Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chapter Eight

I grew up in a small, rural Ohio community. Our house was next to the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad. I was lulled to sleep by the melancholy song of the train cars passing over the rails and the lonesome whistle that heralded its arrival and departure. “Take me away, take me away, take me away” seemed to be the song that echoed from that railroad track.

Unable to sleep on hot, humid Ohio nights, I watched the coming and goings of the trains.  Passenger trains were my favorite.  I was a voyeur peering as it were into the lit cabin trying to catch a glimpse of the lives that passed so quickly from my view.

Business men sat with newspaper in hand to occupy their time and their space in seeming oblivion to the others around them. They were too important to be bothered I imagined.

It was an era when women dressed in business attire for the train trip and wore hats and although I couldn’t see it, I believe they also wore gloves. I don’t know why I believed this, I just did. It just seemed to complete the mental image.

Occasionally there was a child or several children sitting with what was probably their mother or grandmother. Sitting. Quietly. Children of that era were to be “seen and not heard”. Were they traveling to visit relatives? We’re they relocating due to a divorce? Had their parents succumbed to some disaster? Sometimes it appeared they were looking out the window and right back at me. That was eerie on the Erie.

I imagined the passengers’ luggage. It would be neatly packed and organized with all the important items and clothing that would take them to this new place, this new destination in their lives. The luggage would always appear in my mind’s eye to be the old, hard backed leather looking suitcases of that era. The type my great-aunt owned. The type I would love to own even now. Not use, per se, merely own and use for storage and home decorating purposes.

Where were these people going? Where was life taking them and why was I destined to remain here and not travel the rails with them? I had this spirit, this wanderlust that made me want to jump the next freight train that passed by with an open door… I never did. I thought about it, but I never did. Perhaps that was due in part to having seen gentlemen of a vagabond nature sitting in empty freights from time to time and hearing the stories from my grandmother about the Hobos of the depression era.

After I left home I was struck with insomnia. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t sleep until one sleepless night it occurred to me: the trains, I miss the trains and the song that heralded the time of sleep.

Growing up during that era, I watched in the evening as Mr. Weitzel carefully hung the U.S. Postal mail bag for the 5:30 p.m. mail train to “catch.” As the days shortened and darkness necessitated lighting in the mail car, one could observe the workers sorting through the mail.

The caboose car was where the person retrieving the mail used a hook like apparatus to snag the mail bag and bring it inside the car. Only once did I ever see that fail. The bag was sliced open and mail flew like autumn leaves along the railroad track.

In short order, the postal authorities and inspectors were on-sight to retrieve what they could and write up all their reports.

Over five years ago, husband and I took a small train ride to the Grand Canyon and back via Grand Canyon Railway. It was a wonderful mini trip that heralded our 30th anniversary.

Three years ago in December we scheduled a small Christmas trek for the young grandchildren. It was the North Pole Express out of Globe Arizona on the Copper Spike Train Excursions. The grand kids loved it. They wore their pajamas, slippers and robes and had hot cocoa with cookies. When the train arrived at the “North Pole” Santa boarded and stopped and chatted with each child. It was a magical night for them and for us all very reminiscent of “The Polar Express.”

To this very day, I love the romance of passenger trains. From here, I think I’ll browse the Amtrak schedule and listen to Arlo Guthrie sing “City of New Orleans“. Did I mention it’s nearly 1:00 a.m.? I can't sleep. Where is that melancholy railroad tune to lull me to sleep?
Have you never questioned those who travel? Have you paid no regard to their accounts— Job 21:29 NIV

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Chapter Seven

Thursday, June 19th was the second chemotherapy. I believe the anxiety got to me as I was unable to fall asleep until 2:45 a.m. that very morning. I awoke at 6:30 a.m. to begin preparation for the event.

First, the blood draw at 8:50 a.m., then meeting with the oncologist and going over new meds and any symptomatic issues. My blood levels were all on target. I am having blurriness of vision, so I have to pick up special eye drops – fortunately OTC. My “angry vein” is actually phlebitis, so it was determined to use another vein. From there, we wait for the pager to signal our move to the infusion suite. We moved from the right arm to the left arm; changed up the order of the meds being injected. The Alimta was first up after hydration, then followed by more hydration (both oral and infused) and finally the Cisplatin being dripped with hydration and followed with even more infused hydration and a number of potty breaks. Part and parcel of this event, but hydration is imperative – before, during and after.

They (read we) are trying to keep from having to have a port placed as I am only having four total chemo infusions. Depending upon the outcome of this infusion, they may consider a  Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter, or "PICC line." This is a thin, soft plastic tube — like an intravenous (IV) line — that allows you to receive medicines and fluids. A PICC line stays in place for as long as needed. You may know all about these, but I don’t, so I googled it.

A nurse places a PICC line into a large vein in your arm and guides the catheter up into the main vein near your heart where blood flows quickly. The nurse sutures (stitches) the PICC line in place and covers the site with a sterile bandage. An x-ray is done to make sure that the catheter is in the right place. It takes 1 - 1 ½ hours to place the PICC line. Most patients feel little or no discomfort during this procedure. A local anesthetic may be used. 

I’m praying I have no more phlebitis due to the chemo infusions and would appreciate prayers to that end. It took a week for it to show up in my right arm and was treated with warm compresses and ibuprofen.

I’ve been experiencing some depression / anxiety and have a med for that now. In fact, when this great excursion began in January, I was merely taking one prescription. We are currently up to fifteen. Thus the depression and anxiety, if my self diagnosis is correct.

I was taken to a private room on this day. I asked why and was told “luck of the draw” and how full up the other areas were. Remembering back to my first tour of the infusion suites, we were led past a private room, where a woman had turned her back to the door so she could not see those who were passing by. My heart went out to her in her isolation and pain. The pain if physical, I do not know, but most surely emotional. I thought to myself that I did not want to be in a private room for whatever reason and prayed for her in whatever condition she was in and may it not be a coldness of her heart.

I reconsidered my thoughts on a private room with the overwhelming tiredness from not sleeping the night before. I hooked up my headphones and listened to music, yet still could not sleep. 

Dennis left on his mission. A family member provided funds to purchase the lovely piece of art I mentioned in the first post. Dennis bought the item then drove it home so it would not have to stay in the vehicle as our temperature was 108 degrees and that can degrade art work. Thank you, Mom!

