The God Who Sees Me – Part 3

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Studying the names of God, I continue to reflect on the name Hagar, the Egyptian Slave of Abraham and Sarah, gave to God in her encounter with Him.  It was a moment of great despair and hopelessness for her.  Despair and hopelessness until she realized that God saw her and cared about her.

As I continue to think about this concept that God sees us, I continue to be reminded of times in my own life when things seemed hopeless, but then God reminded me that I was not alone, that He saw me and He cared.  I shared the first two times in my life – at ages 14 and 33 – when God revealed Himself to me so vividly in The God Who Sees Me – Part 1 and The God Who Sees Me – Part 2

Perhaps the greatest time God showed up for me was when I was fighting for my life in a battle with an aggressive cancer.  After a mastectomy, the surgeon apologized to me because he said he had to cut a lot more nerves under my arm than he wanted to, including the main nerve running through my underarm down my side.  He had found so many lymph nodes full of cancer and he wanted to make sure he got all of them so he cut away more than he preferred to do.  He said I would have more pain than normal, but he felt trying to save my life was more important than inflicting some pain.  I totally agreed with him.  I wanted to live.  If that meant some pain, so be it.

Meeting the cancer doctor for the first time he told me my cancer was a very aggressive type and far advanced.  The type of cancer they found would also not respond to any further treatment after chemotherapy and radiation.  His first words to me will never be forgotten.  He said:

The odds are not in your favor!

After undergoing 16 chemotherapy treatments with three different powerful drugs, I began a radiation treatment which would include 35 sessions radiating not only the chest area where the cancer had been removed, but my underarm, the left side of my neck and the left side of my upper back.  Because so many lymph nodes had been cancerous, the doctors wanted to radiate all the lymph nodes in that area of my body to make sure any cancer cells left were destroyed.

Starting the first radiation treatment I was already exhausted from almost nine months of chemotherapy.  Several hours on two different days were spent in the radiation department as they worked to set up the computer to deliver the radiation to all four parts of my body.  They had to be careful to avoid my heart and my lung as the cancer had been on my left side.  Then the day arrived to begin treatment.

As I entered the room where the treatment would be given, I saw a sign on the door “Danger!  Radiation!”.  The technicians helped me on the table, working to get my body placed in the exact position needed so the radiation rays would reach the right places.  They then left the room and the heavy door slammed shut.  I lay on the table in a very painful position and watched the big x-ray machine begin to descend toward my chest.  Feeling so frightened, I never felt so alone.

As tears ran down my cheeks, I cried out to God telling Him I felt so alone.  At that precise moment, the elevator music they had been playing stopped and a song from my childhood came over the sound system.

Yes, Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so!

The song was so comforting reminding me that I was not alone.  When the treatment was finished I thanked the technicians for playing that song.  They did not know what I was talking about.  The music they were playing was canned music already programmed and that song was not on the program.  They also said they did not hear that song.

But I heard it.  The God Who Sees Me – the God who saw Hagar – was there.  He saw me, heard my cry, He cared.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

 

A Surprise Christmas Card

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A dear friend died this week.  My husband and I had watched him battle cancer (two different kinds) for over two years.  It was hard to see him slowly lose the battle.  He fought hard and he never lost his courage or his great sense of humor.

His family asked my husband to do the funeral service.  It was an extremely hard thing for Paul to do.  They had been friends for almost 20 years.  In the very beginning of their friendship, I had surgery for breast cancer.  The cancer was very advanced and my husband was  frightened as his mother had died from breast cancer.  Richard came to the hospital and sat with my husband through my surgery and did not leave until I was out of recovery.  That cemented their friendship.

That – and their love of golf and corny jokes.  Although they claimed they played golf, I think from listening to their tales that they spend more time laughing at each other’s skills than they did actually playing the game.

After my retirement, I often joined the two of them for breakfast.  It was such fun to just sit and listen to them as they teased one another and shared stories of their time on the golf course.

