the cha-cha!

Her nurse’s name was on the white board. What a beautiful young lady with a Jamaican accent, and she was very sweet to Nina. As she left the room, we asked Nina how to say her name. She said “It’s Hawa, as in Hawa ya?” Leave it to Nina to entertain us while she’s sick. Thankfully her hospital stay was short.

Lately she has also developed a painful knee. It sometimes gives out and causes her to lose balance. So she keeps her cane handy. I walked over to see her and she asked me to look for it. “I know I haven’t been outside today, so it’s got to be here somewhere!” She had hobbled all over the house looking.

After checking in all the obvious spots, then under furniture, and the places we’ve found it hanging before [on the back of chairs, kitchen cabinet handles, bathroom towel racks, etc.] I finally gave up.

The next day, her daughters came over to clean house for her since she’s still not feeling well, and they are giving Amanda a baby shower. Jo called. “You’ll never guess where we found mama’s cane. Gail found it in the refrigerator.”

Bless her heart. Nina had been cleaning out her fridge and had hung it there while she worked. Then it just blended in with the metal racks.

I love this woman.

As bad as she feels, she is determined to host the shower. In her thinking that includes waaayyy more than one might think. She’ll make about 50 tiny bows to pin on guests for a game. She will wrap small gifts for prizes and a blue hydrangea must be purchased for the guest of honor. Doilies will line the plates. Flower pots need to be painted. Blue sheets must be ironed so white lace can cover them and the tables. She is also hoping her blue and purple irises open in time for the guests to enjoy them. What a production.

David couldn’t get her on the phone the other night so he decided to walk over to check on her. There she was outside planting pansies in the dark.

I can’t imagine life without her.pansies

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My mother-in-law has the best humor. She is also very determined. Once she gets an idea in her head there is no talking her out of it. She lives across the street from us and last month she had gravel, or “crush ’n run,” delivered to her driveway. It’s something she’s done for fifty plus years. The truck comes, dumps a big ol’ pile of rock and she is as happy as if she has good sense.

We knew this had become a current priority because she had mentioned it to us several times. “Get ready! Gravel is coming!” she would say.  For my husband, [her son] that was like saying, “Just so you know, the gates of hell are about to open.” Her idea of a good day is hauling gravel by the wheel barrow load to its designated spot after shoveling it into her wheel barrow. But before the gravel comes, it is important to dig out under the carport so ground level is not too high. Then you have to wet everything down real good so it packs tight. It’s a very important process.

After mentioning her plan several times, and how important is was to get some crush ‘n run, because she had not had any delivered in about thirteen years, her son said, “So mama, how are you going to get the gravel spread?” She replied with a head wag, “I will spread it myself!” Son says, “Mama, the last time you did this you were young, like still in your seventies. Can we figure out a different way to do this? I’m not as young as you are.” For he knew he would not be sitting across the street watching his eighty five year old mom haul gravel.

Finally, after numerous conversations like this, she mentioned to one of her daughters her plan.  Her firstborn replied, “If I hear tell of you shoveling gravel, I will make a speed bump out of you.” This is her calm daughter. Usually we depend on the younger daughter to take care of such issues. But this time offspring number one made her opinion clear in no uncertain terms.

When mom-in-law called to tell me to watch her driveway for speed bumps, I told her to make sure to lay down parallel to the drive instead of crosswise; and if she didn’t mind, to position herself in the middle of the drive so she wouldn’t create too much trouble for us to get in and out.

Not to be outdone by all the instructions from well-meaning children, she asked before she was made into a speed bump, if she could at least roll up and down the drive. That way, she reasoned, the gravel would be packed down so tight it would resemble concrete.

I love her humor. I love how sharp she is. I love how everyone has her best interest at heart and how we all instruct her, even though she really does know everything. Seriously. She has been through so much life, that there isn’t much she does not know. Oh to be that sharp and fun at eighty-five!

I heard the beep, beep, beep, as a gravel truck backed into her drive. It deposited two huge piles of the coveted crush ‘n run. Shortly after, a grandson with a blade pulled up and leveled the drive. Mom had previously, probably under cloak of night, dug out under the carport to the desired depth.  A hard rain began to fall as the grandson finished spreading the crush ‘n run. The driveway is leveled and packed. Later mom waters the gravel under the carport to her heart’s content. No mothers or offspring were harmed in this production. All is well in her corner of the world. Now if we can just figure out how to keep her out of the creek.  Because you know, that when the rocks get moved around, water gets still and mosquitoes breed, and… the saga continues…

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The Firstborn, Jo, Nina, and the Middle Child, Gail

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Beautiful Nina

In honor of my beloved mom-in-law who passed away last week, I thought I’d run some of the stories I wrote about her a few years back. Hope you enjoy!

Lynna's Wonderful Life

As we sat waiting for her name to be called for yet another medical test, my sweet mom-in-law explained why she could no longer pull heavy bales of hay or large flower pots with her left arm. Not because she’s dragging a line hooked to her oxygen tank; nor because she has a replacement knee which has come apart within her leg; and certainly not because she is eighty nine.