Monsoon Steam  by Ruth CaƱada

Now, two days after chemo, I am tired, dehydrated and drinking water like a fiend! I don’t have much of an appetite, but must maintain my weight. The inside of my mouth is “peeling” and the moisture from the water does indeed help.

The infusion site is a bit bruised and tender. I’ve begun the warm compresses as a preemptive strike.

Last evening, Dennis asked me to come outside with him and our dog, Dudley. There were three young owls on the neighbor’s roof. One flew off before I arrived, but we watched two others. How amazing to watch them turn their heads in what appears to be a 360 degree turn when I would make gentle clucking noises. I do hope his pictures turn out. It was amazing to watch. One by one the other two flew off as they grew bored with our invading their privacy. It was a wonderful ten minutes of awe and wonder in the middle of Tucson’s metropolitan east side!

I’ve been reading a book on Sabbath rest. It is intriguing. I have determined that I will not use social media on Sunday. From my pen to God’s ears… The phone may or may not be answered, I haven’t fully worked through that issue.

In the meantime, as “She Who Walks in Faith”, I read this on a cancer site and have determined that hope is imperative:

Study after study shows that when we think we are going to do well at something, we actually do.

Often when we believe that we can be healthy, it’s the first step to being healthy.

Hope is believing the best is still on its way and that goodness will triumph in the end.

Losing hope might be the saddest human experience. 

I am also holding fast to The Wesleyan Means of Grace

Courageous and forward-leaning mission congregations practice spiritual disciplines. Our vital work is a spiritual adventure based in John Wesley’s means of grace. John Wesley taught that God’s grace is unearned and that we were not to be idle waiting to experience grace but we are to engage in the means of grace. The means of grace are ways God works invisibly in disciples, hastening, strengthening and confirming faith so that God's grace pervades in and through disciples. As we look at the means of grace today, they can be divided into works of piety and the works of mercy. 

Works of Piety 

Individual Practices – reading, meditating and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others 

Communal Practices – regularly share in the sacraments, Christian conferencing (accountability to one another), and Bible study 

Works of Mercy 

Individual Practices – doing good works, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry, and giving generously to the needs of others 

Communal Practices – seeking justice, ending oppression and discrimination (for instance Wesley challenged Methodists to end slavery), and addressing the needs of the poor 

Making disciples, growing vital congregations and transforming the world is part of a spiritual adventure that is empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit as churches engage in the means of grace. Spiritual goals are accomplished by connecting the means of grace with proven vital church practices such as planning, strategic direction, prioritization, clear focus and alignment.

This has been a difficult week for those of faith especially when on the evening of June 17, 2015, a mass shooting took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown CharlestonSouth Carolina, United States. The church is one of the United States' oldest black churches and has long been a site for community organizing around civil rights. Nine people were killed, including the senior pastor, the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, a state senator. A tenth victim was also shot, but survived.

I so wish I had an answer to the violence and the hatred that seems to permeate our culture. The best responses I have witnessed are the survivors, the family members’ and the church members’ response to this horrific tragedy. They have responded with forgiveness, with love, with grace, with dignity, and yes, with loss and appropriately requesting justice. God bless them and our nation as we heal from yet another devastation.

This is all for this edition of “Love In the Time of Chemo”. I choose life, so until next time, I remain "She Who Walks in Faith".

Friday, June 19, 2015

Chapter Six

The old Ohio farm and surrounding areas were covered with old apple trees. Local legend implied they had been planted by John Chapman a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed. I cannot verify this as truth although Johnny Appleseed's travels did take him through the state. We had a lovely old apple tree on the edge of our property. I would watch this tree from the kitchen window while having a cuppa coffee and daily bread (my morning devotions). 

One autumn morning as the sunrise began to dispel the fog a doe and her twin fawns were eating apples from that tree. How good is the Lord to allow us a glimpse of His creation and provision? Moments such as that often serve as “eye spy” blessings in my daily life. Events such as this have become my little blessings of serendipitous opportunity. 

Watching that tree through the seasons was also a reminder that life changes and yet continues on even through the harshness of the seasons. Seasons of drought, searing heat, the time of flood, the lightening strikes and the ice storms that often seek to annihilate and sometimes do destroy. 

I love trees that produce fruits, flowers, colorful leaves, and wonderful scents. I miss trees that lose their multihued leaves in the autumn. I find it irresistible to view the bare branched trees during the winter months with a dusting of snow that contrasts so wonderfully against their stark, dark bark. (A bit of a rhyme, sorry…) Trees that have a dusting of snow that contrasts so wonderfully against their desolate unprotected bark. 

When the winter doldrums hit, and they always do – those days of grey skies and indescribable grey moods, I would look to those naked trees with their upturned branches. It often appeared that the branches were raised in symbolic praise and prayer. Almost as if they were beckoning to God to be touched with life once again. Eventually they would be. The snow would melt, the scent of newness and spring would be in the air and seemingly overnight buds would appear. It was always so miraculous and yet so completely anticipated. 

Weeping willows trees are a favorite. They are almost poetic when brushed by the wind. It is as if they are brooms that gently sweep the earth, cleansing the area in which they inhabit. Their flowing branches move in the form of graceful ballet; bending, bending, ever bending and extending their branches to the birds of the air. Lord, do I help to cleanse the area I inhabit rather than pollute it or contaminate those with whom I come into contact with?

When we moved into our home in Arizona, there was a huge Mulberry tree growing from the side of the canal behind our house. It was well over 100 years old and displayed the scars of lightening strikes. Because it is the southwest and rampant with not too long ago history, I called it the ‘hanging tree.’ (It probably wasn't, I just called it that…) It housed a family of owls. I found it comforting when I heard them calling out in the evening. Sometimes in the morning I would find remnants of small animals they had caught and were being taken back to the nest, only to be dropped in the yard. As disgusting as those finds were, I hoped the baby owls didn't have to go without food during the night.

