Saturday, February 11, 2017

Chapter Twenty-Two

I began attending a weekly Cancer Support Group. I don't always make the meeting, but I am generally blessed when I do attend. I have learned that I am not alone in my depression, the over-whelming tiredness, being unsteady on my feet and the forgetfulness that I experience.

Along with mourning my cancer and its re-occurrence, I mourn the loss of my short-term memory. Something I did quite easily yesterday at work, is lost today... Then I spend too much time trying to "figure out" how to do it again. It is like the scene from the Pixar move "UP" when the dog is speaking and suddenly screams out "SQUIRREL" and his attention is diverted elsewhere.

Fortunately, I work in the church office and grace abounds! In this vicious cycle of cancer, I need to not be so harsh on myself and allow myself grace. It often seems to me that I offer grace to others, but withhold it from myself.
Colossians 1:2b - from the Voice
May grace and peace from God our Father [
and the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One] envelop you.
That is it, isn't it? To be enveloped in grace and peace. The Holy Spirit is sometimes called "The Comforter". That seems so appropriate to me. When the thunderous mid-west storm warning would sound, I would gather up my daughter and the quilt (comforter), wrapped it around us, sat in the old wooden rocking chair and watched the approaching storm with all the thunder, darkness and lightening. It WAS comforting to be wrapped up and enveloped in the "Comforter" with all the approaching darkness.

The Cancer Support Group seems to have helped me find my "words" again. Some people say they have "Writer's Block" but I am sure mine has been do to the cancer, all the medical appointments, all the testing all the procedures, all the surgeries, all the poking and prodding.

Just yesterday I had an "Endobronchial Ultrasound". Such a big word for merely knocking me out and putting a tube into my bronchial area. (I did appreciate being knocked out!) They were also able to remove some samples for testing and provided me with six images that I totally do not understand or relate to... but the one that concerned me was the "Left lower lobe: Endobronchial lesion". So now I wait for the lab/testing results all while attempting to be enveloped in grace and peace.

The only negative thing that happened during the procedure was my jaw became "unhinged" on the right side. I always caution the medical team that I have TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) and that my right jaw can become unhinged and lock in the open position. And so it did! The poor  anesthesiologist was beside himself! Thirty-five years in the business and this had never happened to him before. After a round of IV muscle relaxers they took me back into the procedure room, again knocked me out and put my jaw back in place. Yesterday and yet today, the right side of my jaw is very tender.

Nonetheless, it seems my words have returned. Thursday evening I penned the following as I was reflecting on the Cancer Support Group and the fact that I got out of work a teensy bit late and couldn't make the appointment time. I offer it here for your perusal.

In This Place
The UAMC Cancer Support Group
~Tamara Farner-Swerline
“And ecstasy through all our being leaps—
  Death bows his head and weeps.”  
from the poem “Death” by Rainer Maria Rilke

in this place
darkness blesses all
enveloping the soul

in this place
what some dread
others may embrace

in this place
dark nights of the soul
are known and accepted

in this place
pain is a declaration
that life continues on

in this place
we seek resolution
to questions not voiced

in this place
we find consolation
in sharing our journey

in this place
tears are cleansing
like baptismal waters

in this place
we are warriors
silently waging battle

in this place
we fear only
the long, last good-bye

Monday, January 9, 2017

Chapter Twenty-One

It was December 13th, and I had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Kim, thoracic surgeon. We were both heading to reception when I saw her. She was walking ahead of me as we approached the Arizona Cancer Center - UMC. Dressed in the uniform of our culture – clothed in denim capris, a denim jacket covered with badges and logos. Her many tattoos added to the total tribal effect. She wore a multi-hued scarf twisted around her head in turban fashion, yet if one looked closely you could see the thinning hair and bald patches on her scalp. She held her head high and her bearing was that of a warrior. Indeed, a Tribal Warrior coming to do battle with Cancer.

I stood behind her waiting to check-in for my appointment. I couldn’t help but reach out and place my hand gently on her shoulder. When she turned to look at me, I merely said, “Keep fighting.” She smiled and turned back to the matter at hand. She went her way and I went mine to our various appointments.

Every single one of us has a story. We don’t often take the time to ask or listen, truly listen to someone’s story, or to watch from the background as it unfolds before us.

