Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Six months to a year

“Well, there’ll be no more chemo,” she said to me, and the flat tone of her voice gave away the rest of the news. “The doctor says six months to a year,” she added. Honestly, I couldn’t take it in at first.

“Six months to a year for what?” I stupidly asked. “For life,” she replied. “Wait," I said desperately, "I’m not following you. Six months to a year before the cancer becomes a problem again, or…?" and my voice trailed off. “No. Six months to a year is all I have,” she said quietly. And just like that, my mother is in her final journey.

The tumors on the pancreas did not respond to the five months of chemo. Instead, they grew a tiny bit. According to the doctor, this is a slow-growing cancer and that's why he estimates six months to a year.

I still can hardly take it in.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Some musings for this morning

"Always be humble, gentle, and patient, accepting each other in love. You are joined together with peace through the Spirit, so make every effort to continue together in this way." Ephesians 4:2-3 (NCV)

Ironically, this Scripture came to my attention at the same time that I was watching a TV show about setting healthy boundaries to keep you safe from toxic people. I should say here that the people on the show had some good ideas (and good Scripture to back up what they were saying about fear and gossip). But it was kind of ironic that the Scripture placed in front of me by my computer was actually about getting along in peace through the Spirit.

The reason this verse really struck me this morning is because there has been some strife in a certain quarter of our lives (mine and my husband's, that is, and from external sources). And maybe, just maybe, we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. And that light really is NOT a train but truly is some kind of peace. We continue to pray.

And the other reason that verse struck me is because of how it ties into my recent ah ha! moment about forgiveness, about deferring justice to God. That, I think, is part of the key of getting along in the Spirit.

Just my 2 cents for today.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Coming apart at the seams

Actually, it's not all that dire. I'm just so exhausted that I can't keep my head up much longer. I got exactly two hours of sleep last night, for reasons still unknown to me. I simply was awake most of the night. And then I spent ALL day cutting fabric and sewing.

Our church looked like a sweatshop today, honestly. Six sewing machines set up on six folding tables, with six people sewing plus two people cutting fabric (it took us 4 hours to cut everything), one person pinning the fabric in preparation for the sewing, and one (one-armed) guy catering lunch to the hungry workers.

We're preparing the structure for our Good Friday prayer walk, and my husband dreamed up a series of movable room dividers that would be hung with drapery. Lovely. Except he's not the one doing the sewing! We have to complete 75 of these panels.

So, this morning we set out the M&Ms (very practical when you're sewing since they melt in your mouth and not in your hands), made a pot of coffee, and snacked on homemade peach coffee cake. I made Tim bring us a yummy lunch from Costco, and then he came back later in the day to help us put everything away.

This was, in essence, a modern day "sewing bee," and we had a blast. I think we laughed all day and I would definitely do it again just for the fun of it. We certainly got to know each other better, and that's always good in the church community. Plus, I'm a novice sewer, and I had many patient and willing mentors to help me today.

I learned a lot today - and not just how to sew a straight seam.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thoughts on Forgiveness

I’m listening right now to Amy Grant singing that she believes in “simple things… the miracle of forgiving.”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but there are one or two situations in my life where it really will take a miracle for me to forgive -- and it is in no way simple. In these particular situations, the people apparently never stop trying to find ways to do harm, always on the lookout for a way to trap someone – they don’t do it just to me, because I see them doing it to others, too. It seems to be their modus operandi.

It’s said that hurting people hurt people. And that’s true. But that doesn’t make things any easier when you’re on the receiving end of someone’s vile and venom. And you know that, deep down and despite their protestations to the contrary, they intended it to hurt.

I’ve struggled to forgive them over and over again. No sooner do I think that I’ve managed to give it over to God then I find that I’ve taken it back again. Why? Because. I. Want. Justice. And I want it now, where I can see it and feel the glory of it.

Counter-productive, I know.

And definitely not how God would have His daughter (that’s me) behaving.

I’ve started reading a book called What to do on the worst day of your life, written by Pastor Brian Zahnd. I’m not recommending this as a replacement for Scripture, of course. (Nothing replaces Scripture.) And I don’t agree with everything Zahnd surmises. BUT, he did point out something very important that I’d not thought about. And it’s this:

Forgiveness is not the “abdication of justice. Instead, forgiveness involves deferring justice to God.” (page 26 of Zahnd’s book).

This is another ah-ha! moment in my spiritual journey. Because that means I don’t have to feel it. I just have to do it. It’s an objective thing and isn’t based on what I’m feeling. In fact, any lingering hurt feelings will be a whole separate issue to take up with God. The main thing is to defer justice to God. I can’t bring those people to justice anyway – so it's useless to keep worrying over the situation. Better to just to get on with it. Then, if there are still hurt feelings – well, I’ll process those feelings with God as many times as it takes for them to leave. At least I will know that justice will be appropriately served – in God’s time and by God’s choice and His means, not mine.

This is a struggle of many years that I think just might be coming, if not to a close then at least to a better place. What a relief! And no, my forgiving them – deferring justice to God -- probably won’t stop those people who deliberately hurt others, but it does open up the place where I can stay close to the Lord in the midst of the storm.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More family history

I've been digging into my family history lately. I find family research fascinating -- I did quite a lot of it in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Back then I had to trek to the National Archives or the State Archives or wherever else I could find historical records. Nowadays we have ancestry.com, which has done a lot of the legwork (not all -- I still have some treks I'll need to make).

I haven't found any nuts on the family tree, but I did find one stunningly beautiful young woman: my great-grandmother, Luella (for whom my mother was named). This picture fascinates me. The intensity of her eyes and the intelligence in her face make me want to sit down and have a conversation with her.

I never knew my great-grandmother, but she and my mother were very close throughout my mother's childhood (Mom was 18 when the elder Luella died suddenly of a heart attack at age 78). Great-grandmother Luella lived with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren in the city of Newark; she helped to raise her grandchildren, and that's one reason she and my mother, the baby of the family, were so close. Each summer she would take all the grandchildren to stay with her at the old family farm out in "the country" (the hills of northwest New Jersey). My mother and her sisters still talk about those summers, where they played freely in the woods and meadows for almost three solid months every year.

I recently asked my mother to tell me what her grandmother had been like as a person. My mother surprised me completely with her reaction to my question. She smiled and looked far away for a moment, and then she said, "She was a very special person." And that's all she would say. I tried probing, but to no avail. The smile remained on Mom's face but she just wouldn't or couldn't say anything more. Clearly the deep bond she felt with her grandmother has not diminished in 50 years.

This is my great-grandmother, Luella, in what I think was probably 1898 or 1899. She would have been about 28 or 29 years old then, and it's no wonder my great-grandfather fell in love with her.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A new blog to follow

The Totally Together Journal blog is new from my favorite CrockPot365 blogger, Stephanie. She finished her full year of using her Crockpot every day (and blogging the recipes, which you can find here), and now has moved on to some organizational stuff. Cool!

Monday, March 2, 2009

John Fischer's "Catch of the Day" entry -- The Gospel for Little Brown Birds -- is magnificent. Please read it here.

The two sentences that really got me are these: "We gravitate towards sameness and find comfort in the familiar. But the gospel of Jesus Christ is big and wide and messy."

And how. Jesus didn't come just for the beautiful Christians and those who always have it right. He didn't come just for the "in" crowd in the Christian culture. He came for everyone on this planet. Everyone.

- Catherine