That century old tree was strongly rooted next to that canal. That’s how I want to be – strongly rooted in my faith – like a tree firmly planted by streams of water.  Just like the ‘hanging tree,’ that takes time and seasons and even the storms of life as evidenced through the scars of life. Growth often seems slow but it is happening as long as we pursue it. 
  1. In what events do you “spy” God in your life? 
  2. Have the harsh seasons of life drawn you to God? Or have they served to turn you away? 
  3. When, my friends, do you feel the closest to God? When do you feel Him tugging at your heart? 

Psalm 1:3 from the Voice
You are like a tree,
    planted by flowing, cool streams of water that never run dry.
Your fruit ripens in its time;
    your leaves never fade or curl in the summer sun.
No matter what you do, you prosper.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Chapter Five

In continuing on from Part 4...

In 1985, Husband was sure God was calling him to be in aviation ministry. Me? Not so much. I could not fathom traversing to the remotest part of the earth, walking though the jungles and marshes, picking leeches off my legs to let the peoples know that Jesus loves them. I’m not making light of missionary endeavors, I’m simply telling you where I was at that point in time.

It happened one Sunday when our church hosted a couple to come and speak to the congregation about their missionary work. I felt safe as their missionary work was in France! I could do France! A romantic language, good food, fashion, and croissants! Yes… I felt safe with this couple making a presentation.

Approximately five slides (yes… it was that long ago) into their presentation they stopped at a picture of a four seated Cessna plane. The couple began expounding upon the virtue of those in mission aviation. I was only three rows (pews) from them and I’m sure the look of horror upon my face spoke volumes.

If that didn’t then perhaps it was the low, guttural sounds and sobbing that did it. It could have been either, I don’t recall. I was wailing, weeping and rocking in my seat. Persons from rows ahead were turning to look at me as if I were possessed by an evil spirit!

What I do recall was it was at that precise moment that I knew the Lord wanted my attention. More than that, He wanted my willingness to follow Him in obedience.

We visited and applied to become missionaries at Missionary Maintenance Service (MMS). MMS prepares aircraft for missions while training aircraft mechanics for mission service. This isn't the normal training someone in a technical school would receive, meaning you don’t take a part off the shelf and replace the inoperable one, often you have to fabricate the part or repair it so it will work.

A large part of this endeavor was to raise our own support by visiting churches and finding those who would contribute on a monthly basis. I learned a lot from these treks. We would attend the church service to give a small “tickler” about mission aviation and then return for the evening service where we had the entire service.

I learned that small rural, struggling churches were the most generous as were the ‘widows’ who lived on a fixed income. They would either have a pot-luck to honor us or the Pastor and his wife would have us in for a home cooked dinner.

I learned that being invited to large metropolitan churches was a sometimes empty endeavor. One such occasion when we were invited to a large church in Akron Ohio, I had a feeling, just a nudge and told the Hubs to be sure we had enough money for fuel and for meals, should it be necessary. It was. There was no pot-luck, there was no one who offered to take us and break bread with us and there was no “love offering” to help with the travel expenses. We had to spend the hours between services in our vehicle on a hot, muggy summer’s day.

I am ever so glad that “nudge” was from the Holy Spirit! I want you to know that I’m not sharing this out of spite or meanness but only because I want to grow up to be like those widow women!

I hope, I pray what I’ve written will stir you into action or service should a missionary ever visit your church. Ask them to dinner; slip them some cash to help with travel expenses. Just open yourselves to the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit.

We never were able to raise our support to a level that would sustain a four member family and Hubs health issues also precluded that. But such a learning experience it was. I also learned that our mission may very well be in our own backyard.

When we determined to move in 1986, we moved into a 100 year old farmhouse on 20 acres in a very rural, primitive section of Ohio in Coshocton County. The berg itself was called Tiverton Center and was the second highest point in the state (but still below sea level). This old house needed everything done to it! We painted, we stripped woodwork, we cleaned and finally painted and stenciled. We called it home.

You've no doubt heard of a “Gentleman’s Farm”? Ours was more like an amateurs’ adventure on the farm! We ended up raising chickens (which I wouldn't mind doing again, but alas we don’t have the area in town and I don’t want to be dodging the poop!). Those we purchased as peeps. Crowmore and the Cluck Sisters was what I called them. We began getting farm critters from people we didn't even know.

A pig farmer brought us our first runt by meeting me at the back porch door, handing it to me and saying, “Here – I don’t have time for the runts. If he lives, he’s yours.” So I took the cute little guy and promptly named him Hamlet. Mistake, mistake!!! Warning, warning! Never name a farm animal!!! I bought the special nursing “mix” you use to nurse them back to health and he began to grow. I held him like a baby simply because I didn't know any different. Hamlet began to grow, and grow. I then learned that for every pound of food a pig eats, they will put on half a pound in body weight. He moved to the barn and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that pigs are quite neat! (Chickens however are not! And turkeys are even worse and stupid!!!)

Months passed and the time arrived when it was time to take Hamlet to the butcher’s. Husband did that, I stayed home and felt bad. Really, really bad. A few days later Husband picked up the “packages” and torched the grill. I was still sad. When everything was ready, the table set, the vegetables placed and the food blessed I knew I would have to set an example for our son and daughter, so I reluctantly took a bite. WOW! (This is where we hear the strum of harps with angelic overtones!) A conversion had taken place! What once had been my boy Hamlet had been lowered back to us in a sheet and was now pork any heathen gentile would appreciate! Oh my! Homegrown was the best!

Off and on, the pig farmer brought more runts to our home. The next one (Calvin Swine) did not make it past 24 hours. When he arrived again it was four piglets – three males and one female. I named the males Runtley, Gruntley, Huntley and the female was naturally Brinkley after the model… yes, I know… Again, sheer mathematics and finances caused us to butcher Gruntley and Huntley as juveniles and we then offered either of the other two to a neighbor who was an Amish dairy farmer. He chooses Brinkley and we kept Runtley.

Let me tell you a bit about Amish neighbors. You cannot do something for these people without them doing something for you. We had an abundance of eggs which we gave them. In exchange they brought us baked goods. We had the acreage; they planted and baled the hay. We split it. I had to talk hard and fast to get him to accept half because he said it should be 1/3 for him and 2/3s for us. We didn't have the animals for that – it would be a sin for it to go bad!

Now, about the sow we gave him… the next spring he showed up with a calf for us to raise! I forget the actual mix of the calf but she was half Jersey if we wanted milk and half something else if we wanted her for meat. So… what do you name a calf? I called her “Caffie” and she responded to that.

