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Posts Tagged ‘comfort’

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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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!”

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My mouth has gotten me into trouble more than once… mostly because I’m trying to be funny and something goes amiss. Two of my biggest regrets happened on Mother’s Day. As a kid, I remember making a card for my mama and putting in big letters “HAPPY MOUTHER’S DAY!” Daddy would not let that die. It got us both into hot water. Although I really don’t think I was at the age of spelling accountability yet, Mama was not amused.

The second mishap was all my fault. Mother’s Day used to be commemorated by wearing a rose to church. Red meant your mom was living and white that she had passed away. It was a pretty big deal to honor your mom with a bud. We’d ask a neighbor for permission to pick a blossom from her loaded bushes. One year I was especially cute… and unthinking. I came home with a pink rose and told my mom I’d wear that for her since she was always sick.

Not funny.

It makes me sad just remembering the look on her face. Funny is not fun if it is at someone’s expense.

Much later she overcame the sickness that had plagued her young adulthood. In those days asthma could not be taken lightly. Old Doc Shinn made emergency house calls to give her a shot of adrenalin straight in the heart. Times sure have changed.

Once her asthma subsided she was able to take up walking. She and daddy walked three miles each morning and repeated it some afternoons. They were very health conscious. So when a rare illness suddenly took her from us it was a terrible shock. Shortly after she passed away I went to look for flowers for her grave. She hated anything fake, so I was trying to find the most lifelike silk ones possible. Of course the prettiest happened to be pink roses. I stood there in the discount craft store sobbing like a baby.

Someday I will quit beating myself up for hurting her with my funny words. I’m sure if she could speak to me now she’d say, “Oh Lynna quitcha bawlin’! I’m fine! I feel better than ever!” … or something more heavenly.

Mother’s Day can be such a difficult time. A lady I know whose only son died, hurts terribly around this time of the year. Another friend in his sixties continues to grieve that his mother abandoned him and even though she lives near, still wants nothing to do with him. A young woman whose baby died before birth wonders if she counts as a real mother. Those of us with mothers who’ve passed on may find the sentimental songs at church unbearable. The pain for the childless woman, who must remain seated when the mothers in the congregation are asked to stand, is unspeakable. As she leaves and flowers are given to all the moms in attendance, she must shake her head, “Nope. Still not a mom.”

I don’t know the answer. Maybe there’s a way to do things differently. But how ever we celebrate Mother’s Day, let’s think a little. Maybe an extra prayer for the childless couple could be offered. Perhaps a card sent to someone the Lord brings to mind would be a good idea. Just be sure to check your spelling on those homemade cards. And stay away from pink roses.

PS-

I thought you’d like to know that the mother who lost her son battled through a very deep valley of depression. She got busy and sent out an armload of Mother’s Day cards.

The man in the story will no doubt spend the week-end enjoying his wife, grown children, and grandkids, knowing he has made a great difference in the lives of those who love him.

The young lady whose baby died will celebrate with her precious little miracle son Able, who is now a healthy five year old.

And the childless couple was blessed with two babies at once who keep them busier and happier than they ever dreamed possible.

I pray that God will bless you too, in some unexpected way, especially if Mother’s Day tends to stink.

My beautiful mom on the right with Aunt Termey.

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Currently I’m in week two of my second round of chemo. In case you’ve never walked with someone on the cancer treatment journey, this particular regimen means a day of infusion every three weeks. Right about the time the patient begins to recover from the chemo it’s time to take another. And Lord have mercy, I’ve been sick. We’ve learned a couple interesting things along the way that are helping us maintain a small measure of sanity. One of those is to have Cheerios on hand at all times. Emergency consumption may be needed to ward off nausea which hits all willy-nilly for no apparent reason. Wiser folks warned me to keep lemon drops and ginger candy and other citrusy yumminess available for such occasions. So far they have not been the ‘godsend’ that I was promised. Ginger ale has helped a little, though it like everything else tastes like metallic dishwater. Thanks to several Father’s Day gifts I can now consume the bubbly treat from a Yeti cup so at least it’s cold any hour day or night. God bless the father of our home who graciously shares his bounty.

Back to the Cheerios:  I’ve found that as long as I eat a bowlful the second I wake up in the morning they help stave off impending barfage. Throw in a half a banana and the yumminess is enhanced twofold.photo (1)

Another simple thing which helps is Townhouse Crackers. A couple of those placed strategically by the bed not only settle the tummy but also invoke happy memories of a country song of yesteryear.

