Background HTML Whitewashed

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Flowers and Fungi

Rainy Day Weekends can change everything...

Plans changed as the clouds rolled in and the sprinkles turned to soakings.  The sunny happenings of weekend getaways disappeared in the rolls of thunder.  Picnics packed up, ballgames drizzled out and yard work left undone...
Disappointment bickered with delight as the rain beat a steady tatoo on our roof, and we snuggled in with movies and popcorn...
During a break in the downpours, we trudged outside to feed soggy goats, and were treated to the heady scent of wet earth and wash-cleaned blossoms dripping with fragrance.
And the moisture enticed this lovely fungus to unveil herself in beautiful display...
Rainy Day Weekends change everything.
Maybe the rains of life bring forth growth and beauty in us too...
Praying the Gentle Hand of Grace holds you close this week,
Soaking up the Rain this day,

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Walk through the Fire

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
        ~Isaiah 43:2
Two months ago, fire swept over our east pasture, leaving scorched scars of black and smouldering timber.
Soot-charred remnants of tall, green forest and lush, brushy pasture.  Heart-sick family and scared goat mamas.
Every day, we drove the lane and the blackened landscape jarred the beauty.  A stark reminder of the fire's devastation.
And then something began to happen.  A little rain, a lot of sun, the passing of time...  We hardly noticed at first, but what we thought was dead, was only waiting for a chance.  A chance to prove that there is always Hope.  Up from the blackened earth, the first little shoots of green.
Around that charred pole, the most tender of sawbriar sprouts rise whole and strong, just begging for the happy goat herd to come find them.
Goat Lesson #1:  Most favorite food in whole world is the prickly sawbriar vine, well, bananas are high on the list too, but sawbriar is their ambrosia!   And it's coming back!   Hero husband says I'm nuts to rejoice over stickery, viney weeds, but it makes the goats happy, and that makes me smile...
And there's more good news!  Trees that we thought were charred beyond redemption are bringing life back to this burnt out piece of land.
From bleak and painful in fire's aftermath
To new and growing, restored in God's great design,
In this life, we are not promised days of ease.  It can be a fight to live from the moment we draw breath.  Heart-aches and pain, stress and difficulties can mar the joy and quench the spirit.  Overwhelming circumstances can leave us desparate and despairing.  I think the prophet Isaiah understand perfectly and carried God's message of Hope straight to our hurting hearts...
But now, this is what the Lord says...
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name;
you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
                           ~ Isaiah 43:1-2 
When mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in November of 2010,  we began that walk through the fire.
Perhaps you are there right now.
The pain was literal, as if the flames were seeking to scorch our very souls.  There was no way to go around, or to escape this road-trip through our very own holocaust.
Our journey carried us into the emotional belly of hell so many times.  The grief we bear now is a reminder of that walk.  We will never forget the pain, our souls forever bear the blackened scars of pancreatic cancer's path.
But that's not the end of the journey...
The promise Isaiah shares is true.  The Lord has redeemed our burnt and hurting souls, carrying us through the fire, and giving us Hope that we will ultimately be Restored.  We will again feel the soft, summer rains quenching parched spirits and bringing beauty and joy to lives that have felt the fierce flames.  From blackened hearts, the first tender shoots of life, good and whole, will reappear. 
Mom has passed through the fire and rests in Glorious Peace even now.  We, too, have passed through the fire and find strength and rest in the One who loves us beyond reason...
You are precious and honored in my sight...
I love you.
                   ~Isaiah 43:4
What beautiful promise...He speaks to each one of us!
the great Jehovah dips low and whispers to our hurting hearts,
You are precious to me
and I love you more than you can fathom...
Loves us no matter what.  No matter what.  Forever and For Always. 
When the waters threaten to sweep over you,
and the fire seeks to set you ablaze...
Remember, that there is One who carries you, shielding you
from the fiercest of flames 
and Loves you with the most Holy of Love.
He will bring beauty from the ashes...
He will redeem the pain...
How can I not be Graced with Hope this day?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Camouflage Surprises

Sometimes, the beautiful is hidden right before our very eyes...

Our weekend wanderings brought us nose to nose with the most slithery of forest creatures!  How many times have I just walked right on by and missed the delicate designs, glorious in subtle display?

We slowed our steps, loving the fall whisper in the air and marveled at all the treasure!

Lizard stilled, daring not a breath, disappearing into the leaf-strewn landscape...

Fuzzy caterpillar, snuggled into the ground, mirroring the brown earth...