Our status on the farm was, well at least growing as by that time we had four goats – two kids, one dairy goat (I still have a great grip!) and the kids Mama. Now the dairy goat Broney was the most stubborn thing in typical goat fashion. I would tether her out by the fence line to eat the poison ivy and sumac as goats spit the antibodies out in their milk and it helps humans to gain immunity to it!

I would try to lead her from one spot to another and she would dig her heels in and “Neighhhhhhhhhhhhh, neighhhhhhhhhh, neighhhhhhhhh!” as if I were beating her with a stick! I specifically remember one time when I was tugging and pulling and yelling at her saying, “Don’t you know, I’m taking you to a better place, move it!” I’m sure I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Tamara, how many times have I tried to gently lead you and yet you continue to dig your heels in, too!” OUCH!

Caffie and the goat kids (a.k.a. Mia and Brittney) grew up together. It was cute when they were young, but as Caffie grew I sometimes saw Husband flying out the barn door, as she had affectionately head butted him in the middle of the back.

Coming home from church on Sundays we would be greeted by Smokey (the blind horse who turned the lights in the barn on, he may have been blind but he didn't want to be in the dark) all the goats, Runtley and Caffie running to the barn to meet us and be fed.

Since the missionary work did not pan out, and Husband's health was not improving (asthma), we contemplated moving to Arizona where my mother lived. Not knowing if the move from the farm was something the Lord was directing us to do; we did a Gideon’s fleece of sorts. We prayed and asked that if this was what we were supposed to do, then God - sell our home without a Realtor AND with enough of a profit that we could leave debt free.

An acquaintance of ours that we knew through church and who was a Realtor, heard we were selling and wanted to list the home. We told her about the fleece and kindly said no. She asked if she could at least show it. Husband explained that if she were to sell the home, $ $ THIS $ $ is the price we need and if you need a commission, then you will need to tack it on above this price. She agreed.

She arranged to show the home to a family on Thursday evening. On Saturday she called to let us know the couple wanted the house at that price (to include her commission)! In my typical act of faith I asked Husband, “Were we not asking enough?”

We had thirty days to vacate the premises! I shouldn't have been amazed, but I still am when I recall that story.

So, in 1990, we sold everything we could and gave our daughter whatever she wanted or asked for. She was 20 and pregnant with our first Grand.

Suffice it to say, that had I been Lot’s wife, I would be a pillar of salt! My heart, my home, my first born child and future Grand were in Ohio! The move was difficult emotionally.

Then, it was time to pack up the Conestoga wagon and head west…

It was twenty-five years ago we traveled across these great United States. We witnessed first hand the "beautiful for spacious skies” and the "amber waves of grain" as we traveled across this nation in a 1989 Toyota Tercel pulling a trailer with every worldly possession we had not sold.

Crossing into the state of Kentucky our then ten year old son sat bolt upright and stated, “Hey! This grass isn’t blue!” Amusing as that was, the grass was the deepest, darkest green with rolling hills and horses lounging in the pasture. We traveled on into Tennessee and found a campsite near Nashville. We had to pack it up and head to a truck stop when a tornado threatened the area! When the warning passed we went back and set up again. Most of the other campers were actually playing guitars and singing, hoping for a break into the Country Music scene.

We traveled further south to Arkansas to visit family before heading on West. We had a wonderful visit and learned most males in that area had two names, i.e. Joe Paul, Billy Bob, etc. To this day I can’t tell you where we were when we first began to hear the southern drawl, "Ya’ll want grits with breakfast?”

I would have loved being a girl raised in the south (G.R.I.T.S.). I love some of the southern euphemisms; “Bless her heart!" "Ya’ll fixin’ to go to town?” and not to forget he plural “All ya’ll”.

When leaving southern Arkansas the next state was Texas. And Texas seemed to go on and on for days and days! It appeared to be the flattest land in the continental United States! Husband said while stationed at Lackland AFB, the saying was you could go A.W.O.L. and still be seen for three days in any direction.

We began traveling north from Texas and into the state of Oklahoma for a very short period. We stopped at Fort Sill to absorb some of the history and local legend. As we were on no specific time schedule, we headed to Kansas where we were able to see the "fruited plains and amber waves of grain". This land too appeared flat and quite frightening when the storm clouds gathered.

Next our trip took us to Colorado where we decided to pickup Interstate 70. We began to see the "purple mountains majesty" and the signs warning about high winds… all while in a Toyota Tercel, pulling a trailer with all our worldly goods… After fighting to stay on the highway that was frequented by many trucks and the high winds, we decided another route south might be best. We were headed to Interstate 40 and traveled into New Mexico and it truly lived up to its name of “The Land of Enchantment” such wonder and beauty I had never seen.

After the enchantment of New Mexico we entered North Eastern Arizona and searched out Arizona State Highway 666 (now renumbered as State Highway 191). We came to the community of Springerville in the early evening. I called my mother who lived in the mining community of Morenci. The conversation went somewhat like this: “Mom! We’re in Spingerville and it’s only a bit more than 100 miles! We’ll be there tonight.” The reply was, “Get a room and start out in the morning. Trust me on this, start in the morning.” So we did. In retrospect I am so glad we did!

Hwy. 666 was evil! It climbed, snaked through an area that had signs stating “highway not maintained past this point.” There were no guard rails and other signs warning that semis and trailers over 20 feet in length were prohibited. There were hairpin turns, cattle on the road, Husband driving one handed saying, “Did you see that elk?” while pointing with the other. I knew we were going to die on this road! Even though we no longer have that Toyota Tercel (without air conditioning that we were moving to Arizona in…) I’m sure my fingernail impressions are still embedded in the passenger’s seat! Our son sat in the back with a blanket over his head! It was that scary!

When we finally topped the incline and began the downward trek into Morenci, I saw it: the huge open pit mine. I looked at Husband and said, “They’ve raped the earth!” It was one of the most horrific sights I had ever seen. I was appalled at what man had done to the land! Then we arrived in Morenci, my Mom met us and led the way to her home. The mining community looked the same to me wherever we went. Small homes built on terraced land all owned by Phelps Dodge (and now by Freeport McMoRan).