While it was hard for my husband to do the funeral service, he was honored that the family said that was what Richard would want.  As we arrived at the funeral home, his daughters handed us an envelope.  On the outside it said, “Paul and his bride.”  That was how Richard always referred to me – “Paul’s bride.”  When Paul and Richard met, if I was not present, he would always ask, “How is your bride?”  The handwriting on the outside was clearly not Richard’s.  So we assume it was just a card saying thank you for doing the service.

When we opened the card it was a Christmas card.  Thinking it was a little strange that his daughters were giving us a Christmas card, we opened it up.  My heart skipped a beat as I saw the signature inside the card.  It said simply, “Richard.”  We immediately recognized his signature.  Also enclosed was a picture of him.

His daughters told us although Richard never sent Christmas cards, just before his death he asked them to get him some Christmas cards.  He then signed a few and asked them to give them to his special friends at his funeral.  He knew he would not be here for Christmas and he wanted us to know what our friendship had meant to him.

This is a special card my husband and I will treasure forever.

Merry Christmas Richard!

 

 

 

How Do You Say Goodbye?

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Saying Goodbye!

Today my husband and I visited an old friend to say goodbye.  In the final stages of cancer it appears he only has a few more weeks to live.  This friend was first my husband’s friend.  They met when my husband stopped at a restaurant owned by this man.  The restaurant was halfway between our home and the church where my husband was the pastor.  Driving back and forth between the church office and our home every day, my husband often stopped in for lunch.

“Two Peas in a Pod”

My husband and Richard shared the same sense of humor.  They loved to play golf together although from the tales they tell me I am not sure just how good they were at that game.  But they had a lot of fun and shared silly jokes with one another.

A true friend!

Richard was a true friend.  When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my husband was so distraught.  The day of my surgery Richard came to the hospital and stayed in the waiting room with my husband until I was safely out of surgery.  At that point he became my friend also.  Every time my husband had lunch at his restaurant, Richard would ask “How is your bride?”

Eventually Richard sold his restaurant but continued there as manager.  After my retirement I often joined my husband and Richard for breakfast there.  They kept me laughing so hard as they traded one silly story after another.

The dreaded “C” word!

About two years ago Richard shared with us that he had cancer.  He was optimistic saying his cancer was a slow-growing one and he would probably die from something else before the cancer got him.  My own story was an encouragement to him.   (See my story at Life — What a Wonderful Gift! When I had my battle with cancer, the doctor had not given me much hope for survival.  Yet here I was still alive and cancer-free.  To be honest, I was not too much concerned because I truly thought this slow-growing cancer would not take his life.

Time passed, Richard began to grow thinner.  Complications set in and he spent too many days in the hospital.  Still, I clung to hope.  I had beaten cancer and he would too.

But, for Richard, the battle appears over.  The doctor has taken him off all the medicine fighting cancer and is talking now about “quality” of life.  Hospice has been called in.

How do you say goodbye?

How do you tell a good friend goodbye?  Do you laugh and talk about all the funny and happy times you have had?  Do you rejoice in the hope that we as Christians have that it is not really “goodbye” but “see you later?”  Do you let him see the tears in your eyes as you contemplate life without him?

Realizing your own mortality!

And, to be totally honest, since Richard is the same age as my husband, it makes us realize that we are also in the that final stage of life.  So we ask ourselves some questions.  Do we have our house in order?  Are we truly ready to face our Savior?

Coming back home, we have mixed feelings.  Sadness, of course.  But also thankfulness for the time we had with Richard.  Perhaps most of all, a new determination to enjoy each day as we live it.

Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”    ― Kurt Vonnegut

Life — What a Wonderful Gift!

I Made it!!!!!!