The Nameless Warrior I observed at the Arizona Cancer Center filled my heart with hope. Hope that I can escape this “dark night of the soul” I’ve been experiencing and regain my warrior status and fight the cancer that seems to keep reappearing in my body…

I had been anticipating working with a Prison Ministry group – Kairos. I worked the Kairos Outside weekend in September. Kairos Outside is a ministry to women whose lives have been impacted by prison. Either having been incarcerated themselves or having a family member incarcerated.

I also had signed up and begun training for Kairos Inside where we would go into the State Prison in Perryville and minister to a group of women. I dropped from the group when my husband began having some medical issues.

Husband’s medical care is provided by the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System due to his service related disability from Agent Orange exposure. There have been numerous complaints about the VA Health Care System in general, but we have had nothing but wonderful service and care for his health issues. We have no complaints and only praise for the work they do. Here is Tucson, we are rated No. 2 nationally for service and care.

I returned to working in the church office in September, and it was in October when I got the new cancer diagnosis. It hit me like an unexpected blow to the gut. I always knew in the back of my mind that the chance of a re-occurrence was possible, yes, even probable.

That I knew from sitting in the infusion waiting room listening and speaking with others. A number of them were “repeat” chemo patients whose cancer had returned. For some it returned to a different organ or area of the body.

The total number of days between Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 when I had the first surgery and Monday, November 21st, 2016 totaled 599 days.

This is equal to 1 year, 7 months, and 19 days.
599 days is equal to 85 weeks and 4 days.
The total time span from 2015-04-02 to 2016-11-21 is 14,376 hours.

Time… as it rushes by. I remember wanting to be 13 and a teenage; next it was 16 and a driver’s license; then 21 and the legality of it all. Now, I’m Medicare eligible. Where previously it seemed that time passed ever so slowly, now it passes at a warp speed.

One month, and one day later on December 22nd, Husband had his surgery. I awakened that morning at 5:00 a.m. to greet the day with coffee and devotional time, in no particular order.

What I saw were the clouds hugging the mountain to our north. It was the grayest of grey days, reminiscent of the Ohio winters we had left behind. The kind of gray, grey days that chill the bone, but not the soul. Foreboding. Ominous. Portentous.

Here in Tucson, we are surrounded by mountains:

The sun rises over the Rincon Mountains in the east
The legendary sunsets silhouette the Tucson Mountains in the west
Flanking the north and northeast are the prominent Santa Catalina Mountains
Rising to the south and southeast are the Santa Rita Mountains
The Tortolita Mountains shelter the northwest

The Santa Catalina’s are the ones staring at me through the patio door.

That gray, grey morning with clouds hugging the mountains fared well with Husband’s surgery. His gall bladder was removed and the hernia repaired. God is good.

The VA hospital surgical area has at least two waiting rooms. Outpatients have one waiting room and those spending the night have another for their family to wait in. A nurse led me through the maze to the overnighter’s waiting room. One person was there. A dear young woman from our church whose husband was also having surgery. We spent hours together waiting for our husbands to get out of the recovery stage and into their rooms! I love that the Lord would surprise me like that and it certainly helped the time to pass.

Shortly after she left the waiting room, our Pastor and his wife arrived. They were able to visit not just one, but two families that very day!

Between Husband's surgery and mine, we had our dog euthanized. He never fully recovered from having been attacked by a coyote in October. Poor Old Dudley… the full blood Schnauzer who wanted to live and be loved… and he was. We rescued him when he was approximately two from life on the streets and at fourteen he succumbed to life. We were able to provide him with a good and comfortable life. He is now reunited with Demi, our female Schnauzer who ended up with malignant melanoma throughout her entire body. 

I will say, our poor cat (Milo) was in a tizzy for a bit. She began to “sing the song of her people” as she roamed from room to room looking for friend Dudley. Then Dennis’ hospitalization required an overnight stay. From room to room she roamed, singing her mourning song of a thousand years. That night she slept with me and couldn’t get close enough.
Saint John of the Cross (Spanish: San Juan de la Cruz; 1542 – 14 December 1591) was a major figure of the Counter-Reformation, a Spanish mystic, a Roman Catholic saint, a Carmelite friar and a priest who was born at Fontiveros, Old Castile.
John of the Cross was a reformer in the Carmelite Order of his time and the movement he helped initiate, along with Saint Teresa of Ávila, eventually led to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites, though neither he nor Teresa were alive when the two orders separated. He is also known for his writings. Both his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul are considered the summit of mystical  Spanish literature and one of the peaks of all Spanish literature. He was canonized as a saint in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII. He is one of the thirty-six Doctors of the Church.
Saint John of the Cross wrote about “the dark night of the soul.” His words and even more so, the Psalms that describe the gray, grey depression that can overcome and overwhelm, especially when one is facing illness, do help me to face the reality of clinical depression. Prescription medication helps, too. Depression is real. It can be debilitating and cause spiritual paralysis.

