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!

531840_4972801811316_431725092_n

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.

Scan_Pic0005

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!

enhanced-buzz-15209-1373324053-5

 

 

  • We have the most beautiful Disney princess!

thCA33G16L

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!!!

My Favorite Bible Verses!

Recently I shared in Words to Build a Life On  how I have found the Bible a source of strength and hope in difficult times.

As I begin a new year, I have been thinking about those verses that have been so meaningful to me.

My Top Verses of a Lifetime

John 3:16 – For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

This verse, like most people my age who attended Sunday School as a child, was the first verse I learned.  The truth of God’s love has always been an encouragement to me.

Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my shepherd;     I have all that I need.

The entire Psalm has been a blessing to me, but this verse especially is so true.  There are things I “want” that I do not have – but I can honestly say that God has always met my need.  Through parents’ divorce, through husband’s accidental death, through cancer, and more, He has always been faithful.

Psalm 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me;

While all of Psalm 23 has been a blessing, verse 4 really gave me comfort when I walked through the valley of the shadow of death while battling breast cancer.  I wrote about the strength this verse gave me when I was told by my doctor that “the odds are not in your favor” in Coincidence or An Act of God.

John 14:1-3 – Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?   When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

What a wonderful thought that Jesus is preparing a place for me – and that place will be with Him!  Something to look forward to at the end of this life!

Romans 8:38-39 – And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Again, I have found this so true.  Divorce, unemployment, death, disease, discouragement, nothing has ever separated me from the love of God.

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

I took this advice at an early age.  Studying God’s Word, but also reflecting daily on the words I read and then obeying it has been the secret of my life.  It has brought me joy and peace throughout my life.

Philippians 3:14 – For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.

This verse has been my “life” verse.  When I have been afraid to try something new, afraid of change that came to my life, afraid in any situation, I have remembered that I can everything – through Christ.  That is the secret.  Not in my own strength or ability – but in Christ who gives me strength.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Wonderful Things About Retirement!

739772_4740363080493_146152285_o

It has been two years now since I called it a day and retired from my job as an energy specialist for a power company.  Often I thought the day would never come – it’s hard to believe it has already been two years now.

Top Ten Things About Retirement

10.  No more committee meetings.  I hated committee meetings – more talking about doing than actually doing.  The only one I have to coordinate my schedule with is my husband.

9.  No more blue Mondays!  Monday is now just another day to do whatever I want.

8.  No more deadlines to meet at work!  I can clean my closet today – or tomorrow – or next week.

7.  My time is my own!  I don’t have to answer to anyone about how I have spent my morning.  I can do – or not do – whatever I want when I want.

6.  No more alarm clocks!  I can get up at the crack of dawn to watch the sun rise (which I sometimes do in the summer) or I can wake up, pull the covers up tighter around me and sleep until mid-morning when I smell the coffee my husband has made (which is great on a cold winter morning).

5.  No more calendars.  No need to worry about what day of the week the holidays fall on – trying to add a day of vacation so I can make it three-day weekend.

4.  No more fast foods!  Working overtime I ate too much fast foods.  So good to have the time and energy to make delicious home-cooked meals for my husband and myself.

3.  Lots of time to read!  I love to read and now I have all the time I want to enjoy books.

2.  Lots of time to spend with my granddaughter!  She is growing up so fast and I treasure having more time with her to make memories to last a lifetime.

The Number One Top Thing About Retirement!

1.  Being able to spend time with my husband 24/7.  With each year that passes, I am grateful for each moment we have together.

 

 

Words to Build a Life On

DSCF0001
When I was a young girl just learning to read, my primary storybook was the Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible for Young and Old.  Originally published in 1904 it was the complete Bible story including the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Unlike most of today’s Bible Storybooks for children, this book was a continuous narrative of the Scriptures told in one hundred sixty-eight stories.  I loved reading about the Old Testament characters – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel and King David.  While other children of my generation read books about Dick and Jane that said,

See Spot run!

I was busy reading about the prophet Samuel who said,

Is the Lord as well pleased with offerings as He is with obeying His words?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen to God’s word is more precious than to place offerings on His altar.

Today I am an avid and fast reader and I wonder if learning to read with a more difficult book than the Dick and Jane books (with certainly more interesting topics) help contribute to my reading skills.

At age seven my oldest sister gave me a “real” Bible for my birthday.  I was thrilled to graduate to the “real” thing.  However, in those days all we had was the King James Version with the “thee’s” and “thou’s” and it was very difficult for me.  Still, I plodded through the Bible reading from Genesis to Revelation.  Skipping over all the words I did not know or understand, most of my first attempts at reading the Bible went quickly as I found little that I really understood.  Still, I kept at it and slowly I began to understand the words.  Again, I’m sure this helped my vocabulary grow quicker than just reading the Dick and Jane books.

Along with reading the Bible, I began to memorize Scripture.  What a blessing that has been for me.  In difficult times I have found those words that I have hidden in my heart come back to give me hope and courage when I need it so desperately.

What to do when your parents fail you and you feel all alone?

The first time the Word was so precious to me was when I was fourteen years old.  My father who I adored made a drastic change in personality.  He left the church where he had been so faithful for years and walked out on my mother, my sister and me.  Making a 180 degree turn from everything he had taught me, he moved in with another woman and from that time on he never gave me any help financially or emotionally.  Leaving us to struggle to make ends meet and confused at his rejection, I turned to my mother for support.  However, she was not emotionally strong enough to give me that support.  She had never worked outside the home and facing the fear of finding a job plus the hurt and anger she felt, she was simply overwhelmed by it all.