This month I celebrated three years of retirement!!!  Over thirteen years ago I was diagnosed with a very advanced and aggressive breast cancer and told the “odds were not in my favor.”  (https://barblaneblog.com/2014/10/13/cancer-survivor/).  As I went through nine months of treatment, my prayer was “Dear Lord, please let me live until I can retire and give me three years of retirement to enjoy with my husband.”

On January 3 of this year, I reached that milestone.  I  have enjoyed three wonderful years of retirement.  My husband and I have been able to travel to the east coast visiting the homes of Presidents Jefferson, Madison and Monroe as well as the Confederate States White House in Richmond.  We followed the Morman Trail out west and visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina with our daughter and her husband.

I have enjoyed days of working in our hosta garden, reading all the books I brought when I was working but never had time to read and playing countless games of Scrabble with my husband.  We share an addiction to the game.  (https://barblaneblog.com/2015/02/22/confessions-of-a-scrabble-addict/)

I am so thankful that my prayer was answered and I have had these past three years.  Each day that I live beyond January 3 is like a priceless gift – a gift “above and beyond.”  I have no idea how much further this “journey’ will take me.

  • Will I live to be 102?
  • Will this be the last year of my life?
  • Will I remain cancer-free and healthy?
  • Will some day the cancer appear again somewhere in my body?

But I have determined to not worry about tomorrow – but just enjoy today!  I cannot change the past – I cannot control the future.  But I can enjoy every moment of today!

“It is not required that we know all of the details about every stretch of the river. Indeed, were we to know, it would not be an adventure, and I wonder if there would be much point in the journey.”
Jeffrey R. Anderson

 

So come on Life!

I’m looking forward to whatever God has in store for me tomorrow!!!!!!

Fiery Red-heads Have More Fun!

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Growing up as a red-head I soon grew tired of all the comments:

  • Where did she get her red hair?  My parents were always asked this since they both had dark hair and my siblings all had brown or black hair.
  • And my Dad’s response to people’s questions on where I got my red hair – “She stood out in the rain and her hair rusted.”
  • Is that your natural hair color?
  • Being told what you can and can’t wear gets annoying.  For years I was told I should not wear red.  I loved the color and it was not until I was in my late 20’s that I decided to wear what I wanted to wear.  To my surprise, I found that I look fine in red!
  • Hey carrot top!
  • Hey red!
  • Hey firetop!
  • One young boy made my life miserable for a while by chanting every time I came around, “I’d rather be dead than red on the head.”
  • I bet you have a temper!
  • Are you Irish?

So for the first few years of my life, I hated being a red-head.  Then I discovered what a rare group I belong to (only 1-2% of humans in the world have red hair) and I have loved being a red-head ever since.  When my pastor husband and I attended conferences, he said it was great having a wife with red hair.  When the meetings broke up and everyone was trying to find their wife in the crowd, he just looked for the red-head – and there I was.  It also made it easy when someone would ask him, “Which one is your wife?”  Simple answer – “The red-head.”

My two sisters had dark blonde and brown hair.  Years later when we would meet someone who knew our family in the past, they always would remember me – “the little red-head” even if they did not remember my sisters.  (I think they may have hated that.)

My paternal grandmother had red hair (and Irish ancestry).  I was one of the last grandkids born in the family so by the time I was a young girl, Grandma was losing her sight.  When we would visit, she would always have me stand in the doorway where the sun would strike my hair and she could see my long red banana curls (yes, I had banana curls).  I think more than anything else seeing Grandma’s pride in me made me feel very special and love the idea of being a red-head.  As I have grown older, I have wanted to learn more about my Irish ancestry.  Think researching that will be my next item on my “bucket list” in retirement.

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Learning more about red-heads I discovered:

  • Red-heads have influenced history out of proportion to their numbers.  Famous red-heads include King David, Helen of Troy, Queen Elizabeth I, Cleopatra, Napoleon Bonaparte, Antonio Vivaldi, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill – and of course Lucy (although she was a “fake” red-head).
  • Russian tradition declares that red hair is both a sign that a person holds a fiery temper and craziness.   A Russian Proverb warns “There was never a saint with red hair.”
  • Mark Twain said, “While the rest of the species is descended from apes, red-heads are descended from cats.”
  • We are a big hit in the wizarding world!