If there is anything to learn from this personal journey, it may, in fact be empathy. And so I pray, Lord, allow me to sense and perhaps sense another’s pain. Then give me the fortitude to approach them and pray with them, if allowed.  ~Even so, Amen!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Chapter Twenty

This was a tough weekend with the mass shooting in Orlando.

Was it a hate crime? Was it terrorist influenced? Was it due to homophobia? How many times during the course of yesterday's news updates and interviews did we hear, "We are America and we are better than that!" What we are is United States citizens and that is what binds us together. 

Indeed, U.S.A. is not America!

America is the name of a whole continent. United States of America means that the United States belongs to America and NOT that America belongs to the United States. So when you refer to yourself and an American, remember that the citizens of these countries are also Americans.

A List of the Deadliest Mass Shootings in U.S. History

1. Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (June 12, 2016)

Police say 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire at the club that calls itself the city's hottest gay bar. He took hostages, and after a three-hour standoff, police moved in. The gunman was killed, but not before perpetrating the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.

At least 49 people were killed, and more than 50 were wounded and taken to area hospitals. Mateen was killed during a firefight with police.

2. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. (April 16, 2007)

Seung-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old English major from Centerville, Va., entered the campus of Virginia Tech and opened fire.

Thirty-two people were killed, and 17 others were injured. Cho also killed himself.

3. Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. (Dec. 14, 2012)

Adam Lanza went into Sandy Hook Elementary and killed 26 people — mostly children — before killing himself. He also killed his mother, Nancy Lanza.

4. Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas (Oct. 16, 1991)

In 1991, 35-year-old George Hennard walked into a cafeteria and opened fire with a handgun. He loaded and emptied his gun several times, leaving 23 people dead. Then he killed himself.

5. McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif. (July 18, 1984)

James Oliver Huberty, a 41-year-old unemployed security guard, opened fire on a McDonald's in San Ysidro using a shotgun and a pistol.

He killed 21 people and wounded 19. He was killed by police.

6. University of Texas Tower in Austin, Texas (Aug. 1, 1966)

Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old student who had served with the Marines, murdered his mother and his wife before climbing the University of Texas Tower with six firearms. He began firing at pedestrians below.

He killed 14 people and wounded 31 from the tower. He was killed by police.

7. Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. (April 20, 1999)

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, students at Columbine High School, entered the school with four guns and pipe bombs.

They killed 13 people and wounded 24, before killing themselves.

8. Edmond Post Office in Edmond, Okla. (Aug. 20, 1986)

Patrick Henry Sherrill shot and killed 14 co-workers before taking his own life

Tragedy and mass murder are not new to our nation. In fact, our nation has supported and at time glorified mass killings. 

9. Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif. (Dec. 2, 2015)

Syed Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, opened fire inside the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.

They killed 14 people, and they were killed during a shootout with police.

10. American Civic Association, Binghamton, N.Y. (April 3, 2009)

Jiverly Wong, a 42-year-old Vietnamese immigrant, opened fire on an immigration center in Binghamton, N.Y.

Wong killed 13 people and wounded four others before killing himself.

11. Fort Hood in Texas (Nov. 5, 2009)

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, opened fire using two handguns at the U.S. Army post in Texas.

He killed 13 people and wounded 30. Hasan was sentenced to death in 2013.

12. Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (Sept. 16, 2013)

Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old former Navy reservist, opened fire at the Navy Yard. He killed 12 people before police killed him.

(Tamara's Note:) I'm not sure why, but the Emanuel AME church shooting with nine persons killed was left off this list, sad to say. It was my belief that a shooting with four or more victims is considered a mass shooting.

As I consider all the violence cited above, they all seem to be instances of hate crimes, don't you think?

The Two-Way

the two-way

These accounts are from our most recent history. May we not forget older accounts of sanctioned murder and massacre in the U.S.  Perhaps it is the quarter of my Native American blood that requires I recall government sanctioned genocide.