Feeling confused, hurt and scared, I found a Scriputre that seem to leap out to me off the pages when I was reading in the book of Psalms.

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

The words were more than just words.  They were truth to my spirit.  I found the place of safety – the One who would never forsake me.  What a blessing to have discovered that truth at such a young age.

What to do when your husband is killed and you face life as a young widow with two little girls?

At age 33, I found the Word again a source of strength in a great time of need.  I was at work when my eleven-year-old daughter called and told me, “Mommy, I think Daddy is dead.”  My little girls had come home from school and the two of them found their father lying crushed under a car that he had been working on.  At first, I refused to believe he was dead – just hurt badly.  But when the truth slowly penetrated my mind, I panicked wondering how I would face life alone with two little girls to raise.

I had no more than sent up a prayer – “What am I going to do?” – when these words of Jesus came to my mind:

Lo, I am with you always!

And it again was true!  In the weeks, months, years ahead the Lord gave me peace, wisdom and strength to continue to love and teach my daughters.  He gave me joy in the midst of sorry and though at the time I never believed I would ever be happy again, He brought new happiness into my life when I was ready for it.

What to do when the doctor tells you the “odds are not in your favor” as you have an advanced and aggressive cancer?

Twenty-one years later, I faced another crisis.  Finding a lump in my left breast I had a mastectomy.  When the pathology report came back, they told me not only was there cancer in my left breast, but they had taken almost all the lymph nodes from my left arm and 13 of them were also cancerous.  My cancer was a very aggressive one and I was in Stage IIIC.  Prognosis was not good.  The doctor’s words to me are engraved on my heart and mind.  He said, “The odds are not in your favor.”

Holding my husband’s hand, I felt my body began to shake.  Again, I cried out to the one who said he would “take me up” and “never forsake me.”  Instantly, the words of another Psalm came to my mind.

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

I did not know exactly how the words were meant for me.  Would I walk through the valley of death and come out alive and whole on the other side?  Would I walk through that valley to my eternal destiny?  I was not sure.  But the thing that sustained me were the words “I will fear no evil for You are with me.

So I knew whatever happened I would still not be alone.  And I was not.  I have written in another post how God was with me in a very special way during my cancer treatment.

How thankful I am that I have built my life on the Words of God from an early age.  As I retired and began that “last stage” of my life, I have found another verse to cherish.  It is my prayer.

O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.  Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.  Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!

I now have many Bibles in my home, but the old Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible for Young and Old sits in a place of honor on my desk.  The pages are worn, the backing is almost gone, but I cherish it still.

Coincidence or An Act of God?

thCA2M8USV

 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.

 

 

 

RIP

thRest in Peace

This past weekend my husband and I visited a local cemetery.  I felt a little strange as we drove in the main entrance because we were going to inspect our own tombstones.

While we are not ready to “kick the bucket” yet, we are at an age where we realize that we are not going to live forever.  Wanting to make sure our kids are not stuck with decisions and expenses on our demise, we purchased the tombstones this summer.  Friday we received notice from the monument company that they had set the tombstones in place so we went to take a look.

Looking at the inscriptions that gave our names and date of birth with a place for the future date of our death led to a little “soul-searching” and reflection on my life.

Looking Back

As I reflected on the past 66 years of my life, I feel like I have been many different people.

  • There was the little red-headed girl with banana curls that loved to walk outside after a rain, find a mud puddle and make mud pies.
  • There was the shy grade school girl whose parents moved so often, she was always the outsider, always moving on just when she started making friends.
  • There was the young girl in junior high who discovered through a speech class that, although she was shy when meeting people one-on-one, she could stand before a crowd and be funny and sing and dance with freedom.
  • There was the happy bride excited and looking forward to a long life with her first love.
  • There was the scared widow with two little girls wondering how she would go on without her first love.
  • There was the woman so grateful to find love again and a wonderful man to cherish both her and her daughters.
  • There was the stepmother trying to understand how to raise a teenage boy when her experience as a mother had only been raising girls.
  • There was the pastor’s wife trying to juggle family and job while trying to support her husband’s work at church.
  • There was the middle-aged woman facing breast cancer and learning to treasure every day of life.
  • And now there is the “older” woman who is learning to live with arthritic knees and back, leaking heart valve and decreasing energy.  While the body is betraying me, my spirit is still young.  Looking in the mirror, I often wonder “Who is that old woman?”  It can’t be me!

God has been good to me!

As I look back I realize just how good God has been to me.  I am so grateful for every day, week, month, year.  I can even thank God for the difficult times.  Not that difficult times came, but that in those times He gave me the strength I needed to make it through.  I have made mistakes – there are things I wish I could do differently.  But all in all, it has been a good ride thus far.

Looking Forward

Now I look forward to the years ahead.  All those years of responsibility as a mother, grandmother, pastor’s wife, worker are over and I have reached those “golden years.”  I find them to truly be golden.  Each morning when I wake up, I am free to do whatever I want to do.

  • No time clocks to punch.
  • No children needing breakfast or help with homework.
  • No church meetings to attend.

Having already faced death in the face when I battled breast cancer, I just enjoy each day as it comes, treasuring the memories I am now making with my husband.

Growing up I have treasured different verses from the Bible in different stages of my life.  And now as my hair gets thin and gray, my boobs sag (the one I still have) and my energy decreases with every year, I still find verses that encourage and bless me.

Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  

 

O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do.  Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God.  Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.