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  • We have the most beautiful Disney princess!

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Some “facts” I’m not sure are true, but they certainly are interesting.

  • Medieval Romanians believed red-heads turned into vampires when they died.
  • Hitler is reported to have wanted red-heads killed so that they could not produce “degenerate children”.
  • The witch-hunting manual from medieval Europe, Malleus Maleficarum, instructed that red hair and green eyes were marks of a witch.  (Thankfully my eyes are brown.)
  • And I found there is a study done in Hamburg, Germany and another in England that claimed women with red hair had sex more often.  (Not sure if that is a blessing or a curse.)

One question I used to be asked a lot was “Is that your real color?”  No one asks that now – guess that’s because they assume that anyone my age who still has red hair must being using Miss Clairol.  However, some brave souls do ask me, “Is that the color your hair used to be?”

Well – I don’t use hair dye – I use a wig!  After 16 rounds of chemo when battling my breast cancer, I lost my hair.  When it grew back, it was still red but very, very thin.  After a couple of years of hoping I would regain the thick head of hair I first had, I gave up and popped on a wig.

Yes, my wig is the same color that my hair used to be.  Sometimes I think I should buy a grey wig since I’m well past the age of natural red hair.  But one thing my husband really loved about me when we got married was my red hair.  So – taking the teasing chant the little boy used to taunt me with, I have changed it from, ‘I’d rather be dead than red on the head” to “I will be red until I’m dead.”

Brunettes may be smarter, blondes may have more fun, but nothing beats the intrigue and fascination of being a red-head.

Thank you Grandma Tate Sechrest for my red hair!!!

Coincidence or An Act of God?

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 Some would call it a coincidence. But the odds for it happening as it did are pretty great.

I call it an act of God.

I have recently written a couple of articles about my battle with breast cancer 12 years ago.  (https://barblaneblog.com/2014/10/23/im-still-beautiful/) During that battle, I experienced a wonderful moment when God’s presence and love were very real.

Stage 3C – Aggressive and advanced

Because my cancer was very aggressive and very advanced, they had to radiate four different areas; my chest, my underarm, the back of my shoulder and the area in front around my collar bone and lower neck. We had to stop the treatment at one point because I was badly burned. The doctor had told me that this might happen since I am a redhead and have very fair skin.

Although chemotherapy was harder on me physically than radiation, I found the radiation treatments more difficult emotionally and mentally. Chemotherapy was given to me in a pleasant room with windows looking out at a small lake with ducks and flowers. I was able to sit in a comfortable recliner with my husband by my side. There were others in the room also taking treatment and if it were not for the IV’s attached to us, it could have been a row of people on vacation taking in the view on a cruise ship.

Radiation!

Radiation treatment, however, was lonely. My husband could not go into the room with me. After the technicians placed me in the proper position for the treatment, they quickly left the room and went into another room where they could view me though a window safe from the radiation. What was really frightening was the sign on the outside of the room. It said:

“Danger! High Radiation!”

The act of God came in the first treatment. After placing me in the exact position I had to be in so that the radiation would reach only those places where cancer cells might still be hidden and yet not reach my heart or my lungs, the technicians walked out of the room. I heard the heavy door slam shut. Tears began to run down my face and my heart began beating very fast as I realized that I was alone in the room with a machine about to emit dangerous x-rays into my body.

Never in all my life had I felt so all alone. As I have always done in times of trouble, I cried out to the Lord and said, “Help me! I’m all alone and I’m scared.” Immediately as that cry went out, a song began playing over the speakers. It was a song from my childhood:

“Yes, Jesus Loves Me.”

How comforting it was to me to remember that I was not alone, but my friend who had promised to walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death was there with me.