We, as a nation have come a long way… and yet still have much work to do.
On the morning of December 29, 1890, the Sioux chief Big Foot and some 350 of his followers camped on the banks of Wounded Knee creek. Surrounding their camp was a force of U.S. troops charged with the responsibility of arresting Big Foot and disarming his warriors. The scene was tense. Trouble had been brewing for months.
For the entirety of his 27 years, Black Elk’s somber eyes had watched as the way of life for his fellow Lakota Sioux withered on the Great Plains. The medicine man had witnessed a generation of broken treaties and shattered dreams. He had watched as the white men “came in like a river” after gold was discovered in the Dakota Territory’s Black Hills in 1874, and he had been there two years later when Custer and his men were annihilated at Little Big Horn. He had seen the Lakota’s traditional hunting grounds evaporate as white men decimated the native buffalo population. The Lakota, who once roamed as free as the bison on the Great Plains, were now mostly confined to government reservations.

Life for the Sioux had become as bleak as the weather that gripped the snow-dusted prairies of South Dakota in the winter of 1890. A glimmer of hope, however, had begun to arise with the new Ghost Dance spiritual movement, which preached that Native Americans had been confined to reservations because they had angered the gods by abandoning their traditional customs. Leaders promised that the buffalo would return, relatives would be resurrected and the white man would be cast away if the Native Americans performed a ritual “ghost dance.”
As the movement began to spread, white settlers grew increasingly alarmed and feared it as a prelude to an armed uprising. “Indians are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy,” telegrammed a frightened government agent stationed on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation to the commissioner of Indian affairs on November 15, 1890. “We need protection and we need it now.” General Nelson Miles arrived on the prairie with 5,000 troops as part of the Seventh Cavalry, Custer’s old command, and ordered the arrest of several Sioux leaders.
When on December 15, 1890, Indian police tried to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was mistakenly believed to have been joining the Ghost Dancers, the noted Sioux leader was killed in the melee. On December 28, the cavalry caught up with Chief Big Foot, who was leading a band of upwards of 350 people to join Chief Red Cloud, near the banks of Wounded Knee Creek, which winds through the prairies and badlands of southwest South Dakota. The American forces arrested Big Foot—too ill with pneumonia to sit up, let alone walk—and positioned their Hotchkiss guns on a rise overlooking the Lakota camp.
As a bugle blared the following morning—December 29—American soldiers mounted their horses and surrounded the Native American camp. A medicine man who started to perform the ghost dance cried out, “Do not fear but let your hearts be strong. Many soldiers are about us and have many bullets, but I am assured their bullets cannot penetrate us.” He implored the heavens to scatter the soldiers like the dust he threw into the air.
The cavalry, however, went teepee to teepee seizing axes, rifles and other weapons. As the soldiers attempted to confiscate a weapon they spotted under the blanket of a deaf man who could not hear their orders, a gunshot suddenly rang out. It was not clear which side shot first, but within seconds the American soldiers launched a hail of bullets from rifles, revolvers and rapid-fire Hotchkiss guns into the teepees. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Lakota offered meek resistance.
Big Foot was shot where he lay on the ground. Boys who only moments before were playing leapfrog were mowed down. In just a matter of minutes, at least 150 Sioux (some historians put the number at twice as high) were killed along with 25 American soldiers. Nearly half the victims were women and children.
The dead were carried to the nearby Episcopal Church and laid in two rows underneath festive wreaths and other Christmas decorations. Days later a burial party arrived, dug a pit and dumped in the frozen bodies. For decades, survivors of the massacre lobbied in vain for compensation, while the U.S. Army awarded 20 Medals of Honor to members of the Seventh Cavalry for their roles in the bloodbath.
When Black Elk closed his wizened eyes in 1931, he could still envision the horror. “When I look back now from this high hill of my old age,” he told writer John G. Neihardt for his 1932 book “Black Elk Speaks,” “I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there.”
It was not the last time blood flowed next to Wounded Knee Creek. In February 1973 activists with the American Indian Movement seized and occupied the site for 71 days to protest the U.S. government’s mistreatment of Native Americans. The standoff resulted in the deaths of two Native Americans.

I have fears...

  • fears for our nation
  • fears for our children
  • fears for our grandchildren and all the future generations

If we look at our society through the lens of love, will it help us to become more tolerant of "others"? You know them, don't you? 

