I Asked for Two Years – I Now Have Nine Years

When I was 54 years old I was diagnosed with a very aggressive and advanced stage of breast cancer. My doctor said I had only a small chance of still being alive in ten years.

Ten years – that would put me into retirement age. At that time I planned to retire at age 62. So I figured if I could last ten years and retire at 62 that would give me two years to enjoy retirement with my husband.

For years I had worked a secular job which kept me busy with work Monday through Friday. My job was a very demanding job and often required overtime. When the weekend came I was really not free to enjoy time with my husband because he was a pastor. That meant that much of his weekend was involved with the church.

So I thought if I could just make it to those ten years, that would give me two years of retirement to enjoy more time with my husband.

That is what I asked for – “Lord, let me live to retire and give me two years to enjoy some quality and quantity time with my husband.”

As the time grew near for my 62nd birthday, I was thankful that I had made it eight years – but finances dictated that I needed to work until I was 65.

“Lord, let me live until I am 65 and give me two years of retirement with my husband.”

Well, obviously I made to 65. What is so wonderful is today I celebrate nine years of retirement. Nine years ago today I walked out of MidAmerican Energy Company for the last time. Still praying for those two years of retirement with my husband.

God has given me now nine years of retirement – and I am still going strong looking forward to many more years.

What I have been able to enjoy in those nine years.

Seeing my oldest daughter get her Master’s degree
Seeing my youngest daughter become an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church
Being able to just “hang out” with my grandsons
Enjoying my “crazy” grandchildren – and seeing two of them happily married
Meeting my first great grandson – and looking forward to seeing the second one.
Getting to watch this youngest granddaughter grow up.

And all the trips we have been able to make:

All across the south loving the old oak trees and the Spanish moss.

Enjoying the beach and the carriage rides.

And out west to Wyoming and Montana following the Pony Express/Mormon Trail.

Being a history nut I have been able to visit many former presidents’ homes and I loved walking the grounds of Fort Laramie.

Seeing the names carved into the rock at Register Cliff.

But most of all, I am so grateful for all the quality and quantity time I have had with my husband, my bff, these past nine years.

Still my bff after nine years of “real” togetherness!

Thank you Lord for your blessings on me!

I Have Hair!!!

Those who follow my blog know that I lost my hair 19 years ago after 16 treatments with three powerful chemo drugs following surgery for breast cancer. Although the doctor assured my hair would come back for years I did not. It was only a few years ago that we found out that one of the drugs I was given could cause permanent hair loss.

I was okay with that – I just wore a wig. No one ever knew it was a wig and were surprised when they found out.

Lately, however, I became tired of the wig. Old age I guess. I also was showing some hair growth – not much – very thin – but hair.

My two daughters encouraged me to take the wig off and see if my hair might grow back. They wondered if the wig might be preventing hair growth

I was scared – but I decided to take the plunge and do it.

My approach to difficulties of life has always been:

with a strong faith in God and a good sense of humor I can handle this.

So – I wrote a couple of blogs trying to make fun of my baldness.

Now – after about three months without the wig – I HAVE HAIR!!!!

It’s pretty thin – but it’s my hair!!!!

As it grew back it was a sloppy unkempt mess. I had to let it get some length before I could get it styled so for a few weeks I was so embarrased to go out in public – but I just remembered my prayer “Give me hair!” and was thankful that God was answering that prayer.

Finally a couple of weeks ago I was able to go to a beauty salon and get it styled. The stylist kept asking me if I wanted to use a curling iron or a blow dryer and how I wanted it styled. . Since it had been 19 years since I had any hair to comb or style, 19 years since I had been to a beauty salon, I put myself in her hands and trusted her to guide me through this.

So once again I have hair. It is not thick – it is not red – but it is my hair! I am getting used to the white/grey and actually beginning to like it.

I am so happy and grateful – I HAVE HAIR!!!

Memories and Potato Soup

October is a month that brings back so many memories to me. It was in this month nineteen years ago that I was diagnosed with a very advanced and aggressive cancer. So it’s natural that I have memories of that time every October – and especially since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Some of those memories are not pleasant. The surgery – the chemo – the radiation – the very hard effort to stare death in the face.

But I also have so many good memories and today brought back one of those memories.

It is raining and chilly here in Michigan today – a perfect fall day. It is also a good day to just stay inside and watch the rain from my easy chair. My husband declared that this was a day for homemade potato soup.

I love homemade potato soup. My mother often made that when I had a cold or was not feeling good. It is my comfort food. My husband makes great potato soup so I was glad to hear his offer to make some for us today.

Watching him prepare the soup and enjoying the good smells coming from the kitchen brought back a very special memory of that time battling cancer.

