The Garden that Love Built

 

 

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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 a biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A very aggressive cancer and my doctor told me the chances of my living ten more years were only 25 percent.

I have shared that story in other blogs:

Cancer Survivor

Coincidence or An Act of God?

I’m Still Beautiful!!!

That spring my husband took down the pool and began planting.  It was therapy for him and something he could do to be close to me for the days/weeks I was too weak to move from my bed.  He put a chair next to the patio doors and I would sit and watch him plant beautiful flowers and trees.  He said for every tree he planted, I would get another year of life.  Our property now has 34 trees!

My children teased me that they are going to come over and cut down some trees because he now has me up to almost 90 years of life.

oh no

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The yard has remained a work in progress.  Each year we said we have enough plants and each year we add more.

This is not only a beautiful garden – an oasis in our backyard, but it is a garden made with love.

 

 

 

Five Years and Counting!

November  4, 2002 – Call from doctor – biopsy shows I have cancer.

November 14, 2002 – Surgeon tells me after surgery that the cancer was very advanced and I will definitely need chemo and radiation.

November 27, 2002 – Doctor tells me the odds are not in my favor.  He says chances are slim I will still be alive in ten years.

No, I’m only 54 years old.  It’s eight more years until I can retire.  That means if I even live to reach early retirement, I will only have two years to enjoy with my husband.  For most of my marriage my husband has been an evangelist, missionary or pastor.  I have worked right alongside him, providing music for services, training Sunday School and youth leaders, teaching Bible classes and overseeing ministries for women.  Being a pastor is a 24/7 job (at least for those like my husband who have a shepherd’s heart).  I cannot count the times our own plans have been put on hold because someone in the church had a need.  My own job required us to be at home Monday through Friday – and weekends were filled with church obligations so vacation times were few and far between.  I was so looking forward to the day we could retire and have some time for just the two of us.

Lord, please let me live to retire and give me two years – just two years of retirement with Paul.

April 8, 2010 – I turn 62 today.  I had thought I would take early retirement now.  If I did, that would give me those two years with Paul in retirement.  However, looking at our finances I realize it would be better both now and in the future if I work until I’m 65.  My doctor has now told me it appears I have beat old man cancer and may very well live much longer than first expected.  Still, that clock is ticking.  If I wait to retire at 65 I will be past the ten years.  How many years of retirement will I have?

Lord, let me make it until 2013 and then give me two years in retirement with my husband.

January 4, 2013 – retirement is here!  I have retired about three months before 65 but it’s close enough and I’m ready to begin a new life.  I have reached that ten-year survival mark.

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Lord, please give me two years of retirement to enjoy with my husband.

January 4, 2018 – God has not only allowed me to reach retirement age, not only given me those two years of retirement I prayed for – but today I begin my sixth year of retirement.

Thank you Lord for every day, every week, every month, every year you give me to enjoy time with my husband.  

 

 

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.

 

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.”   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.  Confessions of a Scrabble Addict! 

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!!!

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!

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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.