  • those who don't go to the same church as we do...
  • those who hold different ideologies and beliefs than we do...
  • those who may not have entered our country legally...
  • those who speak a different language than we do...
  • those who have different skin coloring than us...
  • those who are of the LGBT community...

Or do we prefer to be the Pharisee who stands in the courtyard crying out, "O God, Thank You that I am not like that sinner over there..." (my paraphrase of Luke 18:9-14).

And so I pray:
God, God... fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may see the face of Christ in each person I come into contact with. Then again I pray that each person I come into contact with may see the face of Christ reflected back to them.

Pour me out and fill me with your Spirit. May I seek to right injustice as I open my eyes and become sensitive to it. May I seek to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

Even so, Amen.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Chapter Nineteen

Husband and I were asked to participate in a series of monologues for our church Good Friday service. We experienced the Passion story through Dr. Marcia McFee’s dramatic script, Poured Out for You. The service was rich with reflective imagery and music. It started with “oil” and the anointing of Christ’s feet, followed by “water” and the symbolic washing of hands, next was “wine” into which Christ dipped the bread for Judas, then “blood” as witnessed by the Roman soldier, Mary’s “tears” were next followed by “light” as one candle was extinguished and another picked up and we were quietly ushered out.

Husband did the monologue of Judas. My monologue was Mary, the mother of Christ, and the words of the monologue follow:

My son.  From the moment the angel said to me, “you will bear a son” my life was no longer my own.  And yet it was every bit mine.  Moments treasured, remembered in my heart alone.  Every moment he grew within me.  Every day of his youth.  Every movement of his ministry from that day at Cana to this very minute.  At times the pain threatened to outweigh the wonder of this unimaginable life God had given me. 

And especially now.  Like the blue cloth that you picked up on your way in, the color of Mary, know that in this moment I am not just the mother of Jesus shedding tears for my son.  I am the tears of any mother who has seen their child die before them.  I am the tears of every mother who has lost children in political warfare and oppression.  I am the tears of all loved ones who cannot save their loved ones as they starve, are ravaged by illness or injury, are swept away by tsunami or flood or earthquake or hurricane, or lose their lives to addiction, are consumed by depression or suffer violent ends.  And I am the tears of all loved ones who do not know the fate of the missing ones…  I am the tears.

Practice as I did, I could not make it through the monologue without tears of my own. Perhaps an explanation is in order.

Two years ago during Holy Week, our son was released from prison. We left Maundy Thursday service early to meet him at the bus station.

Last year, I missed all of Holy Week due to having the lung cancer surgery on April 2nd, which was Maundy Thursday. I was released from the hospital on Easter Sunday. The upside to this is that on Wednesday, as I was still working at the church office, the pastor asked that I meet with him 15 minutes prior to my departure. When I arrived at his office, he stood and said, “Let’s go to the sanctuary.” When we arrived I saw my co-workers and the two associate pastors! I was more than surprised. They were having an “anointing” service for my health, followed by prayer. I was humbled by this act, so very humbled. My eyes still well up with tears as I recall this event.

That brings us to now. Yes, now. We recently became aware our son, who hasn’t seen or visited with us for a year is involved in illicit activities, which may again land him in prison. With this recent knowledge, reading the above monologue became all the more personal for me. It spoke to my heart and soul. It also spoke to many others of our congregation as I saw their tears, too.

A pictorial statement posted on Facebook simply said, “Holy Saturday: Rest well, indeed. For tomorrow there is work to be done and a grave to be conquered.” ~Author Unknown

With the forty days of Lent that lead us to the cross and the victory of the tomb, Friday and Saturday do indeed seem as bleak as the dark night of the soul. Yet to those of us who are believers, Sunday comes with a resounding breaking of the sun and an empty tomb! Alleluia!

May you be blessed.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Chapter Eighteen

My last devotional of the year was entitled Wistful Words. It was all about trust. Trust, at least for me, is hard to come by... worldly or Godly. It is as if I've only ever been able to rely on or trust "me" - and when I fail myself, it's been ever so difficult. and trust issues. This past year with health issues... cancer and chemo, has taught me a bit about trusting God - and my NOT being in control. Then with Dennis' health issues.