I continued to work through my chemotherapy and was active but with the first two drugs I was given, I would basically lose a week of life as I felt energy and life drain from my body. I would spend several days in bed too weak to do anything but get up and walk to the restroom. My husband would fix my meals and bring them to me on a tray. If there was any meat, he would even have to cut it up for me because I had energy only enough to lift my fork.

He was so good – so kind – so patient and did all he could to help me through those weeks. One day as I lay in bed I thought how much I would love to have some potato soup. Because he was doing all the shopping, house work as well as cooking and taking care of me I did not want to make any special requests. Not knowing what he had planned to fix, I did not want to impose on him so I said nothing.

I drifted back off to sleep and some time later he woke me up to tell me he was bringing me my lunch. When he brought the tray to my bed, I was so happy. He had fixed potato soup. You may think that was just a coincidence, but I believe God knew my heart’s desire and led my husband to fix that soup.

As we ate the soup today we remembered that special time and we thanked God for how much He cares about us.

And, the soup was delicious – as my husband’s soup always is.

March and Its Bitter-Sweet Memories and Emotions

This time of the year I find myself remembering events from years ago that generate both sweet and bitter memories with all the accompanying emotions.

March has been a month that has brought both good and bad events into my life – events that changed me forever.

The first one that brings sweet memories occurred 52 years ago on March 29. That day I walked down the aisle at church and promised to “love and cherish until death do us part.”

For almost 13 years I kept that promise. Every year as that date approaches I remember those years with my first husband. We were happy and shared a lot of joy but the best part of those years was the birth of our two beautiful daughters. Memories of those times make me smile and I am grateful for every moment we shared. Those events changed me – made me a wife, a mother.

The second memory is more painful. It was 39 years ago in March that I got a call at work that I will never forget. My eleven-year-old daughter called me and said, “Momma, I think Daddy is dead.” Those words changed our lives forever. My first husband had been working on our car when an accident occurred that took his life. Ironically it was just four days before we would have celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. So March brings also feelings of great sadness as I remember the shock and horror of that day. The pain my daughters still feel today. The older one grieves as she remembers all the times she had with her daddy, while the younger grieves because she was so young her memories are few. That changed me – made me a young widow with two little girls to raise.

So – every year in March I deal with these memories and these conflicting emotions.

That would be enough to make the last of March an emotional time for me.

But last year added another event that adds to my emotions this time of year.

On March 19 last year my second husband fell and hit his head on the concrete floor of his art studio in the basement of our condo.

By the 22nd he was in pain and we went to the emergency room of our local hospital. From there he was rushed by ambulance to the main hospital in Lansing – the capital of our state – where they did emergency surgery. He had a major brain bleed and they said without the surgery he would not survive the night.

As I remember the next couple of weeks I still can feel the knot in my stomach as I waited at home (because of the virus I could not be with him) wondering if the next call would be to tell me I was a widow again. I wondered how I could take it if he died on the same day as my first husband had died. As the next few days were “touch and go” while they tried to get him off the ventilator, I kept telling God “please, not again, not this time.”

I am so grateful to God that he not only survived the surgery but after a few weeks he was back to his normal self. The doctor said he might have trouble walking, swallowing, communicating. While he had some of these symptoms for a couple of weeks, he was soon completely okay with no lingering symptoms.

One major concern of mine was would he be able to paint again. Would he even be able to walk down the stairs to his art studio. That prayer was again quickly answered. Our son-in-love brought his painting equipment upstairs and within two weeks he painted a beautiful lighthouse scene. Soon he was able to return to his studio downstairs and continue painting.

So along with the knot in my stomach, I also must rejoice with a great emotion of gratitude that I am not a widow for the second time, that my husband is not only alive, but well and strong again.

One of his first paintings also was of a beautiful rainbow which symbolizes hope and a reminder that God keeps His promises. He called it “Hope in the Storm.” It now hangs in my kitchen as a reminder to me that no matter what troubles come, with God there is always hope.

When my first husband died, when my second husband survived, regardless God has been there – and He brings me hope. Hope for whatever next March or any time may bring. Good times or bad – He is faithful.

I’m Back With a Miracle Man!

March 22 was a day I will never forget!  My husband had fallen a few days before that, got a lump on his head.  The lump went down after a couple of hours and he felt okay.  Because of the coronavirus and all the conflicting reports we heard, he decided it did not require him to call his doctor or go to the hospital.  However, Sunday morning he got a terrible headache that would not go away and became nauseated.

I drove him to the local emergency room in our small town and they told me to go home while they checked him and they would then call me.  About an hour later the doctor called and told me a CT scan had shown a brain bleed (a subdural hematoma).  They were rushing him by ambulance to the larger hospital in the capital (about 20 miles away) and they had a neurosurgeon standing by to examine him.