After the treatment I thanked the technicians for being so thoughtful to play that song at that particular moment. They told me they had nothing to do with the music that was played during the treatments. It was all programmed months before and they just turned on the music without any control over what was being played.

Coincidence?

I know many will say it was just a coincidence – that particular song playing at the very moment I cried out for help.

Act of God!

But I say it was an act of God. Between my treatments and the days it took to set up my treatment plan and adjust it, I was in that room for over 40 times. During those times they always played elevator music. Except for that one moment, there was never any music that could be counted as Christian music.

I’m so thankful I have survived and I’m so thankful that I know it is true that

Jesus loves me.

 

 

 

I’m Still Beautiful!!!

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Every October I always reflect back on the time I was first diagnosed with cancer.  During the nine months of treatment, I kept a journal As I read the journal every year, there is one entry I love to read over and over again.  Last February, I shared this article with our newspaper in a contest they were holding for stories of love and commitment.  It was exciting to have my story selected and once again, I want to share it with you.

On our wedding day, my husband spoke beautiful words to me as he shared the vows he had written for our special day.

“I pledge myself to you alone with a devotion that shall increase as we pass together through sorrow and joy, through darkness and sunlight.”

As I listened to his words and saw the love expressed in his eyes, my thoughts were more about the joy and sunlight we would experience together than on any time of sorrow or darkness.

For 18 years we experienced a lot of joy and sunlight. We rejoiced together as our children graduated, married, presented us with grandchildren. Then, suddenly, we faced the darkness as I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After the surgery which removed my left breast and almost all of the lymph nodes under my left arm, the surgeon told me the cancer had been very advanced and aggressive. He made arrangements for me to see an oncologist who told me “the odds are not in your favor.” I would need 16 chemotherapy treatments and over 30 radiation treatments. He basically told us to enjoy the days we had, because he did not think I would survive.

Now my husband’s promise to me that his devotion would increase through sorrow and darkness faced a hard test. Words are easily spoken. This valley would test the truth of those words.

Two days after the surgery, the time came to remove the bandages. How I dreaded that moment! I was confident in my husband’s love for me and I knew that he would stand by me and would say the right things. But I also knew that after all these years of marriage he would not be able to hide the truth from me. His eyes would reflect how he really felt as he looked at my deformed body.

Lovingly he helped me remove the bandages. Glancing down at the area where my left breast used to be, tears immediately filled my eyes. The left side of my chest looked caved in, as if I was hit by a big Mack truck. A bright red scar ran from the center of my chest across and under my left arm. Large staples held the scar together. There were plastic tubes under my arm with fluid draining into two small bags. It was unpleasant to say the least!

Slowly, with tears in my eyes, I glanced up at my husband. He smiled at me and his words are forever engraved in my heart. “You are still beautiful to me,” he said. Clearly those were the right words to say. What is priceless to me, however, was the look in his eyes. There was no hint of aversion, no sign of any disgust. His eyes reflected the love I had seen on our wedding day 18 years before. But, there was much more there now. The love on our wedding day had been love of expectancy for what was to come. This love had much more depth. It was love coming from 18 years of shared experiences, love that had found all it had anticipated to have been satisfied. There was a tenderness and compassion in those eyes that said, “I’m here. I’ll keep my vow.”  

After removing the bandages and getting a shower, I was exhausted. He helped me get into the new bath robe he had bought for me to wear while I recovered from the surgery. It was silky on the outside with lace trim across the top, but had a soft and warm fleece lining. He picked a color that everyone said looks good on me – a light aqua.   How thoughtful this gift was. The soft fleece lining was so comfortable, but the lace trimming made it look very feminine.

As he helped me back to bed, I looked once again in his eyes. He smiled at me and I knew I was still loved and beautiful in his eyes. I knew those words spoken to me 18 years ago were more than just words. They were the true feelings of this wonderful man I call my husband.