“You can eat crackers in my bed any time… you can kick off all the covers in the middle of the niiiight…”

I’m sure the cute little blonde singing the song on the Lawrence Welk Show never had a clue. Maybe she did. Perhaps verse two included the trashcan and the icepack and the two fans blowing at gale force speeds. But I doubt it.

Another simple thing I’ve learned to keep handy is a handkerchief. My daddy always carries one and now I do too. I remember learning to iron on his and was proud of how nice I made them. One day he informed me with all the love a man with a house full of girls could muster.

“DO NOT KEEP STARCHING MY HANDERCHIEFS! THE SNOT WON’T EVEN STICK ANY MORE!”

He gave me a hanky the other day at my request. Though I had some at home, now I know that at least one of them was his. It brings comfort having him near even if it is for wiping my nose. In case you didn’t know, after chemo the nose hair is scorched right off and clear snot just runs free without warning. Now I carry a hanky like daddy and tuck it stealthily like mama up my sleeve or in my waistband for quick and simple extraction.

Another simple thing came from Scripture this morning. I declare I’ve read all around this verse but had never marked it. Basically it says,

“You don’t know everything.”

I’ll take that.

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one.”

I also love that it is followed by verses I’ve heard and clung to for years. They are just as true. While I don’t know everything, this I know.

Deuteronomy 31:6- “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you!”

So take that CANCER!

You can have my nose hair, my taste buds and my sleep and my strength. You might even steal a lot of my courage. But you cannot take the things God has planned for me. Because like me, YOU DON’T KNOW IT ALL!

But the Lord does.

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It was spring break and I had to get home. My boyfriend David drove me to North Carolina in his ’67 Camaro. I was in so much pain. When the prescribed dosage of medication didn’t immediately kick in I took a couple more, climbed in the backseat and basically passed out. It was at least a sixteen hour trip home from south Florida. Thankfully his buddy Barry Dyson was riding shotgun and helped him stay awake. My sweetheart would get me out of the car every time he stopped for gas, hold my hand and lead me to the ladies room. Being the perfect gentleman he waited outside then put me back in the car when I wandered out. At least that’s how he tells it.

I don’t remember a thing and didn’t wake up til we hit Charlotte. David, who is now my husband of forty one years, probably wishes more trips were like that. He could just stop for gas, push me into a bathroom and keep on trucking. No yammering from the little woman about the urgency of the situation and the importance of choosing “somewhere clean.” Sorry honey. I’m all out of drugs.

Once we got home my parents took me straight to the doctor. That idiot put me in the hospital… for ten stinkin’ days. I tried to relay to him that I needed to get back to school plus had a wedding to plan. He kept me there doing all kinds of tests, until it was too late to return and finish my freshman year. They found nothing; no slipped disc, no disease, no reason for the pain. David returned to school. The pain continued and I was mad. The cards poured in… so many sappy cards with happy words about all this crap working for my good. It was sickening.

My youth pastor came every day at lunch with a sack of burgers and fries. Now THAT was a spiritual experience. Occasionally a funny card would arrive at just the right time and make me laugh. That was kind of spiritual too for it gave a small measure of relief. One day however a pretty card caught my eye. On the front was a soaring eagle. The verse from Isaiah 40:30-31 which says even young people will grow weary got my attention. It went on to say that those who wait on the Lord would not only run and not get tired, but would walk and not faint.

Apparently God had been reading my bitter soul. If only I could walk and not keel over. If only I could dress myself and stroll down the hall for crying out loud. Who cares about flying and soaring and running? I would gladly take waddling without assistance.

Opening my Bible to the passage I wondered what would be the key to the strength promised there. Stink! If there’s anything I hate worse than being weak it’s waiting.

Apparently strength comes with the waiting. I didn’t much like it. I still don’t. Not many people do.

Chances are you’re waiting too; maybe for a spouse to change, for healing, for a prodigal to come home; maybe for financial deliverance. It is hard to wait. It’s in our framework to fix things. It is our culture to be self-reliant. We take pride in making things happen. God in His great wisdom however, gives us reason to look to Him and say, “I give up. I have no resources or power to make this better. I have only You.” He answers sweetly in Isaiah 41:10.