After arriving in town you are struck by the “tailings” from the mining effort. Tailings, also called mine dumps, slimes, tails, refuse, leach residue, or slickens, are the materials left over after the process of separating the valuable fraction from the uneconomic fraction of an ore – in this case copper.

Then, without warning we become blind to all this. Isn’t that like the complacent Christian, who is oblivious to the sin in their life, because most certainly they are not like that person over there, are they?

Next up will be Part 6, when the Spirit moves!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Chapter Four

These writings are basically being shared for my family. For them to "remember when" and to leave a written history that we have, indeed existed. The fact that some of you are reading them, too, is an added blessing to me.

How does God speak to you? Is it in the quiet of the morning when you come before Him in a spirit of devotion? Is it then He reveals Himself to you through His word and through prayer? Is it in events or circumstance that you can clearly see after the fact that it was a “God Thing”?

For me, it is generally the latter – the events or circumstances that God generally reveals Himself to me. Sometimes it is even so far past the original happening that He brings the event to my mind and heart that when it is revealed, I feel like such a slow learner. For it is in that moment I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He was there, orchestrating the entire event. Things I had overlooked become crystal clear and when it all comes together in my mind and heart I have an overwhelming sense of Him holding me, hugging me, loving me. I’d like to share one such occasion.

The year was 1982 and our son was just a toddler. Dennis and I had been struggling in our marriage – wondering if it was going to last, questioning why we didn’t seem “happy” in our existence together. We were not yet Christians. Oh, we were “good” people, co-existing in a family unit, but something was missing. And that missing something left an empty, hollow feeling deep in our hearts. This is when God began a work…

It was an early spring Ohio day, when Dennis called me and asked that I pack up our son and meet him at the local Golden Arch establishment for lunch. Great, I thought, now that’s one less task I have to accomplish before I get ready for swing shift – fixing lunch. So off we went, my son and I, to meet Daddy for lunch.

Dennis ordered and I found a place to sit and a child seat for Nicholas. Dennis set our meal down and we proceeded to devour it, when in they walked… He and She. To this day, I cannot tell you what attracted me to this elderly couple, but it was so strong, so palpable that I couldn’t ignore them. I merely observed. It almost felt as if I were standing on Holy Ground – at Mickey D’s.

He proceeded to the counter to place their order and She found a place to sit. In short order He was back with their order – 2 cheeseburgers, 2 cups of coffee and one French Fry they would share. He set the tray down, seated himself and then they clasped hands, bowed their heads and prayed. I felt the quarter pounder lodge in my throat and tears formed in my eyes. It was so obvious that Dennis asked what was wrong, to which I just put my hand up and shook my head, I couldn’t speak. For in that moment of prayer between that elderly couple communing with each other before their Heavenly Father, I was graced to witness a small presence of eternity, in MacDonald’s, of all places!

Then just as suddenly, I was overwhelmed with a sense of loss… for I knew… I knew that little, elderly couple had something that Dennis and I did not. They had something so real, so tangible that bound them together. This “something” allowed them to weather the storms of life and to come out better for it. Little did I know that “something” was Jesus Christ. Suddenly, the emptiness in my heart and soul was even more acute.

And so it goes… we left that Golden Arch establishment and went on with our lives. During the tumultuous next several years, I decided to divorce Dennis, but then that’s another story for another time. Through the ugliness and accusations we somehow were brought to saving faith. For Dennis it was immediate, for me it was more of an erosion process. The Lord had to wear down and whittle away the callouses that surrounded my heart and soul. He was faithful to do that and sometimes, often times, it was painful.

Now we will fast-forward to 1986. Dennis and I had sold our home and were relocating to a remote area in Ohio to live on a 20 acre farm (what were we thinking?) and for what Dennis felt called to do – enter the mission field. We had been accepted to an aviation mission and we were required to raise our own funding (but again… that’s another story).

As things often happen when moving, tensions were high. I planned an escape with our then 16 year old daughter – we headed to none other than that very same Golden Arch establishment for respite and questionable nourishment. We got our meal and sat down. This time, we offered a blessing to the Lord for His provision, when what to my wondering eyes should appear? That very same elderly couple entered. Wonder of wonders! A divine appointment, I’m sure!

He again went to the counter to place their order and She found the place they would sit. Again, He sat down their meal – 2 cheeseburgers, 2 cups of coffee and one French Fry they would share. Again, He seated himself and they clasped hands and bowed their heads in prayer. I couldn’t believe it! Here they were! I was beside myself with joy – to see them again! Before I knew it, I was at their table trying to tell them about my first siting of them years ago, how it had affected me and the inevitable outcome. He, it turned out, was hard of hearing, so I had to repeat everything I had shared about 10 decibels louder. Everyone who was in MacDonald’s that day heard the story of how I had first seen them years ago and how what I had witnessed between them had softened my heart to the message of Christ.

I told them of how I had often thought of and prayed for them over the years – could I know their name? Winkler, they said. We covenanted then and there to pray for each other. How wonderful it was to meet them again and to share with them what their simple act of faithfulness in prayer and devotion had done in our lives.

And life goes on… we’re fast forwarding another couple of years. It is the holiday season and we are visiting family back in the area we had moved from. I determine to catch up on all the news as my Grandmother has a stack of newspapers laying on the floor. The very first article I read is about a tragic traffic accident. A car pulls out from a secondary access onto a major highway in snowy weather. They are broadsided by a semi truck and are killed instantly. They are this very couple, the Winkler’s. I gasp in horror and tears begin to stream down my face, when just as suddenly I am overcome with a sense of peace. An image of them and a scripture verse comes to mind. I imagine them hand in hand, approaching the Lord Jesus Christ and Him saying, “Well done, My good and faithful servants! Enter into the joy of your Master!” (Matthew 25:23, Tamara’s paraphrase).

How wonderful the Lord would allow them who loved so dearly and so deeply to enter into His presence together. I look forward to meeting the Winkler’s again, sometime, somewhere in eternity. I thank God for their inclusion in my life and for their faithfulness in the little things – public prayer.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Chapter Three

The glass silently slips from my hand and tumbles to the floor with the inharmonious cacophony that heralds the assault of a thousand shards of glass… waiting… waiting to pierce and bleed.

