Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Chapter Twelve

July 30th saw the last of the four chemotherapies completed. The side effects of this final treatment have surprised me. Yet I had been warned by persons who know, that each succeeding chemo would be more intense that the previous one.

I have been having a lot of time for rest and reflection.

I grew up a small town girl, most communities we have lived in have not exceeded a census of 10,000. Personally, my hometown was probably a tenth of that. The comfort and familiarity of a small town is what I find appealing. You know people, you feel comfortable at church and in the community. If someone has an unspoken prayer request, chances are you’re going to know what it’s about… (really, you probably do!) 

There are drawbacks, of course. Not having specialized medical care, shopping malls or even a Target can have its moments. I loathe being tied to the apron strings of corporate Wal-Mart, no offense. It's not just about material goods. It is more about freedom, options, and power to have a large and positive impact on society through charity, education, and reform… but that’s another story for another time. 

With that being said, I am now making a conscious effort to return to the theme of some of my recent writings: Small Town America and life on the farm! I suppose the musical introit from the old television program Green Acres would be appropriate playing in the background, but I am resisting that temptation!

When we first moved to the farm, we inherited a number of old antique pieces of furniture that just came with the house. We did purchase an old 1920s high legged gas cook stove. We got it for less than $50.00, had to move it downstairs from the apartment it was in and then used at least two cans of oven cleaner to be able to see its beautiful green and cream colors. It was worth all the elbow grease as it cleaned up quite well. 

There was a gas well on the property and free gas to the house. When trying to use the oven on the stove, since there wasn't a pilot light, I had to strike a wooden match, turn the gas on and pray! The first time I did this, the gas fumes “whooshed” out and singed off my eye lashes and eyebrows. I calmly looked at my then 16 year old daughter and simply said, “Shannon, this is why you never want to try this yourself!” Her wide eyes and expression were priceless AND to my knowledge she never did try it! 

The old gas stove was not well insulated, but that proved to be a blessing during the winter months. Living as remote as we did, we often lost power and the only way we could warm the house was with that old stove. We even took huge pots filled with snow and melted them on the stove to be able to flush the toilet! Yeah, it was that primitive. 

When the baby chicks had grown into young adolescent chickens, it was time to separate the sexes. Our son Nicholas was the “runner” who went into the hen house, found the young roosters, brought them to me, I tied them up by the feet and slit their little necks and let them bled out hanging from the clothes line. The next step was dipping them into the boiling water bath, plucking the feathers and next into an ice bath until time to cut them up. (Martha Stewart doesn't have anything up on me!) 

Fortunately, the family we bought the farm house from, Husband and Wife Bumpus, came to help me slice and dice the chickens. It was like watching a ballet of professional chefs with Ginsu knives! Slice – dice – chop – chop and there they were in lovely little piles of thighs, legs, breasts, backs and necks. Next was my turn. It wasn't pretty and there were no recognizable parts. After more iced baths for the chicken parts I next bagged and tagged and dated them. They were placed into the freezer. 

Growing up in an extended family with my mother and grandmother, I never had to cook. In fact, I was more of a nuisance in the kitchen and got underfoot. I was chased out of the kitchen. It was a well devised plan I learned to manipulate with ease. 

However, as an adult I learned to read and follow recipes. I learned to plant and grow vegetables and even how to can! The public library has a wealth of information all for the mere investment of a library card! 

It was even the public library where I learned how to care for the goats, how to milk them (with a friend also giving me some hands on practice, shall we say?). I learned to culture and make yogurt from goat’s milk and not in those cutesy little machines, either. I did it in gallon glass containers inside a Styrofoam cooler with the heating pad! Plain yogurt often was placed in cheese cloth and drained overnight to become ricotta cheese. Vanilla yogurt was flavored with vanilla bean and honey. Goat’s milk yogurt is a little thin so to thicken it up I used one cup of dry powered milk per gallon of yogurt. 

The fresh eggs were a delight, especially since they came from Rhode Island Reds and were contained in a warm brown colored shell. The egg shells were fed to the pigs to increase their calcium levels. 

We had wonderful flowers that grew on the farm as well as rhubarb and wild leeks and wild asparagus in the early spring. I grew herbs: peppermint, chamomile, chives, basil, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. 

I ground wheat berries into whole wheat flour, made homemade breads and noodles. The whole wheat noodles were… well, pathetic. They became moldy before drying out! I don't miss Ohio humidity. The chickens and the pigs ate them. Nothing went to waste on the farm. Literally, we were "green" before it was vogue.

As we were trying to become missionaries, our home church often made visits with Care Packages of food. I learned a lot from these endeavors. That being: give of the first fruits, not the leftovers in your pantry. Sadly, a lot of the dry foods were infested with mealy bugs and packaged food was past expiration dates. But the critters didn't mind! To this day, when Husband and I give, we generally purchase it from the store for that singular purpose. I’m not bragging here, just stating a fact that was indelibly placed as a learning tool from God Almighty! 

That is not unlike the Old Testament practice of tithing: the giving of the first ten percent, the best your crops produced. Can you envision this practice today? If that were happening in our churches, our states would not be suffering financially and there would be no need of social service! We would actually be God’s hands and be used to bless others less fortunate. 

One of the ladies in our Esther Group from my Emmaus weekend is a Community Activist and she shared a story about the wife of a friend of hers from Georgia. Her friend's wife was a teacher and one boy in her class was a “problem child” who acted out. When he did this, the other boys in the class followed suit and soon the whole class was in distress. 

In the particular school where she taught, the teachers were required to take their lunch with the children in the class. She heard a commotion and went to investigate and there he was: her problem child. He had dropped his tray of food and was screaming, screaming, screaming. As she listened, she suddenly realized why. This child, this problem child from the heart of mid-America had not eaten all weekend long and was afraid he was now not going to have any food at all this day. This dear woman, this teacher was touched in her heart. She quit her job and began a new one. Seeking funding and food so no child in that community would ever go hungry again. (Can I get an Amen?) 

Often, we need only to rise above the clamor and noise to listen, really listen and become the hands and heart of Christ. What good is my Christian witness if I only profess it inside the walls of the sanctuary? 

So this I pray: Abba, Father – fill me with your Spirit. Now that I've completed the chemo, show me what you would have me do as ministry not only in my church but also in my community.

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 hav...

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