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Posts Tagged ‘difficulties’

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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Not Real Brave

About a month ago I announced to the world that I have breast cancer. Just like that I put the news out there before God and everybody. I get accused often of being a ‘private person’ which is kind of hilarious considering the stuff I share with complete strangers. However the accusation of being private is fitting. I really hate having people all up in my business. David and I tend to keep to ourselves and just play the cards we’re dealt. Our way of coping is less about sharing and more about making light of things in order to deflect the attention. But lately it seems that he and I both have been impressed that the Lord would rather we allow others into this place we lovingly call Clarkville.

Our family creed has always been the same as the state motto for North Carolina. “To be rather than to seem.” Well… that and “If a little cheese is good, a lot of cheese is better.” Sometimes I wonder if our family mantra is more akin to Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong WILL go wrong.”

Poor Murphy. We feel your pain. Though we truly want to honor the Lord our lives are not always real pretty. I hope you are surrounded with as many good people as we are. For it seems the Lord does not expect us to bear our burdens alone. We’re learning that it’s important to allow people in. It’s not up to us to manage our image or to come off looking like we have it all together. Lord knows we need help.

But how do you say that and not come across like a whiny butt? Or needy? Or even ungodly? Aren’t we trusting God to get us through this? Do we not have the precious truth of Scripture emblazoned upon our very souls?

David said something very valuable to me one day. I love him even more for it. He said that Christian women have it hard. Because we know the Lord, it’s almost as if we’re expected to lose our hair and Flopsy and Mopsy and still go hopping down the bunny trail as if we can happily do all things through Christ Who strengthens us.

Those were not his exact words. My version is a very loose paraphrase. The man has loved me for forty some years and would never say Flopsy or Mopsy. But you get the point.

Sometimes it seems that if we call ourselves Christians it’s supposed to be okay to lose our hair then go out in public feeling hideous.

I’ve got news for you.

It’s not.

It hurts like Gehenna and I’m not good with it at all. I’m sad and crying like a fool even as I type the words. Apparently I am not real brave.

But you know what?

I’m pretty sure God knew that about me already. Step by step, day by day He’s turning my weakness into strength. This morning He took my hand and led me to a crazy verse about Moses of all people. It says that he “Kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the One who is invisible.” –Heb.11:27

Isn’t that odd? God commended Moses because he continued to put one foot in front of the other by trusting the God he could not see. What a picture of faith.

By His grace I will do the same.

At some point I’m going to have to leave the house without hair. It’s one thing to shave your head and look like Kelly Pickler. It’s a whole nother crapstorm to be sick as a dog and sixty-stinkin’-one with your head in a ball cap.

No, I didn’t find a wig. All the ones I tried on made me feel like a Muppet. That was a different cry-fest. So while I still have eyelashes and eyebrows I took the first selfie of my life so I could change my profile picture.

So here I am, in front of God and everybody trying to “be rather than to seem.” The smile is fake but it’s all I’ve got. And right on cue sweet David brought me homemade cheese grits to settle my tummy.

Because if a little cheese is good…

You know the rest.photo cap

PS:

Special thanks to my beautiful friend Jennifer Naves who made a house call when my hair began falling out. With the skill of a gentle surgeon she cut away the curls and exposed the fact that life is still a wonderful joy to be held tightly.

Sweet Jennifer, you make me want to be brave. Much love from Clarkville!

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It was the first day of Spring. We had just received the terrible cancer diagnosis for my beloved mom-in-law Nina. The first surgeon she visited spoke words we were not prepared to hear. “I can’t do surgery because if I were to take all of the cancer out I would not even be able to close you back up.”

I began gathering photos of Nina in preparation for… I cannot even speak the word.

Anyone who knows her also knows that she hates having her picture taken. Therefore the task would not be easy. Oh we had plenty of pictures, but nearly all of them have her wagging a finger in the direction of the photographer with a death threat hanging in mid-air. This woman is not to be trifled with. I joked with her one happy day that if she didn’t stop putting the stink-eye on those trying to capture her pretty image we’d have to resort to using all those ugly photos at her memorial. That would teach her!

Beautiful silver hair frames her lovely face. Her skin is smooth and nearly wrinkle-free. She and her son joke that all the butter they consume keeps the wrinkles pushed out from the inside. She was able to attend the graduation of her granddaughter Desani where someone snapped a gorgeous picture of the two of them. She showed it to me and said, “When I die just Photoshop my head onto all those other bad pictures.” Note to self: Never try to teach Nina a lesson.Nina & Desi

For those of us who live in Salisbury, Dr. Black is a household name. He and Nina go way back. He’s treated many members of her family for cancer starting with her husband. Even now while Dr. Black is in the midst of trying to retire he’s committed to treating Nina’s sister until the end. The only criticism I’ve ever heard her speak of him is that she cannot understand why he doesn’t wear socks. Something about his naked ankles has always been a little disconcerting to her. Nina has baked him and his staff many a pan of brownies. She was saddened to hear of Dr. Black’s retirement, but took right up with his associate Dr. Brinkley. Perhaps the fact that he wears socks gives him cred. She loved him immediately because he joked with her and understood her sense of humor. The three of them have a running disagreement on whether brownies should contain nuts or not. Dr. Black poked his head into her exam room one day and said, “Don’t you let him talk you out of putting nuts in the brownies!”

