Mountain or Valley – He’s Still There!

Our pastor has been doing a series on Psalm 23 – taking one verse at a time. Today she spoke on one verse that has been such a blessing to me throughout the past almost 20 years. It is the verse that says:

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou are with me.

That is the verse that came to my mind the day of my first visit to the oncologist following surgery for breast cancer. His first words to me were “The odds are not in your favor.” Immediately the above verse came to my mind.

I did not know if the Lord was assuring me I would walk through this valley to health and life on the other side or if I would walk through this valley into death.

What was comforting to me was the assurance that He was going to be with me through this time.

Looking back on my life as I near the last years of life I am so thankful to see all the times He has been there for me.

What comfort I find in knowing He will continue to walk with me through the rest of my life – both on the mountain times and the deep valley experiences life may bring.

At this point in my life I would say I’m mostly experiencing those “mountain” times. Last week my husband and I celebrated 37 years of marriage. What a blessing it is to be able to say that he is my bff and our love for one another is deeper and stronger than the day we married. We are blessed with good health for our age and we have a beautiful home to enjoy.

Yet I have been facing some “valley” moments these last few weeks. When I had surgery for cancer the surgeon apologized and said that he had done quite a bit of nerve damage as the lymph nodes were full of cancerous cells and he wanted to make sure he removed all the cancer. That plus the extensive radiation I had has left me with pain ever since. The damage done to my side has, with age, also led to a damaged rotator cuff. Surgeons now do not want to do surgery to repair the cuff because there has been so much nerve damage already done.

For whatever reason – old age I guess – the chronic pain that I have learned to live with has recently become much worse. It is especially difficult when I try to lay down and I have come to dread bedtime.

This morning my church family gathered around me and prayed for me. What an encouragement that was. One young man put some legs on his prayers and offered to come help me with my housework, even to vacuum my floors. My husband is able to help me and I refuse to just sit and give in – got to keep moving. But it was so kind of him to offer. That’s what real love is all about.

How blessed I am – how good to know not only that God is with me – but He has given me friends to love and support me.

Whatever situation dear reader you may be in – let me encourage you to lean on God. He is our Good Shepherd and His promises to be with us in “all” seasons I have found to be true.

Give Me Hair!!!

My latest prayer

When I was a little girl I had beautiful red hair and my mother fixed it in curls like Shirley Temple. Everywhere we went people would comment on my hair and I felt special.

As a teenager I always felt like I was not “pretty” but I still took comfort in the thought that my hair was “pretty.”

Then as an adult cancer came and took my hair.

After cancer treatment ended my doctor told me my hair would grow back – possibly even thicker than before. But it did not. After a year or so he ran various tests to see if there was something else wrong as his cancer patients had always seen their hair grow back. We eventually found out that one of the three chemo drugs I took caused more permanent hair loss.

I did not really mind too much as I had worn wigs during my treatment and no one knew it was not my own hair. Slowly a little bit of hair came back but it was very thin and grey. So I just continued to wear my red wig and enjoy being that “special” redhead. My husband said he loved it when we were at ministers’ conference and someone asked him who was his wife, he could just say “the redhead.”

As time went by I realized it was probably time to accept that I was no longer a young redhead and join my husband with grey hair.

So I found a beautiful grey wig and made the adjustment to losing the “special” way I felt as a redhead.

Still, grey can be beautiful, right?

After accepting my grey hair I had to get hearing aids. With aids and glasses it became hard to get my wig adjusted and the ear tabs aggravate me. The last few years my hair has come back some but is still thin. I wonder if wearing a wig all the time is preventing it from growing back. So I am going without the wig and praying it will grow back. I always loved being a redhead and it was hard to go grey. Now I struggle with having little hair.

It has been hard for me to go out in public with my thin hair, but people tell me it looks good. (Of course what are they going to say – “you look terrible.”) 🙂

I am using different essential oils with lots of vitamins and nutrients and massaging my head each night. I will give it this summer without a wig and see what happens.

In the meantime I’ll just keep playing the Cowsills song and make it my prayer.

Hope in the Storm

As my husband and I age, we find we are no longer able to be as active as we once were. For years my husband was a pastor and I worked alongside him teaching Bible classes, playing for worship and all the many tasks that come with serving a community of Christians.