But get this. It’s because she’s afraid her pacemaker will pop out. I asked if that would be similar to the Butterball thermometer which pops out when the turkey is done. Thankfully her hearing is not what it used to be either. I’m pretty sure she can still whip me.

This woman has always been able to work circles around anyone and everyone. When one of her knee replacements went bad she refused to quit. Afraid of being put to…

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Beneath the Load

David’s beloved mother Nina passed away this week after a two year battle with breast cancer. I had written this story last week but it sure feels appropriate today. Next week I’ll run a series of stories about Nina that I hope will honor her. Oh what a beautiful soul!

Beneath the Load

The cutest little bluebird couple has made a home in the box outside my window. While I’m writing I’m able to observe them and keep up with the progress of their babies. I feel like Gladys Kravitz from the sitcom of yesteryear; always poking my nose into the neighbor’s business. But I’m sure not convicted enough to stop. Pretty soon those little fledglings will be ready to fly and I want to see it. Their house is on a pole with a snake guard around it thanks to my friend Randy. A few years back we made the mistake of attaching the birdhouse on the side of the shed. I looked out one day just in time to see a big ol’ black snake slithering out of the house with sizable lumps in his belly. Oh my poor soul! But not this year!  I could tell the babies had hatched as both mama and daddy brought food. Then suddenly it rained for days; cold drenching downpours lasted hours at a time. One morning David happened to look out the window before heading to work.

The birdhouse had fallen over, pole and all. With helpless baby birds inside, it lay on the ground just waiting on the neighbor’s cat or a nasty snake to notice. My hero went out in the pouring rain and stood the pole upright again, pushing it as far into the soggy soil as he could. We hoped it would hold and that the birds inside would somehow be alright.

I try not to spiritualize everything that happens in my life. Sometimes crap just happens. We hurt and move on like the year the black snake got my bluebirds. But I couldn’t help but compare God’s care for me to David’s care for the birds when I read this passage.

“The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.” –Psalm 145:14

In fact all of Psalm 145 is a great encouragement for anyone bent beneath their load. Our gentle Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He showers compassion on all His creation.  He hears our cries for help and rescues us.

Before David left for work we checked on the house again. Mama and daddy birds had returned. In and out they went, feeding their little ones. A few days later I could see tiny bird heads peeking out of the hole looking for a parent to return with a tasty treat. Slowly they explored and stretched looking out their one window to the world, probably wondering what it would be like to fly. Soon they will know. They don’t however know enough to thank the one who lifted them when they had fallen.

But I do.

Thank you Lord for caring for the least of Your wonderful creation. You’ve said that not even a sparrow falls without You. By revealing that, I know that You surely care for me. When my soul longs for health and my spirit grows weak, You lift my load. You are the strength of my heart. You are mine forever! May everyone share the story of Your wonderful goodness and bless Your holy Name!

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The old hymn we sang had a line in it I didn’t understand. “He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock, and covers me there with His hand.” Later I asked David if it referred to something in Scripture. He told me the story in Exodus where Moses had become so angry at his people that he actually threw the tablets containing God’s commandments down breaking them into pieces. Though I was familiar with that, I wasn’t aware that shortly afterward, Moses wanted God to continue with them so much that he begged God to show His presence. The Lord comforted Moses and spoke to him as one speaks to a friend. In order to convey His goodness He agreed not only to continue with the Israelites, but to show Himself to Moses.

“Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.” –Exodus33:21-23

What a picture! What power and glory was shown to this beloved friend of God!

Just as I had overlooked the beautiful picture in the Old Testament of God’s power, I had also read right past another truth about His power in the New Testament. Ephesians 1:19 is a surprising passage about God’s power for us who believe Him. It is described as “the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.” Can you imagine? The incredible greatness of God’s power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is available to us through Him! No wonder the enemy of our souls continually beats us down with insecurities and reminders of our sinful selves. He knows what is available to us if we understand this amazing Truth.

The same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to anyone who claims Him as their Savior! Wowee! Shall we jump a couple pews together?

So what does this mean to me personally? Can I claim His power and be healed this very moment of the cancer that has knocked me on my ample rear end? I have an infusion appointment later today so should I just skip it? Do I toss the basket full of medications I’ve been taking for the last eleven months?

This is where we mess up in our human understanding. While it was His beautiful plan to raise Christ from the dead by His incredible power, it was also His heart wrenching purpose to allow His only Son to be put to death.

All for us.

We cannot face a holy God in our sinfulness. By trusting Him we can be clothed in the glorious righteousness of His Son Jesus. Then by claiming the same power that raised Him from the dead we can face the minor inconveniences this world tosses our way, like cancer. And if cancer happens to win this temporary victory, so what? I get to spend eternity with the One Who has the power to raise the dead!

Praise God that He covers me with His nail pierced hand!

photo credit: Seabert Pittman, my daddy

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