With broom in hand I begin to sweep shards into a pile in a vain effort to organize chaos. I find shards of brokenness in places you cannot fathom. They have traveled to points that cause me to ponder on the law of physics and yes, the gravity of the situation. Yet another broken glass, will this one be missed?

How many shards of brokenness remain hidden beneath the surface of my being? Precious multi-colored facets each representing a painful period of life that I am yet unwilling to relinquish. Isn’t pain after all, proof that life continues on?

Have you ever sat in a house of worship and considered stained glass? I admit there are times I find my mind wandering during the service and to focus, I begin to study the stained glass. Those broken shards of glass that reflect the brightest, richest colors are lovingly placed together and become “one” in an art form that often tell a story.

Isn’t that like us in all of our brokenness? God is the artist and uses us in all our brokenness to do His will on earth. All too often I find I prefer to be the artist rather than the brightly colored ruby shard that is placed next to the brilliant emerald shard. They are two very different pieces of brokenness that are complimentary in nature and can work in harmony to fulfill the will of God if allowed to reflect the nature of Christ.

Maybe, just maybe if we learn to recognize the Christ in one another perhaps we will become more susceptible to being healed just by being in one another’s broken, yet holy presence.

Father, Creator of all heaven and earth, heal my blindness that my eyes may be opened to those who also need healing. Heal my heart that it may be pierced with Your love for those who need love. Heal my crippled and maimed hands that they may be opened to embrace those who require Your touch. In Jesus name, Amen.

When tragedy strikes, when trouble comes, when life disappoints we stand at the crossroads between hope and despair, torn and hurting. Local, national and world news all tear at the fiber of our souls and we cry out in unison, “Oh God! How much more brokenness can we take?”

And God recalls the midday darkness and brokenness of a son impaled upon a cross with a crown of thorns thrust upon his brow, blood trickling like tear drops falling from heaven.

Abba, Father, I am broken. Totally, irrevocably broken, like the bread that was broken in today’s communion service. Hearts, like the bread, are often broken.

In my brokenness, may my life flow from this broken vessel like spilled wine. Yes, may my life overflow, spill out and come into contact with those who are desperately thirsting.

Heal me, if it be your will. Or not. But use me, Father, use me to your glory and your good will.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Chapter Two

I originally published this on my blog on June 2nd.

As it was in the beginning…

I was divorced in 1975, it was a ‘dissolution,’ or better, I was disillusioned. As a single mom I was attempting to make a living and raise my daughter. I learned of available jobs and went to make application for something, anything that paid better than the minimum wage nursing assistant position I was working. I was frightened, but determined.

A coworker saved her coins in a glass water jug. She provided the money to me so I could get a telephone – at no obligation. I went to the telephone company to get everything set up and was told I could not, as “I” owed for a past due account. I left and returned in short order with a copy of the divorce decree that showed the “Ex” was responsible for all debts incurred during the marriage. The same employee told me it did not matter. I informed her as I had a minor child, it did indeed matter and asked to speak with her supervisor. I presented all the information to the supervisor and informed them both if I did not leave with a work order for a telephone that day, they could expect to hear from my attorney. I left with that order. What I didn’t have were funds for an attorney!

What I didn’t know was that to secure a job at one place of employ I would have to cross a picket line.

What to do? What to do? After much deliberation I did cross that picket line and apply for a job. More than my safety, it was the care of my daughter that was the driving force. I stood there and explained as best I could to the protesters that either I cross the picket line and make application or they support me with their tax dollars. A way opened and I went through the line. I was employed at a bio-medical manufacturing plant.

For me, it was a miracle, I was hired. Secure employment, regular hours, and I became a Quality Control Technician. Think what you may about my crossing a picket line. I did what I had to do and I have no regrets. In fact, I worked for the company eight years before moving away.

History taught the importance of unions during the industrialization of this nation. Sweat shops had destroyed women’s and children’s lives. Like all good things, politics included, things often go bad. As they progressed, unions were rife with racketeering; mafia influence and government kick backs, not to mention political scandal and support.

It was difficult for a while being called a Scab, cursed at, people “bumping” into you hard enough to cause bruising. All in all, when payday came, it all faded away. I could afford an apartment, food, a car, clothing, and the utilities. It was by no means Easy Street, but it was sufficiency. Eventually the animosity settled down and we all worked together to accomplish the J.O.B.

I and other “new” persons worked for a number of months when a lay-off was announced. We newbies were of course, last in, first out. It was as if someone had thrown a pitcher of ice water on me. I was able to make do with the unemployment benefits, but not having medical insurance for my daughter or me was frightening. Especially since it appeared I had another thyroid issue. I’d had my first thyroid surgery at the age of 19, and now, here at the age of 24 is appeared to have “come back” with a vengeance.

I saw the physician who referred me to a surgeon. I explained I did not have insurance and would not until I returned to work. After all, The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), was not first enacted until 1985. It is a federal law that requires most employers to provide continuing health insurance coverage to employees and their dependents who are no longer eligible for the company's health insurance program.

So we waited. We waited until such time as I was recalled to work and covered by insurance once again. Once that happened, tests were run and were inconclusive. Due to my age, the surgeon and physician were sure this was thyroid cancer.

That was a frightening prospect. A single mom with a child, cancer… What was I to do with my child during surgery and recuperation? Her father was basically non existent, not visiting, not providing support. At a loss of what could be done, I contacted my attorney and suggested a family member. He suggested he would write a letter to the ex-husband and see if he would be willing to take her for the period of the school year, prior to doing that. As we talked through the prospect, I offered to pay child support IF it would be set aside for her. He said, “Let’s do the letter first and see what happens.”

Wonder of wonder, the Ex agreed to take our daughter for the period of the school year and all with no mention of child support. I was to have every other weekend visitation. He was remarried by this time and they had their own child. It was a difficult solution, but one I hoped would be workable.

It was the hardest decision I ever made. I cannot begin to tell you the tears that were shed. To add insult to injury, the family member I had considered for custody decided to have contact with the Ex and make plans to have custody transferred to her by attempting to prove me an “unfit” mother. Truly, I thought I would die… I wanted to die. I could not imagine life without my daughter. I could not imagine this betrayal by a family member. As it happened, the surgery was successful and it was not cancer.

