Looking intently…

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It’s been too long since my last post. I know this because so many of  you dear folks have been asking how I’m doing. I apologize for causing you concern. I am grateful for your care, kind words and prayers. I’m not really sure why I haven’t posted in such a long time … part of the answer is that I have been busy living life rather than writing about it! I’ve jumped into some new hobbies which have held my limited focus. Part of my current reality is decreased discipline and increased forgetfulness, and not really feeling like spending much time on the computer.

But probably the deeper reason I haven’t posted with my typical frequency is because I have needed time to work through some cancer grief. Cancer attacks and steals too many beloved people, and some days that’s really, really hard. This winter has been a hard season, but not without grace and joy and beauty. Sometimes we have to look intently …

March brought scans and good news from the oncologist: cancer is shrinking! Praise God! Each month a large box arrives by courier, free of charge, containing my supply of pills. Four in the morning and four in the evening. Each time with a high fat large snack or meal. No wonder people on this med tend to pack on the pounds! I am no exception, and I am happy to be alive and fat, though many of my favourite clothes aren’t fitting. Alive! So much to be thankful for! We rejoice!

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I feel better than I have since before my diagnosis. I’m still tired and have various aches and pains and side effects, but so much better than the side effects of any of the other treatments! Praise God!

In March, our middle child went on an exchange to a small hamlet in Northern Canada. What a great opportunity for which we are very thankful! The youth from up North are scheduled to arrive here for six days next month! When we first signed him up, I told the group I wasn’t sure how much my health would allow me to help. I am thrilled to say that by God’s grace I’ve been able to do my part, including baking several dozen cupcakes in February, and making art for a silent auction fundraiser.

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I hunkered down* through the last of the Winter, and threw myself into a variety of creative pursuits. I made three long scarves, numerous beaded jewelry items, and started painting for the first time since I was a kid. Painting became part of my Lenten pilgrimage, and I learned more about looking intently. I was pleased with the pictures I made, and had fun doing it! I found inspiration in the daily bird calendar, which is obvious if you look at my work! Here are just a few, starting with the Toucan which was my first ever:

*Hunkered Down is a reference to a Malcolm Guite poem that has been rolling around in my heart and mind this Winter season. You can read /hear it by clicking on this link: Malcolm Guite “Because We Hunkered Down” Feb. 2017

Here is my Easter 2017 picture:

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This next one was inspired by my son’s trip up North. I made it for the silent auction, but it was kind of hard to let it go! The words in the “footprints” are from “Dene Laws”, which he saw at the Northern school. The person who won this item in the silent auction was one of the trip leaders. He took photo’s which inspired me to make this art, so I’m really happy he has it!

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I’m always eager to head out in search of Signs of Spring! What a gift to be able to be out walking and breathing (fairly) easily! I’ve enjoyed many walks with family and friends. So much beauty! So much joy! Grace abounds! Looking intently …

Before I forget to mention, I’m off in the morning to Washington DC, for LUNGevity’s big Lung Cancer patient HOPE summit, which runs Fri. evening – Sun. I’m also attending the Advocate summit all day Friday. I’m looking forward to connecting with some excellent people and hoping to learn a lot! I’m thankful for the anonymous donor who made it possible for me to go, and I hope to honour that generous gift and make a difference! Being away for four days is a huge step for me, and it will take loads of discipline to not overdo it! If I’m up for it, I may tweet about it #DCHOPE17, and possibly post on fb. I certainly plan to update my blog upon my return! 🙂

Very often I am deeply moved by the care and compassion that dear people show. I promise you: it makes a difference! It’s hard work, being a cancer patient. Thank you for helping our family carry this load! You never know the full impact of a kind word or deed. Look intently for signs of love and goodness, and know with certainty that grace abounds even beyond what we can imagine or see! May you receive showers of blessing, and may you see flowering and fruitfulness resulting!

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No more time for procrastination

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The day before yesterday, my closet collapsed. When we had our house renovated a decade ago, workers attached a thin piece of wood to the walls to support the bar and shelf in each closet. Obviously the way they connected the support wood to the closet walls (glue and the occasional thin nail) was woefully inadequate!

I’m not a handy person, and I don’t know how closets are meant to be built, but clearly something went wrong here and someone needs to fix it! In spite of my lack of ability, these kinds of jobs typically fall to me. It’s been a busy couple of days, and today it’s in my schedule to try to fix the closet.

So I decided to take a picture of the closet. And write a post on facebook. And update my blog. And when I was starting to run out of helpful procrastination ideas, the phone rang, and rang! The nurse came to check how I’m doing, and I seem to be doing well. We had a lovely chat. But now it’s afternoon and my closet still looks like it did the other day, with pants and sweaters stacked somewhat neatly on the floor, and everything else slumped over. Ugh.

So I think again about how to tackle the job, and the particular things I need to gather and do. I am thankful this didn’t happen last year, because I wouldn’t have been up to fixing it then. I’m not sure I’m up for fixing it now. I have such limited energy and strength.