A dear friend brought me to tears as she was sharing with our accountability group about her newest tattoo. I asked if it was in a place where we could see it. She removed her shoe and there is was in all its glory - "make it count" on the inside of her left foot. I cried. I cried because I created a "private" FaceBook Page to share with all my prayer warriors was was happening. It was a great way to let a number of persons know at one time what was happening and to provide prayer requests. It was named "Make it Count, Dear Lord".

It is my custom to have a time of meditation and journaling, then to read at least one piece of poetry daily. After that, it is time to make the bed and straighten the bathroom and towels. Little rituals that help me to set the tone for the coming day.

At the day’s end, I try to be sure the dishes are washed, the sink empty and everything is “in its place”.

That doesn’t always happen, but it is a ritual I try to keep.

My poetry comes daily from the Poetry Foundation and then from Robert Okaji at O at the Edges. His offering for New Year’s was a very rich piece entitled Year’s End. Feel free to locate his blog at WordPress. I tried to attach the link, but it didn't seem to work.  Alas!

Today I received the daily offering from the Poetry Foundation and it, too was a wonderful offering by Naomi Shihab Nye. I offer it here for your review.

Burning the Old Year


Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn't,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn't do   
crackle after the blazing dies.

As most of you are aware, 2015 was a challenging year for our family. We welcome with open arms 2016 and yet are fully cognizant that we have no control over how the year will unfold. It is our prayer that we are malleable and will be able to bend with the winds that will surely rage through 2016.

Our individual health crisis this past year seemed to draw the two of us closer together. Too often a family crisis can destroy the union, but ours was strengthened. I only know that it is a God given grace that caused that – and the myriad of prayers that were being offered on our behalf.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but I do have another blog over at WordPress.  I call it Confessions of a Prison Librarian. I generally try to promote inmate poetry, but sometimes change course and promote other poetry or my thoughts about various prison issues.

My best wishes to all of you for the New Year! I wish you health, safety and warmth.


2 Corinthians 4:16   The VoiceSo we have no reason to despair. Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life everyday.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Chapter Seventeen

Life is wildly unpredictable. We never know what the twists and turns are ahead of us on life’s highway. We cannot control that. What we can control is the manner in how we react to it. Even when we find ourselves in a closet with tears streaming down our face, we can cling to grace and say through the tears, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him;” (Job 13:15).

This year has been full of challenges for my husband and me. We are both looking forward to 2016 and what we pray will be healthier days.

I’ve been reading “The Way of St. Francis” by Murray Bodo. At the end of chapter six he proclaims the following:

“Whatever God deigns to give us is pure gift and not something we earn or deserve by becoming that ‘perfect’ person we think we should be. We are who we are, and any perfection, or completion, in us is the work of God responding freely to our honest prayer that God change in us what we previously thought we could only change ourselves.”

Amen to that! I always felt I could not minister because I was so… imperfect, so flawed, so unworthy. As true at this is, Bodo goes on to explain:

“Who we become in God is then God’s work and not our own success in conforming to some ideal. The self we become in true prayer is seldom the self we envisioned, but it is a new and marvelous self that God fashions out of the gradual redeeming of the false self we now acknowledge as the work of our own misguided idealism. We then know God in what God has done in us to enable us to discover our true face. And in that face only do we see the reflection of God as God really is.”

Have you every felt the heat in your life when the fire of God is attempting to purge something from you? I have. It hasn’t been pleasant either. Comparatively, it is similar to the Bureau of Land Management setting a Controlled Burn however, in an instance like this it is God who is in control.

I recall an email that was being circulated years ago that went like this:

Some time ago, a few ladies met in a certain city to read the scriptures and make them the subject of conversation. While reading the third chapter of Malachi they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse, "And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."

One lady's opinion was that it was intended to convey the view of the sanctifying influence of the grace of Christ. Then she proposed to visit a silversmith and report to them what he said on the subject. She went accordingly and without telling the object of her errand, begged to know the process of refining silver, which he fully described to her.

"But Sir," she said, "do you sit while the work of refining is going on?" "Oh, yes madam, "replied the silversmith, "I must sit with my eye steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining be exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured."

The lady at once saw the beauty and comfort of the expression, "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."

Christ sees it needful to put His children into a furnace. His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for them. Their trials do not come at random; "the very hairs of your head are all numbered."