What will Salisbury do without Dr. Black?

What will we do without our beloved Nina? My heart grieves at the thought.

Last Spring I wrote a story called Daffodils of Hope which ended with a request that you pray for her. Here’s the rest of the story. Dr. Brinkley immediately started breast cancer treatment which has shrunk the tumors so much that everyone is amazed. Nina has had no terrible side effects, has not had to endure chemo or radiation. We had no idea such a hormone therapy existed. At this point it’s looking like she may not even require surgery. God willing, Nina will be celebrating her ninetieth birthday on Christmas day.

Never once did Dr. Brinkley treat her as though she were too old to hope. With each visit he listened intently as she and her children asked questions and relayed symptoms. In fact he listened so well that at times there was actual silence in the room as he processed our concerns. How rare is that? If you know the Clark clan you’ll certainly appreciate that abnormality.

Thank you doctors Black and Brinkley for treating her and many others so well. Thank you to all who prayed for our beloved Nina.

And thank You Lord that I won’t have to be learning how to use Photoshop anytime soon.

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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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The page before me was blank, like my heart. Nothing would come.

Empty.

With a loss, we go through various emotions. I think one of the hardest might be emptiness.

I remember when our little church closed and we knew it was time to give the building to others who needed it. Walking through the sanctuary, knowing our time there was finished…

Oh, such emptiness.

When my mom died and I knelt by her grave, arranging flowers in the heavy metal vase. I shivered not so much with the cold, but with deep sorrowful emptiness. Sure, she is with the Lord and certainly better off. But my soul was empty.

We rode by our beloved house one last time. We wanted to speak to the tenants before it was auctioned off, maybe have some sort of closure. The trees out front dropped golden leaves spreading a blanket on the lawn. All the vehicles were gone. Even the lawnmower they kept chained to the tree was missing. I used to love that place. Sitting on the big front porch we often prayed for our little church next door and wave as the neighbors walked by. As I knocked on the glass door I could see through the lace curtain.

Empty.Great marketing, just not God's timing

Anyone who’s ever lost a job knows the feeling. The first few days of not having to set an alarm feel like vacation. Then suddenly there’s the office to clear out, and the questions to answer, and the direction to find. Emptiness can nearly suck the life right out of one’s soul.

Unless…

Emptiness is replaced.

Not because things are suddenly better.

But because the Lord gives something to hold on to… a sweet word of hope.

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” –Isa.43:19

Like a new season which bursts forth dressed as a thousand burning bushes. She shines like a fire that won’t go out reminding me that, “For everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” –Eccl. 3:1

In the Lord’s kindness He speaks a word of hope. His comfort fills my empty soul with promises of a beautiful purpose ahead, and something new.

Should I linger on the porch, peering into what used to be?

Perhaps it’s time I realize…

He’s taking me through empty places…

in order to give me something beautiful and new.

Dear Sweet Lord, Please set our hearts on fire like a thousand burning bushes that won’t go out! Strengthen us to step out of the emptiness and walk by faith into a fresh new place of service. Thank You that Your mercies are new every single morning of our lives. We love and trust You evermore!

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What’s your default setting? Where do you go when nothing makes sense? Do you have a happy place that re-boots your psyche? Christianese would say, “Run to Jesus.” So how do you do that when the bills pile up, the pain is great and prayers seem to go unanswered?

A good friend of mine who struggles with depression will watch a funny movie. Another friend finds great solace in his deer stand. He can sit in the forest on a cold, frosty morning for hours. David will take a long ride on his motorcycle through the quiet countryside. He calls it therapy. Me? Take me to the beach. Give me a day watching the waves and suddenly I’m good for another couple months.

The sweetest story is recorded in the last chapter of John. Seven guys were together after witnessing the horrible death of their friend. Even though they had seen Him alive, and realized that God had raised Him from the dead, their future was very uncertain. Unmet expectations, fear of the unknown and the lingering question of “What now?” made way for hurt and doubt.

Peter reveals his default setting with “I’m going fishing.”

His friends joined him. But after fishing all night their nets were as empty as their souls. With dawn breaking a stranger called out to them the ageless question.

“Catching anything?”

“We’ve got nothing,” was their reply.

“Throw your nets on the other side,” came the familiar suggestion.

With nets suddenly full, memories of provision and care filled their weary souls. Once they hauled in the bounty, they made their way to the shore where Jesus was waiting. There He had a hot breakfast ready for them. Can He get any sweeter?

Here is the Lord of glory, Who has just conquered death, Who understands their fear and emptiness, cooking breakfast on the sea shore for His weary friends.

He’s kind like that. It wasn’t enough to call out a greeting; or to fill their boat with fish; or even just appear to them again in order to let them know everything would be okay. Nope. He cooked breakfast.

That is a picture of our Savior: Grace heaped upon grace.

Just when we cannot take another thing, He sends what we need to fill our empty souls.

Hold on my friend. He will be calling to you shortly. Don’t feel bad if you have to look to Him and reply, “I’ve got nothing.” He already knows. He’s cooking up something special that will be just what you need.

photo credit: Seabert Pittman, my sweet daddy

photo credit: Seabert Pittman, my sweet daddy

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