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

The pain I experienced as a youth has grown worse through the years. But I believe by God’s grace, that I have grown stronger inside. At least now I don’t feel like cussing when someone tells me how all this is working for my good. Well… at least not as often. Waiting is still hard and I long to be well. But if it’s not time for me to soar just yet, I want to be content just holding His hand.

Even more comforting is the truth that it is He Who is holding mine.DSCI0183

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It might be a Southern thing, parking buggies nose to nose in front of the Prilosec at Walmart sharing deep personal issues.

Guilty as charged.

I try to stay out of Walmart because I don’t function well there. Something about crowds and long walks between the raisins and the hair gel ticks me off. How spoiled am I? Nothing against Sam Walton or the fine folks who work there. Thankfully the company has provided much needed jobs for lots of folks who might otherwise be unemployed.

But could someone please shut off the video ads in the aisles so us old people can think?

Annyyywayyy…

I bumped into a dear friend whom I’ve not seen in approximately seven to ten. I know what you’re thinking. Either she just got out of prison or she’s not really that dear if I’ve not seen her in that space of time. You would be incorrect on both accounts. We just got busy living life and forgot how much we like each other. Or I could be incorrect and she’s been avoiding me all these years. Hmmm…

So right there in Walmart with buggies nose to nose we talked about wayward children. Not mine of course, as they are all perfect. Through tears we shared the angst of parenting and how it seems that we raise our children to be strong and independent and above all to think for themselves… until they do. That’s when the defecation hits the oscillation.

How dare they question the belief system we’ve poured into their hearts and souls? What is that about?

I loved the wisdom she shared through her pain.

“I’m asking the Lord to take me out of the way of His plan.” She spoke with tears. “For if I can just stay out of His way, He will work this out.”

Wow.ad in wmt

That has become my own desire as well. If I can own the fact that He has a plan which includes me, but doesn’t depend on me, all manner of crapstorms shall be avoided.

So Lord, take me out of the way. Let Your will be done. Work through me as Your tool of grace. You love drawing all men to Yourself. Help me to never get in the way of that.

And please cure the lady of heartburn who tried her best to get something over the counter without interrupting our visit.

Thankfully that is also a Southern thing.

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Don’t you love the sound of moving water? Waves gently lapping on the shore, a mountain stream tumbling over rocks, summer rain hitting a tin roof: there’s something about the sound of flowing water that gives the soul a gentle rest.

A while back David and I designed a fountain using a watering can and a tin tub. A small pump pushes the water up through a hose which is tucked into the watering can. The watering can sprinkles water into the tub making the soothing sound of rain. Oh how I love it. When we first came up with this idea we were in our “forever home” and assembled the fountain in the front yard. Neighbors would stop as they walked by to study how our engineering marvel worked. If we noticed them we’d step outside and point out the black hose which was hidden in plain sight. It’s funny how some things aren’t visible unless you’re looking for them.

When we thought we had sold our house and moved into this little rental, we took our fountain apart and tucked the pieces in the shed. There was no reason to reassemble it since this was only a temporary residence. When the sale of the other house fell through and the bottom dropped out of the economy, we also found ourselves unemployed and waiting on next. About a month ago God brought about an amazing turn of events. The perfect job opened up for my sweet David. But the best part is that we get to call this little temporary residence home now. Finally it felt right to set up our fountain again.

Just look at her pour!ftn

I love Matthew 11:28-30. Beside it I wrote the date May 7, 2014 and a note which says, “during a long night of worry.” So much sickness and financial strain. By then we had been jobless for seven months. But the Lord reminded me that night that He can be trusted to bear my burdens and gently teach me in the process.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to Me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’”

We moved here eight years ago and the whole time I’ve been thinking temporary. “Don’t get too attached” I warned myself. Now suddenly I’m free to enjoy the lovely little home the Lord provided. It was hiding in plain sight. How funny that we didn’t think we’d be here very long. Now I am allowing myself to do the dance of joy. My fountain is out and making a beautiful sound as it softly splashes a happy song.

“You’re home my dear. Listen and find rest for your wandering soul. What’s that? You have to tinkle again? Well bless your heart.”

Thank You dear Lord for my sweet little fountain, for indoor plumbing, and for my home.

There’s just no place like it!ftn 2

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