As the lady was leaving the shop, the silversmith called her back and said he had still further to mention that he only knows when the process of purifying is complete and that is by seeing his own image reflected in the silver.   
~ Author Unknown

Isn’t this a beautiful example? When Christ shall see His own image in His people, His work of purifying will be accomplished.

…and so I pray

Abba, Father - thank You for loving me enough to purge the dross of my life. May I reflect your image to those with whom I come into contact with. In Jesus’ name ~Amen!

When, my friends have you felt the fires of affliction in your life?

Like me, do you argue with God about it or are you more compliant and allow the dross to be purged from your life?

…until next time

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Chapter Sixteen

November is Lung Cancer Awareness month. It is represented by a White Ribbon. I’ve plastered my Facebook page with said “awareness” art. 

Gratitude has been a reoccurring theme since the lung cancer diagnosis. Gratitude that stems from the cancer being found early; gratitude that 13 lymph nodes had no evidence of disease; gratitude that I only had to endure four chemotherapy treatments; gratitude that Husband was willing, able and such a good caregiver. 

Never once did Husband complain or make me feel dreadful that he had to care for me, the house or having become my driver to and from medical appointments. For awhile there, it was like “Driving Miss Daisy”.

I do have a few upcoming medical appointments this month, and I am happy to declare that I am perfectly capable of driving myself to and from them. It’s been three months since the last chemo treatment and I will be having PET scans and seeing the oncologist every three months until I hear otherwise. I did meet with the surgeon in October and he agreed that I should only have to meet with the oncologist now. Again, I am grateful.

For almost six weeks now, Husband has been having an issue with his right knee. He's using a cane to walk and cannot drive. It’s been painful and swollen. He’s been to the ER twice and his primary care Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) once for this. During the last ER visit they prescribed a highly addictive pain reliever. He only took it for a couple of days before he began having problems. The medication nearly shut down his kidneys. He quit taking the medication and that issue cleared right up. After seeing his primary care CRNP, he is now scheduled for an MRI.

The worst part of this is that he cannot remember a distinct time he hurt or twisted his knee. I trust the MRI will show an underlying cause and that the issue is treatable. They also have him scheduled to begin physical therapy in December.

This is in addition to an already existing medical condition that he is being treated for. In fact, he will be having a biopsy this coming Friday. I must chuckle here as he forgets the name of the procedure (biopsy) so he calls it an autopsy! I remind him he is not dead yet!

I really liked his CRNP. She is a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is professional. Since all Husband’s care is at the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Health Care System, I’m thinking she was probably a military nurse. Bless her heart.

I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding the VA Health Care at large, but we have never been disappointed with his care there. As a matter of fact, our facility is rated number 2 in the nation. Again, gratitude!

If everything turns out well with his biopsy, then he is scheduled for a procedure on the 20th of this month.

And so it goes… I am now his caregiver. I will admit to times of feeling a bit inconvenienced. To counter that, I pray every single night that I will have the grace to serve Husband and to not complain. Frankly, he set a very high standard for me. I am determined to give him the same quality of care he gave me and to do so with the heart of Christ.

I am beginning to think that I should again change names of my blog… “Love in the Time of Chemo” since I am no longer receiving chemo. However, with that being said, I paid for the domain for a year. I have a while to make a determination.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart (emphasis is mine).

When I read this verse, I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame. It describes “a friend” and how if they lay down together they keep warm. It goes on to describe a cord of three strands. I’m no scholar, but I believe this to be the Holy Spirit, especially as it relates to marriage.

There are many and various stages of marriage. The passion of being newly wed; the struggles of employment, living expenses and children; then finally when it all settles down and the empty nest arrives. Yes. We are friends. We have been friends since the inception of our relationship, but like all friendships it changes through the years. The intimacy is much sweeter now. It is much deeper, too. Like friendship, there are different facets of intimacy. 

Our marriage is not perfect, except to say it is perfectly flawed. That is one of the tests of marriage. Will we work through the difficulties or will we call it quits? It’s been said that “aging ain’t for sissies.” My thought is that marriage isn’t for sissies, either. But then that draws me back to the scripture verse I quoted - A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. Come, Holy Spirit, and fill our hearts. Amen.


Husband's biopsy did not happen. According to the urologist, his PSA count is elevated due to medication he is taking, so it is actually only half of the number. He is also being treated for a UTI. So... he is scheduled for an MRI on his knee on the 24th and then to meet with the urologist on the 25th. 

Then, we will celebrate and honor Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for?