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Posts Tagged ‘fear’

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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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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The Best!

I saw the quote somewhere, maybe in the back of a magazine. It was under a picture of an older couple walking down a sandy shore. It said, “Hold my hand, grow old with me. The best is yet to be.”

Or something similar. My memory cannot be trusted.

I love the saying, but I love the truth of it even more. My sweetheart has held my hand since we first met as juniors in high school. We were certain that the best was yet to be.

And it was.

Together we brought three funky chicks into the world. Each one is quite unique and opposite of the other. Yet each has a part of our personalities.

They crack me up. Their humor is much like their dad’s: subtle, dry, off-kilter, with notes of sarcasm and mischief… kind of like a fine wine. However, it is always tempered with kindness. The balance is delicate.

Through forty-two years our home has never lacked laughter. I was reminded by a dear friend that it is indeed the best medicine.

Praise God.

Hopefully it works even better than chemo.

Did I tell you that I have cancer?

Yep. Just diagnosed.

That got my attention too.

It seems there’s breast cancer with a little side of suspicious lymph node activity.

The laughter at our house came to a screeching halt. It was replaced by something akin to gut wrenching fear. Information overload drop kicked us into the reality of upcoming decisions which seem almost trivial in the midst of The Big C.

Shall I try to find a wig that looks like my hair? Or sport a bald head that may or may not be lumpy? So far I haven’t been able to find a wig even similar to my lovely mane.

Imagine that.

It seems no one wants curly hair that used to be red.

David says it’s the opposite. Everyone wants to have hair like me so all the wigs that look like mine have been snatched up.

And just like that the humor returns… with gentle notes of kindness.

He takes my hand and leads me to yet another appointment. I have no idea where we are because I am so directionally challenged. Across the parking lot he guides me like a little child into the unknown. I comment on the pretty fountain as it splashes water around the happy flowers planted there. He smiles and hurries me inside to meet another kind technician. She explains yet another procedure. I try to make a joke when someone says “Have a nice day!”

“It’s been a great day! Well… except for the possibility of killing off Flopsy and Mopsy. But other than that it’s been awesome.”

He shakes his head and laughs. Again he takes my hand and leads me back through the maze of cars to an unfamiliar place. That’s our truck so apparently I have been there before. Yep the truck is definitely ours because it has all the stickers of places we’ve been.

He opens my door and I can’t help but notice.

There’s room for more stickers on the back. Apparently we still have places to go. Maybe the best IS yet to be.

Gown in the front, gown in the back, paper pants and MRI loveliness because apparently one gown couldn't quite cover it.

Gown in the front, gown in the back, paper pants and MRI loveliness because apparently one gown couldn’t quite cover it.

Or maybe… the BEST is just having someone to hold my hand and laugh when I laugh…

And cry when I cry.

And love me so much that it matters not if I have hair.

Happy Anniversary beloved David!

Thank you for holding my hand through thick and thin, sickness and health, riches and… no wait: through everything EXCEPT for the riches. Apparently there was a strike at the dock when our ship came in. So instead let’s go get another biopsy plus a port for the chemo and determine to live as long as God sees fit!

Hold my hand. Grow old with me my love. The best really is yet to be!

I’m certain of it!

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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 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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I think this big pot of flowers is kinda pretty. Sitting on my front stoop it dresses up an otherwise nondescript landing. At a glance it looks rather refined in the large stately planter. Upon further review one might discover that the pot is actually plastic. The faux cement urn is a stately planter wannabe. But I love it better than an actual antique because it’s light enough to haul around and doesn’t crack when I hoist it to the place it looks best. A plant-wise daughter commented that the purple foliage is some sort of weed I keep bringing in each winter to save on a sunny windowsill. Whatever dear. I love it.Pot

The ivy is leftover from a Christmas tree I fashioned one winter in the same planter. Twisted around an upside down tomato cage shaped into a cone with tiny lights, it looked rather elegant in a redneck topiary kind of way. Apparently even ivy must be watered for alas, my ivy tree turned brown when that small detail never entered my teeny tiny brain.

The little striped vine is Wandering Jew, or should I say Nomadic Israelite. Like its namesake it is strong and thrives anywhere it has the privilege of landing. The delicate pink flower in front is a happy little remnant of my Mother’s Day gift which did not survive the June from Hell we experienced here in N.C. A little water might’ve helped but alas… teeny tiny brain. Thankfully I pinched off a piece of the beautiful petunia and stuck it in my planter before it was eternally too late.

All these happy remnants crammed together in a plastic pot look better together than they would on their own. Some have survived harsh winters on a Southern windowsill. Others sprouted in foreign soil only to be nurtured and elevated as beautiful. Some fill in the gaps just doing what they do. Others add a unique flair wherever they find themselves.

It reminds me of home… as in land of the free and home of the brave. So many treasures crammed in a big resilient pot we call America. If only we could stop with the finger wagging and name calling. If we could look for the value in folks we might discover that we actually complement each other with all our differences.

For those who bear the Name of Jesus Christ, do we remember His charge to us? The instruction He gave which fulfills all of Scripture? You know… His top two commandments which trump all others:

Love God.

Love people.

It’s the simplest hardest thing we’ll ever do.

When haters hate and government governs and evil seems to win, our job is to love the ones we find in the pot beside us. May we follow the precious example of the families of those slain in Charleston as we purposely love. For love trumps all other Scripture. It is God’s plan and the best and only hope for our country.

What? Are you wagging your finger at me? Whatever dear. I guess I’ll have to purposely love you… which might be rather difficult.

But with God’s help surely not impossible.

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