What a day that was.  I posted all the details of that day in my post:

‘Til the Storm Passes Over

What a week that was.  By the end of the week it was clear he was going to live but the diagnosis for just how he would live was not clear.  Because of the uncertainty of the future – and all the things they warned me could be, I posted what I thought would be my last post and prepared myself to take care of my husband.

I Am Not Alone

But God had other plans!

It was amazing to me all the people around the country who began to pray for my husband.  I will always be grateful for all the calls, texts and encouragement I received, including many from my family here at WordPress.

Things they warned me to prepare for:

  1. Possible difficulty in speaking or understanding others.
  2. Possible difficulty in being able to read.
  3. Possible loss of memory.
  4. Possible seizures (he was put on seizure medicine as a precaustion).
  5. Weakened right side with need of a walker to get around.
  6. Possible inability to take care of his own personal needs.

On Wednesday after his surgery on Sunday a case manager called me to discuss transferring him to a nursing home or a rehab center.

But God had other plans!

Within 24 hours of that call (on Thursday) they called back and said they were going to transfer him from ICU to a step-down unit for a few days and then would send him to the rehab center in the hospital.  I should anticipate at least seven to ten days of rehab therapy before any consideration could be given to bringing him home.

But God had other plans!

Within 24 hours of that call they informed me they were sending him directly to the in-hospital rehab center that day (Friday).  They still were not sure how long he would have to be there.

On Tuesday the next week I got a wonderful call!  I could bring my husband home on Wednesday – after only four days of rehab.

He came home looking very weak, very tired and clearly needed a walker to get around.  The next week he could not stand bright lights, loud noises and complained of a constant headache.  He was speaking but very slow and often had to stop to search for a word.  It was a good thing for me to be able to give him my complete attention that week.

But God had other plans!

Every day he grew stronger.  We went for followup therapy after a week.  He had meetings with a speech therapist, an occupational therapist and a physical therapist.

Their verdict after 45 minutes to an hour with him.

Speech therapist – he needs no further therapy.

Occupational therapist – he needs no further therapy.

Physical therapist – he needs no further therapy.

They said to go home and just keep doing what he was doing.

Now – six weeks later:

  1. He has absolutely no difficulty in speaking or understanding others.
  2. He is reading the Bible with me each morning again in our devotions with no difficulty in being able to read.
  3. His memory is good – absolutely no loss of memory and no sign of not being able to remember now.
  4. No seizures and he is off the seizure medicine.
  5. He walks without a walker.
  6. He has been able to take care of his own personal needs from the very beginning with me just standing by when he showered for the first week.\
  7. What is really amazing – absolutely no weakness in his right side.  This week he bought plants for our yard and planted them all without any problems even using his right leg to push the shovel into the ground.

I worried that he would never be able to go down to his art studio that he had worked all winter to create.  He had painted a beautiful mural on the wall of the Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina.  We had enjoyed several weeks there a few years ago and we loved the whole area.  He was just putting the finishing touches on it when he fell.  Would he be able to do the stairs?  Would he be able to paint again?

seaabb

So thankful he is back in his studio and this was his first painting when he began again.

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Being Scrabble addicts we have kept our scores since 2008 and are very competitive.  Would he be able to still compete?

Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

Yes!  He is back and we are enjoying our competition.

What can I say?  To God be the glory!  Great things he has done!

Each day is truly a gift from God.  We start each morning saying “Thank you God for another day!”

So – I’m back.  Thank you to all you have followed me in the past and I hope you will continue to enjoy the “ramblings” of this Grandma as I continue!

 

 

 

 

For All the Beauty All Around Me

Today is the third week I have not been able to make it to church.  Two weeks ago I was in too much pain to go.  Last week we were all snowed in and church was cancelled. Today I am suffering again from pain.

Feeling a little down – I miss my church family, I miss the corporate worship and most of all I miss hearing the sermons my pastor shares.  Although I am sure I am a little prejudiced because my pastor is my daughter, she is one of the best speakers I have ever heard and I always seem to find something to encourage me or challenge me when she speaks.

My husband and I did our own devotions.  As I thumbed through my Bible afterwards I came across this beautiful old song.  It reminded me that whether I am in church or at home,  whether I am in pain or not, whether my spirit soars or descends – there is so much beauty around me.

So I choose to remember all the goodness of the Lord and reflect on these words:

For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies.  For the love which from our birth over and around us lies. 

Lord of all to thee we raise, this our joyful hymn of praise.

For the beauty of the hour, of the day and of the night.  Hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light.

Lord to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.

For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child.  Friends on earth and friends above.

Lord to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.