This year I celebrated 72 years of life and my husband celebrated 80. While most people that meet us do not think we are as old as that and we do remain alert and active, we find our bodies do not always want to keep up with our thoughts and desires to be productive. Many days the afternoon hours call for us to take a nap.

Still, because we have both experienced true miracles in times of serious medical problems, we desire to still give and help others. (I share these stories in these posts)

I’m Back With a Miracle Man!

Cancer Survivor

Since my husband loves to paint he recently painted a beautiful rainbow scene he called “Hope in the Storm.”

The rainbow to Christians is a reminder of God’s promise to Noah after the flood. To us when we see the rainbow after a storm, we are reminded of the hope we have that God is faithful.

After receiving several compliments on the painting and its message my husband decided to paint smaller versions of this rainbow and send to those we know who are battling a health issue. He has send ones to young people fighting leukemia, to a young woman fighting a heart disease and to several others with different ailments. It has been a joy to hear from them that the painting and the message it gives of “hope in the storm” is an encouragement to them.

It blesses me to see the joy my husband has received as many have told him how much his painting has meant to them.

It is so true that when you give to others, it comes back to you.

Can I say I’m proud of my husband that at 80 he still is thinking of ways to bless others?

If you would like to see more of his paintings, check it out at PWL Art Gallery.

https://www.facebook.com/PaulWLaneArtGallery/

The Garden that Love Built

It’s Breast Cancer Month – and every year at this time I remember my own story of the battle with breast cancer. It was in October of 2002 that I discovered a lump in my breast that led to a battle that thankfully, with God’s help, I won. People may get tired of hearing my story, but I will never get tired of being grateful to be alive – now celebrating 18 years cancer free. And a reminder to all my female readers: do a monthly breast exam.

Grandma's Ramblings

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In November 2001 my husband and I moved into our new home.  It had no trees or flowers anywhere on the property. In the backyard, a deck opened onto an above ground swimming pool.  The backyard was ugly and hot with lots of concrete and rock around the pool.  Two metal sheds sat on large slabs of concrete.  My husband, who loves flowers and trees wanted to get rid of the pool.  But I wanted to try to learn to swim so I convinced him to keep the pool for our first summer in the house.

The next summer I was only in the pool three or four times because every evening when I came home from work all I wanted to do was just lie down.  I was constantly exhausted.

In November 2002 we discovered why I was feeling so badly.  After a visit to the doctor and then…

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66 Years of Grace

Listening to music this morning, this song brought tears – tears of joy – to my eyes.  It has been 66 years since I started this race with Jesus Christ.  There have been mountain tops of great joy, great excitement (to mention only a few – marriage, birth of children and grandchildren) and valleys of sorrow and pain (to mention only a few – death of first husband, oldest son and grandchildren, cancer).  But one thing has remained true through it all – He has proved to be that “friend that sticks closer than a brother.”

Thank God for His grace.  This song says it all!

I was just six years old.  Too young many would say to know what I was really doing.  But I knew.

Growing up in a family that attended church every Sunday and where my parents practiced what they preached on Monday through Saturday also, I understood that Jesus loved everyone – even “sinners.”

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I wasn’t totally sure what all being a sinner included, but I knew I was not one.

Until one evening at church, I recognized I was.

I was coloring during the sermon on a Sunday night when I heard the speaker say

We put sins into a “big” and a “small” category.  But sin is sin regardless of how big or how small it seems.

 

He then mentioned what we call “small” sin – like lying or disobeying our parents.  Now he had my attention.  Just that week I had disobeyed my mother – and then lied to keep from getting in trouble.

I was a sinner!

Now many may laugh at this or even say how terrible to make a six-year-old feel she was a sinner.

But for me, it was one of the most important times in my life.  Because I knew that Jesus loved sinners – and that He loved me.  I also knew what I needed to do.

So – I went back to coloring and waited until the end of the sermon.  When the message was over, I put my colors and my coloring book aside and walked to the front of the church where I asked Jesus not only to forgive me, but I also committed my life to His service.

Yes, I was only six, but yes I knew what I was doing.

Shortly after that I was baptized as an outward sign of what had taken place in my life.  Our church did not have a baptismal so we went to a farm pond where I, with several others, was baptized.

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Since I am scared of water and do not even like having water in my face in the shower, it was a BIG step of faith to walk out into that pond.

But what a wonderful experience it was.

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Just turning 72 this year, I have been following Jesus for 66 years.

It has been a great walk with a great friend!!!

 

The Battle is Not Mine!