What’s strange is how tired I am getting by thinking about little details like wondering how many screws I should put through the support wood into studs in the wall. And how long should they be? Oh yes, and I’ll have to take the battery out of the metronome so I can use it in the stud finder. Time for a cup of tea!

It occurs to me that today I’m exceptionally skilled at procrastinating. Now I think I should figure out why that is, and what my particular triggers are. I reflect on that a while. I’m tempted to sit here and reflect some more, and perhaps make up lists and draw diagrams.

But in the midst of all my fatigue and desire to sit (with my feet up to help reduce swelling) and sip my tea, there’s this growing thought within me – like the background music in a movie that suddenly catches my attention.

… and I want this job finished, and therefore I must start it! I’m feeling nervous though. What if I can’t do it? What if I do it wrong? What if I put all my energy into this and only get it partly done and then have no energy left for my kids tonight? What are we having for dinner?

There is one beautiful, inescapable thought that keeps growing in my heart and mind like Spring flowers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time and ability this past year and a half or so. How much time do I have left? What quality of time will it be? How much can I accomplish during that time? How do I decide what to do? How do I know what I have energy / ability for? How do I set my priorities and boundaries and act accordingly? How do I live well?

These are not new questions for me, but now they are more urgent, more compelling. The glorious music swells until it drowns out almost all the other distractions.

I want to have my priorities straight. I want to know who I am, what I’m called to, and I want to live accordingly. My priorities are much more about relationships and much less about things, yet closets collapse and repairs must be attempted. Closets don’t matter much, but there is a time and a place for everything.

No more time for procrastination. Today.

There is one thing, dear reader, that I really want to say to you. The thought that has crystallized spectacularly when I’ve reflected on those compelling questions. The beautiful tune I keep hearing. The flowers in the Spring. The thing I really want you to know. The thing I will say today.

We are deeply loved. Whether we procrastinate or not, whether we accomplish great things or not, we are loved. Deeply. The one who made us knows us and loves us – yes, even with all of our imperfections.  When things work out as we hoped they would, when it all comes crashing down, we are loved. Deeply loved.

The Living God knows us and loves us so much more than we can ever imagine. There is nothing we can do to gain his love because he already loves us completely, unconditionally. Even when we were enemies, Jesus lived and died and rose to life again to restore our relationship with God.

This is the foundation for living a life of love and faithfulness upon which I attempt to build. I hope that all my attempts won’t come crashing down, but even if they do, the foundation of God’s deep, strong love remains. Nothing can shake that. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.

I hope for you – to know the deep, deep love of Jesus, to be in close relationship with him, to live your life well.

What is your foundation? Each one of us is created unique, special, with purpose. How are you called to live a life of faithfulness? What does that look like for you, with your own special set of gifts, talents, experiences, strengths, weaknesses? What’s holding you back?

Choose well! Go for it! Today.

Love as best as you can. Pray. Focus on what really matters. Don’t let fears or inadequacies hold you back. Ask for help. Even if it collapses and you don’t know how to fix it, don’t give up. Be encouraged. Receive love. Don’t put off telling people you love them. Don’t put off love. Don’t put off reconciliation. Do it now. Do what you can while you can. None of us knows how long we have. No more time for procrastination! Today!

What Power?

Several weeks ago, a lovely woman at church told me that her husband had written a list of things that cancer does not have power over. My first response was, “I’d love to see that list!” My second thought was, “Maybe it would be better if I made up my own list!”

I am so grateful that it got me thinking more deeply about these questions: what actual power does cancer have in my life, and where am I giving it power that I shouldn’t.

My recent skate on our backyard rink was something I didn’t think I could do. My feet are fairly numb so my balance is lousy right now, and my body is startlingly weak. I had no idea what would happen as I attempted to glide out on the ice. I was afraid of falling and adding to my bruise collection (or worse). I was afraid of scaring my kids, of looking foolish, of not being able to get back up … I was feeling powerless. Fear and uncertainty were holding me back. But I made a decision that I was going to (carefully) go for it and see what happened. Even if the very worst I feared did materialize, we would manage. I’m so glad I did! The sun was glorious, the weather warm enough that I could breathe fairly comfortably, and my body remembered how to skate! I didn’t fall at all, although I did feel rather awkward (and somewhat powerless) at times! Fear can hold a huge amount of power over us. I’m so glad it didn’t stop me from skating!

We all have life circumstances which challenge us on a variety of levels. We may choose to give away power, or not recognize the power we do have within / in spite of them. We believe lies. We can allow ourselves to be paralyzed.

As I continue to wrestle with these questions, I realize more and more how important it is: not only to wrestle, but also to step out boldly in truth and love as best as I can.

What about your life circumstances? What power do they actually have over you, and where do you inappropriately give power to them? What power will you choose to give to them, and what practical differences will that make in your life?

(This photo is of a list I discovered on a bulletin board at the hospital. What Cancer Cannot DoI have no idea who wrote it.)