All this I kept to myself, not sharing it with my young daughter. By this time, working full time, any overtime I could and all this extra stress, I weighed a mere 106 pounds. I wore a size two. Yes, I dated men, but what I didn’t want was marriage. I felt I could never trust a man again. The pain was too much.

That’s when I met him… He was bar-tending at the VFW as a part time job. I was attending the company Christmas Party. One of the older, single women considered herself something of a matchmaker. One by one she led every single female out to the bar to perform a walk around and introduction. This was Ohio. It was not unlike the County Fair’s 4-H cattle show. Indeed, heifers on parade! Well, maybe not heifers.

I was mortified that Pat, my co-worker, my “friend” would do this! It was humiliating! Nothing became of that first meeting, but a month later, in January of 1978 Ohio was enveloped in one of the worst blizzards I have memory of.

At the factory, I was working the graveyard shift. The news had cautioned about an impending storm, but we were young… and ignorant. We arrived at work on Wednesday evening to begin our shift at 10:00 p.m. Even though it was Wednesday, by record keeping it was considered Thursday, January 26th. Our shift would end at 6:00 a.m.

At every break, my friend and co-worker Theresa and I would go outside and check the weather. We could not believe the doomsday predictions of the weatherman! It was temperate, in the very high 40’s and clear at midnight. At 2:00 a.m. it was still warm, but now raining. We returned to work. By 4:00 a.m. it was a disaster! A monster storm with hurricane-force winds slammed into Northeast Ohio early Jan. 26, 1978, spreading an icy coat of death and destruction. You couldn’t see at all with the horizontal snow blowing into your face at gale force.

The Blizzard of 1978, often called the Storm of the Century, killed more than 50 people in Ohio and caused at least $100 million in damage.

The factory was closed down, radio stations were called cancelling the next day’s work, and all who could, piled into vehicles and attempted to leave and return to their homes. Six of us piled into the front of a pickup truck and attempted to leave. We traveled a quarter of a mile east to the first stop sign and turned south. The gale force winds literally blew the pickup truck into the snow covered ditch on the east side. We had no alternative but to “walk” out.

We must have looked like a chain of paper dolls as we held hands and attempted to remain upright. The chain would break and one or another was blown into a deep ditch. Back the quarter of a mile we traversed and added yet another quarter mile to it until we found a home with lights on. The woman was reluctant to let us in, but after seeing our predicament, she did. We set up a triage of sorts to help those with frostbite and called the local fire department. They were making emergency pickups and delivering the stranded to the Methodist Church in town.

We waited and waited. Finally we called back. The truck sent to get us had rolled and they would be for us later. When they finally arrived and were taking us to the church, we told them we wanted to go elsewhere, as one of our other co-workers has an apartment on the way so we were all dropped there.

I called my roommate – another female coworker and explained what was happening and that I wouldn’t be home until much later. She said she would send “Denny Swerline” to get us! I said not to, as the weather was horrific. She didn’t listen, and sent him to pick us up. He would be picking my friend Theresa and I up and delivering us to our residences.

With this information, my dear friend said she needed to be left off first, even though she lived on the other side of town where he lived. You see, her sister had been trying to fix her up with “Denny” and she wanted no part of it. Her guise was to say she was giving me a pack of cigarettes to “pay me back” for saving her frostbite fingers. REALLY?

Nonetheless, that’s what this guy did. We took her home, and then he took me to my place. Once we got there, I invited him in for a glass of wine as a thank you. Since we were out of groceries and I had received my paycheck that evening, he offered to take me to the grocery store. He then helped me carry all those groceries up the frozen stair steps and into the apartment.

We talked for a substantial period of time and made a date to see a movie about the afterlife. Life After Life, I think it was called. That was our first date.

We were married in May of 1979. He adopted my daughter as his own.

This life, not unlike your life, has not been a ‘happily ever after’ event. It has been one of blood, sweat and tears. Yes, tears, lots of tears.

Tears are magnificent. They have a baptismal quality.

Tears can miraculously transform into the oil of joy, and wash away the ashes of mourning. Words that comfort me are these from Psalm 56:8, via the Message

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights,Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.

I have cried. He has cried.

We have cried individually and corporately.

We have cried in anger.

We have cried in love.

We have cried through prayer.

We have cried in pain and sickness.

We have cried through the pain of loved ones making catastrophic choices.

What we have determined is this: Life is tough.

I want the light to overcome the darkness and some days are very dark.

We have determined that love is a choice.

When I open my eyes from sleep, I roll over and look at him sleeping. I make an active decision to love him this day. And only for this day. Tomorrow, I will do this again. And the next day, too.

We don’t always agree. Our lives combine and run over each other and we have debates that spill over at our dinner table. We both believe that even with God’s Word as the final authority, our individual thoughts and beliefs are wholly sanctified, even if not holy.

I believe in Eucharist Theology.

I believe like the Eucharist, our hearts, like the bread are made to be broken and yet loved in all that brokenness.

We should live our lives as the spilled wine, allowing ourselves and our lives to overflow, spill out and come into contact with those who desperately are thirsting.

I feel the pull, an actual pull to become involved in community justice issues. To pour the oil, to bind up the wound. To quell the brokenness of our community.

Yes… brokenness… and I am so filled with broken hallelujahs.

In some ways I think my cancer diagnosis has been more difficult on him than it has on me. He has become my care giver and drives me to each appointment. He sits in on them with me as an extra pair of ears and asking questions I don’t think of.

After the surgery, he bowed his head and in tears said, “You were supposed to outlive me. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” I held his hand and told him that none of this was a surprise to God. Not one bit. How could I argue with God about this? I am the one who did not take good care of herself. The outcome thus far looks good as well as the prognosis.

I am having extreme tiredness from the chemo, some nausea but all in all, the side effects are minimal compared to some of my Sisters’ of Circumstance. I have determined that ginger ale is a miracle drug. Soda crackers too, are healing. Isn’t that a strange Eucharist mix - broken soda crackers and flat ginger ale? Yet the nausea stops.

Today is eight weeks since the VATS surgery and I’ve had the first chemo. Three more chemo sessions are scheduled, and anticipated to be over the end of July. There are other appointments and blood work scheduled at various times.

I am optimistic. I am confidant. Philippians 1:6 in the New International Version reads, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I choose life.