Life is good for me.  Retired with time to do what I want to do.  Good husband who is my best friend.  Children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren to love.

Still, like all of us, difficult times do come.

Right now I am facing health issues.  I see the doctor tomorrow to review MRI results and I do not know for sure but it appears surgery may be in my future.

The first thing that often happens when faced with difficult circumstances is to start worrying.  Stressing out – trying to figure what is the best thing to do.

Thankfully, God’s Word has always been a source of strength to me and today is no different.

Reading in 2 Chronicles 20 I was reminded of the story of King Jehoshaphat.

Messengers came to him with the news that a vast army of multiple nations was marching against Jerusalem, the capital city.  The scripture says that Jehoshaphat was “terrified” by the news.

But I love what he did.

First, he turned to God and asked for guidance.

Second, he called for the people to begin fasting and seeking God.

Last, he led the people assembled at the Temple in Jerusalem in this amazing prayer of faith.

“O LORD God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven….You are powerful and mighty….We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us.  We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”

He then turned to the people and gave them this message.

“Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

What is really mind-blowing is his next action.

He appointed singers to march before the army that went out to battle.  They were to sing praises to God as they led the soldiers.

Can you imagine anything so silly?  Can you imagine our president appointing a choir to march into battle before our airplanes, drones and soldiers?

Yet as I have often discovered in my own life, praising God in the middle of problems has often given me victory over my fear, over my despair.

I share that story in this post:  The Day I Let My Pain Go!

So as I head into tomorrow and my doctor’s appointment I go realizing I do not know what to do.  All I have to do is look back at my battle with cancer and remember that God is with me no matter what.  Ultimately, the battle is His.  As He was with me then, He is with me now.

My story of His presence in the middle of radiation is shared here:  Coincidence or An Act of God?

My prayer today is:

God, I don’t know if this only means physical therapy or if I am facing surgery with weeks/months of recovery.  I don’t know if the pain will soon be gone, get better, get worse or last for weeks/months.  But this I do know, as You have always been with me, You are with me in this.  The battle is yours.  I give it to You.  All I ask is that You help me to keep my eyes on You.

 

 

 

 

 

My Cancer Buddy

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer 17 years ago my oldest daughter bought me a small porcelain doll – a little clown.  All through my treatment the little doll sat on my desk at work smiling at me and encouraging me that I was going to make it through this tough time.

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As I lost my hair during the treatment and it began to come back in grey I really liked that underneath that hat my buddy had grey hair too.

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Although my hair did come back – it never came back thick as it had been before the treatment.  In fact, it is so thin that I have continued to wear a wig because I am almost bald.

At first the idea of having little hair was depressing, but I decided to not dwell on the negative, but find the positive.

Wearing a wig meant no bad hair day.  Think of the hours I save not sitting in a beauty shop.  Financially I was also ahead of the game.  Granted wigs are not cheap – but they are still a better deal than all the money spent on hair cuts.

As I adjusted to the “almost bald” head, one day I accidentally bumped the doll and it fell on its side.  As it did so, the hat came off and I found that my cancer buddy had also gone bald.

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Just like me she had a small amount of hair toward the back of her head but basically she was bald.  Laughing, I discovered the hair had come off in her hat.

Now that I am retired, the doll sits on the desk in my home office.  I keep her hat on so she won’t be embarrassed by her bald head.  But every and now then I take it off and have a good laugh.

 

 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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You will see lots of pink ribbons this month as October has been designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In 1979 wife of one of the prisoners held by Iran in the hostage crisis decided to use a yellow ribbon to show support for her husband.  Soon there were hundreds of yellow ribbons displayed around the country to show support for our brave men being held captive.  The history of a yellow ribbon goes back hundred of years.  It is believed that the Puritans brought the story in a song of a women who wears a yellow ribbon to remember her love who has gone away to war.

‘Round her neck she wears a yeller ribbon She wears it in the winter and the summer so they say If you ask her, “Why the decoration?” She’ll say, “It’s fur my lover who is fur, fur away”

Since then many groups have used a colored ribbon to bring awareness to their own cause.

  • Red ribbon – AIDS awareness and for heart disease
  • Orange ribbon – leukemia awareness
  • Green ribbon – mental illness awareness
  • Purple ribbon – Alzheimer’s awareness

And the list goes on and on.

Breast cancer is something all women should be aware of.  Men can also get this disease but they count for only a small percentage of all cancer cases.