For each perfect gift of thine to our race so freely given.  Graces human and divine, flowers of earth and buds of heaven.
Lord to thee we raise this our joyful hymn of praise.
Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: JOHN RUTTER
For the Beauty of the Earth lyrics © WORD MUSIC, INC., HINSHAW MUSIC, INC., HINSHAW MUSIC INC (CHRISMON MUSIC DIVISION), OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS UK

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:

 

Thankfulness for Things Taken for Granted

Each morning my husband and I start our day with a cup of coffee and a time of devotions.  We are reading through the Bible this year and are now in the Psalms.  After our reading, we always pray.  My husband prays first and I follow.

While the things we pray for vary from day to day, one thing is always constant.  We lift our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to the Lord asking for His guidance and protection on their lives.

We include expressions of thankfulness.  Most often the things we thank God for are the answers to prayer.

  • This granddaughter was accepted to law school
  • This grandson has a new job
  • This child is over that cold or other ailment

We also thank God for the “big” things like salvation, mercy, his love.

But today as I listened to my husband’s prayer I was reminded how much of God’s blessings we take for granted.  Today my husband said thanks for:

  • Being able to just turn a switch and have light – when many have no electricity.
  • A stove to cook our food on – when many have to gather sticks to build a fire.
  • A refrigerator to keep our food from spoiling – when many have to buy food daily because they have no way to keep it more than a day.
  • A comfortable bed to sleep in – when many sleep on a cot or on the floor.
  • Clean, hot water to take a bath – when many wash with dirty and/or cold water.
  • Privacy in using the bathroom – when many have to hide behind a bush or tree.
  • More than one pair of shoes in the closet – when many have no shoes at all.

His prayer reminded me of how blessed we are in the USA and yet how we so often find so much to complain about and ignore the many comforts of life God has granted us.

At the end of his prayer we both thought of that verse that says:

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

While we may think we do not have much when we compare ourselves to our richer neighbors, in comparison to most of the world, we in America are all rich.

Question:  What are you doing with all God has blessed you with?

Are You One of the Nine?

My husband and I hold services at two different assisted living facilities and I also give a piano concert twice a month at one of them.  Today my husband shared with the residents the story in the Gospel of Luke about the ten lepers that came to Jesus asking to be healed.  That story really got me thinking about my own attitude.

Ten lepers came and Jesus healed them all.  He told them to go to the priest to have the priest confirm they were clean and could now rejoin their families.

As the ten started to the priest they realized their skin was clear and they were healed.  How exciting that moment must have been.

After that moment of great joy, nine of the ten continued on their way.  But one man turned back and came to Jesus to say “thank you.”

His response:  “Were not ten healed?  Where are the nine?”

It seems our society is so attuned to the bad, the problems, the disagreements between groups.  We are so quick to complain.

During this cold and snowy winter I often heard (and I was often guilty too) people complaining about how cold it was, how sick they were of snow.

Seldom, if ever, did I hear people saying how grateful they were for their warm house, their warm coats.  Little thanks were given for the road crews who were out in the bitter cold spreading salt and clearing the roads.

Now comes summer and soon we will be complaining of the heat and humility instead of expressing gratefulness for air conditioning.

Why are we so slow to be thankful, to see all the blessings we have been given?

When my first husband died, I cannot count the times someone asked me how God could allow this.  They would say something like:

“But you are a good Christian.  How could God let this happen?”

But when God blessed with me with a good second husband no one asked me how God could allow this.  No one said:

“Why did God bless you so much.”

We take His blessings for granted but are quick to complain when we feel we are not getting the blessings we deserve.

Lord, help me to be like the one who came back and said “thank you.”  Help me not to be like the nine who accepted your blessings as if somehow it was their right and went on their way never to thank  you.

More Thoughts on Complaining

A few days ago I wrote about how easy I find it to complain instead of being thankful.  A friend responded some of the problem might be all the input we get today from media.

I thought about that and realized much of the information we get is geared to the negative.

  • We call a traffic light a “stop” light even though it is green as often as it is red.
  • The weather man says we have a 40% chance of snow instead of telling us we have a 60% chance of no snow.
  • The news channel reports the kids who commit a crime but seldom report all the many kids who make the honor roll, who help the elderly across the street, who visit the kids in the cancer ward, who teach the children on Sundays or participate in the worship team.
  • Most of our news is about the negative events taking place in our community instead of the multitude of good acts being committed every day.
  • And to wade into the dangerous area of politics, our political candidates run less on the positive things they have done or will do than on telling us how terrible their opponent is and all the negative things he/she has done or will do.

As I admitted I complain too often and I am too quick to see the negative.  I told my friend that when I get too carried away on the negative I found singing or listening to a good praise song really helps me get my focus back on the many positive things in my life.

These words from the prophet Habakkuk have helped me often when in a complaining mood:

Though the fig tree does not blossom
And there is no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock is cut off from the fold
And there are no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord;
I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation!
The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army];
He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet
And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my [a]high places [of challenge and responsibility].