In the face of what seems insurmountable, I choose life. I choose to live with my husband and grow old. With that being said, if this does not happen as I anticipate, I still choose life. Eternal life.

Until the next installment of Love In the Time of Chemo...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Chapter One

This began as a note on my Facebook page and on my other blog on May 28th. I decided to make this a series in and of itself. Mostly, it will be "journaling" of my current health issue and a history of our family's journey. It is a way for friends and family to keep up with what is happening in our lives since we, like so many others, have been touched by cancer and chemo.

May 28th was a long day at the Cancer Center. Husband and I arrived at 9:45 a.m. There is always the check in, then the pager, then traveling to the various offices. The first visit was with oncology nurse practitioner. It is on the ground floor and just down the hallway heading north.

The entire campus of the Cancer Center is beautifully decorated. There are numerous paintings and photographs that have been donated. Some have been given as gifts and some are for sale. There is one in vibrant blues and reds and oranges depicting a wash during the time of monsoon. It is for sale. I want it. But do I need it?

It gives me joy to view it every time I'm there. I stand in front of it and ponder the artist's technique and juxposition of contrasting elements. My eye is then drawn to the similarities and the differences between the objects. It is a wonderful piece. I've always wanted to own an "original" piece of art, oh, something other than my own jots and scribbles.

It seems as if other things are occupying my time, but the art world certainly takes my heart and mind to another place and I find I stop and view and my spirit and soul are filled up with something other than cancer and chemo.

It is now time to head upstairs to the infusion pods. We take the elevator to the second floor, check in at the station then find a waiting room for our pager to yet signal once again to proceed elsewhere. This time it will be either South Infusion or Central Infusion.

We sit in the waiting room and are gently drawn into conversation by two sisters. Mere observation lets you know which sister is receiving treatment and which is the caregiver. I sit closer to them and share in the conversation for a bit. Time passes ever so slowly as you await your turn, for your pager to vibrate you into your next reality.

I picked up a magazine on home decor for multi-million dollar homes. Briefly glanced at it and put it back down. Things I will never be able to afford in this life time. Nor would I want these things. They would demand more of my time, my spirit, my soul. It is almost like J.R.R. Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings" where it owns the possessor - My Precious! I desire Comfort & Joy over opulence & debt.

One by one, pagers vibrate and persons excuse themselves to traverse to another area. We are a community of circumstance, drawn by a common theme yet individual in its nature. Some talk through their disease. Others seem to quietly clutch it to their heart and hold it and the poison deep inside. I'm not judging, only observing.

Finally our pager vibrates and off we head to Central Infusion, where a smiling oncology nurse is waiting. First things first... the restroom, this is scheduled to be a four hour infusion, with other breaks in between. Her name is Setiva and she and Jennifer are my nurses in this infusion Pod that can seat four patients and one family member each. She is immensely pleased I've had the Chemo Education and have the Bag It! book all together and organized.

Next it is time for my spa treatment. You see, even with all the hydration I've been pumping into my body, my skin is parched and dry. Warm washcloths cover my arms then are wrapped yet again in warm blankets. After 5 - 10 minutes the wrapping is removed and my veins are examined for a potential spot to infuse the chemo. Since my four sessions are not a long term treatment, I will not need a port. I did start rethinking that when the first and second attempts of accessing veins in the top of my hand were unsuccessful. The first was a beginning go, but started leaking at the very end of an anti nausea med. There was only a minute left on the bag! Then the second attempt on the left hand didn't work. Finally, they brought another nurse over and she found a perfectly good vein on my right arm.

They finished up with the one minutes worth left of the anti nausea med, then it was a bag of fluids prior to the Cisplatin infusion. That infusion alone takes two hours, followed by more fluids and then finishing with Alimta and another small bag of fluids. We were in Central Infustion until 5:30 p.m.

There is so much more to share. They provide you with snacks, you can purchase lunch, even Dennis was offered snacks. I had brought a "busy bag" with me, however with the IV in my right arm I would not be able to use my adult coloring book, or journal, so I will be making some adjustments to the bag.

After the fluids were administered and it was time for the Cisplatin, our nurse came over, put it on the hook then invited Dennis to join our circle. We held hands, she placed one of her hands on the Cisplatin and we prayed. We prayed for healing, for minimal side effects, for strength. I am so very humbled by her. She may be an oncology nurse, but she is a true minister to those whom she serves, as far as she is allowed to be. Some persons do not wish to have that particular benefit.

I am becoming more and more aware that healing is not unlike our belief in the trinity. It must encompass the body, the soul and the spirit. It is a holistic approach to healing.

After the Cisplatin infusion was going, Dennis went to find something to eat for himself, then returned bringing me a yogurt parfait! Whattaguy! Being that my dominate arm couldn’t be used, he helped to feed me.

I think I’ve always known that if something befell me, he’d step up. I am an observer. When we dated I watched how he treated his mother, his grandmother and his sisters. I knew I would be “safe” with him. Yes, though our roles have changed and evolved over the years of our marriage, I consider this to be “Love In the Time of Chemo”.

I offered him a reprieve from the Infusion Pod and asked him to go check on our critters. He did. He texted me at 4:00 p.m. saying he was on his way. It takes about a half an hour for the trip and allowing for the Tucson traffic at that time.

We still had about an hour wait as the infusion wasn’t finished until 5:30 p.m. It was good to get home, see the critters and relax. It didn’t feel like I was having any side effects, except for dry lips, dry mouth so I continued to hydrate with water. Then I ate some custard pudding I had fixed the day before. Later I cut up some avocado and made some guacamole. It tasted good too! I was afraid to try my regular salsa as it was so very, very hot. And in the event I ended up with mouth sores, well, better safe than sorry.

This morning I had another piece of custard pudding, some cantaloupe, a banana and a piece of multi-grain toast with butter and orange marmalade. The coffee didn’t “taste right” so I didn’t have any, I’ll continue with water and green tea. I also had a bit of a metallic taste in my mouth, and was cautioned that could happen, so at the nurse’s suggestion I am using plastic ware and no metal in the mouth!

Chapter Twenty Six

Recently, there was a friendly discussion on Facebook about “silence”. Yes, sweet, sweet silence. I love silence, I desire silence. I crav...