As a cancer survivor I encourage all women to do all they can to prevent this disease.  Some important things to consider:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stay physically active
  • Eat fruits and vegetables
  • Do not smoke
  • Limit alcohol consumption

I also strongly recommend a monthly self-exam.  John Hopkins Medical Center states:

“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”

This is how I discovered my cancer.

If you discover a lump or are told you have breast cancer, please do not panic.  If discovered in the early stages, survival rates are usually 100%.  Even in later stages, treatment keeps advancing and survival rates keep going up.

For me my diagnosis was not good.  I was told without any further treatment after surgery, I had only a 15% chance of being alive in ten years.  With a vigorous treatment of chemotherapy and radiation, my survival rate went up to 25%.  But here I am 17 years later cancer free.

As my husband said when we received the terrible diagnosis:

“It is not over until God says it is over.”

Another cancer survivor whose diagnosis was worse than mine but who survived for years told me:

Don’t worry about the statistics.  That is all they are – numbers.  Make your own statistic.

But do your self-exam monthly!!!!

 

 

Thank God for Mondays!

We often complain about Mondays.  Back to work, back to school.

Since I am now retired Mondays are different I must admit.  I can sit with a second cup of coffee and just relax while many have to hurry off to a job that may be stressful, to a school they do not like.

Still, this morning when someone asked me on social media how I felt about Mondays, I could not help but reply as a cancer survivor Mondays mean that God has given me another week of life.

I pray today for those struggling with difficult job or school situations.  But I hope in the midst of those difficulties, they can see something to encourage them.

As for me, given another week of life I say:

 

I Can Only Imagine!

In the fall of 2002 I was diagnosed with an advanced and very aggressive cancer.  Hearing my doctors words, “The odds are not in your favor,” I realized I was heading into the battle of my life.

Would I live or would I die?

Facing your own mortality changes the way you look at the world.  Some things that seemed so important no longer matter.

  • What difference does it make if I do not get that promotion I wanted.
  • Who cares if the windows need washed?

Other things take on a new importance.

  • Reading a book to my granddaughter.
  • Taking a walk with my husband.

During that long year as I lost my hair and my strength became less and less, I thought about the very real possibility that I would never see another birthday.

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We took a picture of me with my Dad and we laughed at how much I looked like him with my bald head.

Throughout it all I had a deep assurance that whatever the end result, it would be fine.  When I first heard those terrible words from my doctor, I immediately thought of the scripture that says:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.

Feeling at that moment God had given me that scripture for this battle, I did not know if it meant I would walk through the valley and come out on the other side alive and well.  Or, did it mean I would walk through the valley into death?

For me, it did not matter which it meant.  What comforted me was the assurance no matter what the outcome, God would be with me.

As the treatment continued and my strength got less and less, I began to think perhaps it meant I was walking through the valley into death.  Thoughts of exactly what that would mean kept running through my head.

Then, I heard a song that had been released just the year before.  It had become the most played Christian single in 2002 and you could not listen to any Christian radio station without hearing it.  In fact, it became a main stream hit in 2003 hitting the top 40, adult top 40 and country radio lists.

In the song the writer talks about trying to imagine what he would do when he stands before God in heaven.  He questions:

  • Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
  • Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
  • Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

Listening to that song over and over, I tried to imagine what I would do when I stood before Jesus?  Slowly in my mind a picture began to take place.  I saw myself standing with my hands raised in the air and dancing round and round the throne of God.

Wanting to live for my family, yet there were moments I wanted to see that vision fulfilled and to dance for Jesus.

I did not share this thought with my family.  For them, I continued to maintain a strong belief that I would live.

When all my treatment was finally over, my youngest daughter took me to lunch to celebrate.  She arrived with a gift for me.  It was a Willow Tree angel.

When I saw it, I almost cried with joy.  The angel she gave me was the exact vision I had of me with hands raised dancing around the throne of God.

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So grateful that I survived that battle and God has given me many years beyond what the doctor said I would have.  Still, as I age I know before many more years pass, I will be facing my eternal destiny.  I have no idea what I will do on that day when I see Jesus, but I hope I can dance for Him.

A movie has been made about the life of the young man who wrote this song.  If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it.  It is an inspiring story of what God can do to change a monster into a good father.  The move has the same title as the song, “I Can Only Imagine.”

What do you imagine you will do when you stand before the throne of God?