Baby turtle, trying to hide in the leafy shelter...
But, oh, dismay over unexpected discovery...
Dismay turning to fright as Leroy's quick hand averts disaster!
(DO NOT try this at home - he is a trained expert!  Smile!)
The muted patterns of the snake skin disguised him well amidst the bark mulch and those same patterns heralded a cottonmouth, venomous and dangerous.  But upon closer inspection...
The rounded pupils and the yello-green belly indentify this slithery fellow as a Texas Rat Snake, thankfully non-venomous!!
And so, he received an honorary trip to the woods, far, far away from my flower beds!
Catch and Release - it was his lucky day...
As I watched Leroy release the snake, I was amazed at how quickly he disappeared from sight.  Blending in perfectly with his surroundings.  My camera was not quick enough to even catch a glimpse.  Within seconds you would never know he had crossed our paths...
And it occurred to me that everyday, there are people who cross our paths, and never register on our radar.
They are camouflaged from sight.  Sometimes deliberately.  Shrinking from view.  Still and shadowed.  Barely breathing, lest we notice.  Perhaps out of pain.  Or shame.  The camouflage masking their hurt.
And we have a choice.  To open our eyes, to walk slow.  See past the camouflage and be blessed by the beauty...
I am reminded of the day mom and I arrived at the chemo lab for her appointment and met Linda (*).  We arrived to an almost empty chemo lab.  Unusual in the extreme.  The lab held over 30 chemo chairs and on most days they were always full.
This day, for whatever reason, there were only a handful of patients, and as mom and I settled in, we noticed her sitting across from us.  Her bald head was covered with a Texas Ranger ball cap, a colorful quilt draped across her lap.  I recognized the quilt and knew that we had been there together before.  But I had never noticed the flute that lay in her still hands across the quilt.
As mom's gemzar drip began, we bantered with Lance, mom's favorite nurse, and the conversation rolled out to include Linda.   She was quiet, but had a beautiful, shy smile. We asked, of course, about the flute.  She said she loved to play and sometimes, if the lab was empty, she would play to get her mind off the cancer....and the chemo....
And I wondered why I had never noticed her before. 
We asked her to play and she demurely declined.  We pressed and "pleased"... She finally agreed.
The clear, delicate notes hung in the air and quiet descended upon the few blessed to be there that day.  The melody was hauntingly beautiful, the music taking us beyond the walls of that chemo lab. Beyond the boundaries of cancer...
Linda and mom talked long that afternoon, sharing their stories of tumor markers, hospital stays, ups and downs, fears of the future, and the hopes begging to be uttered....things that only 2 cancer patients could truly understand, kindred spirits bonded through the affliction of a terminal illness.
I listened and learned much. 
This weekend, the story beat a renewed tatoo in the treasure of lizards and snakes, turtles and 'pillars.
Never underestimate the camouflage...
Or you will miss Blessings of Beauty...
Grace Released,
                         Always, Jane
* Name changed

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Big PINK Soap Box

Every now and then a moment, or a word, or a thought, will really resonate with you.  Such is the case with a blog post I read a while back.  Written by an amazing woman whose husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010, this post is refreshing in its honesty, and so very applicable right now with Pancreatic Cancer on the rise and funding for a cure so far behind...

Thank you, Michelle for your permission to reprint.  You honor Craig's memory with such Grace and Beauty.  He would be so proud...

My big PINK soap box

   ~written by Michelle Merimee at  Link here.

Disclaimer: this may be interpreted as one of those "politically incorrect" posts. Might want to just skip it.   (I have to insert my 2 cents. . .  You Don't Want To Skip It!  Jane)

I have thought about this post for many weeks now, I have debated whether or not to even mention the subject but time and time again this subject gets under my skin. This is not to take away from anyone's cancer battle. My mom has two dear friends that battled cancer. One does victory laps in her beautiful pool in her backyard and one does victory laps in heaven. Every cancer fighter deserves medals for their bravery.

It seems just taboo to even mention this...

Here's the thing. There are pink ribbons ON EVERYTHING. I have a bag of Sun chips that is pink in the pantry, Energizer batteries, if it stands still long enough in a store someone is going to stick a pink ribbon on it. Susan G. Komen has mastered the way to market a disease. Susan died in the late 70s and her sister was in marketing and made it her pledge to help fund breast cancer so that they could find a cure. And man did she do it!! Don't get me wrong, thank goodness she did. They have found ways to treat breast cancer and more importantly they have promoted preventing it. BUT breast cancer isn't the only cancer that is out there. If pancreatic cancer received a 10th of the funding that breast cancer did they may have better answers for us.

This hasn't just been on my mind since Craig was diagnosed, it was just a smaller soap box at the time. I worked with a local hospital several years back on the marketing of their new heart health unit. Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women, not breast cancer? If you want to support women's health throw your money on educating women how they can keep their hearts healthy. That is much easier to solve than a disease that comes out of no where at times.

When Craig was first diagnosed I found a website that said that pancreatic cancer was so underfunded for several reasons. One of the main ones was the fact that it was so hard to prevent since the pancreas is hidden behind a couple organs. The symptoms are not alarming until they persist or jaundice surfaces and then it is normally in late stages. The other reason is there are not "spokespeople" out there to help move the research along. With the odds that go along with the disease there isn't much of a "team" to join. There are two walks in Louisville alone that support breast cancer. There isn't one to support any GI cancers with in 100 miles.

Last night I was reading an article on treatment that is being worked on in Cincinnati. A drug that was discovered in 2002. 2002! The researchers are hoping it gets to a phase I clinical trial by mid-next year. The funding to push these things through just isn't there.

Don't get me wrong, Save the Ta-tas, Fight Like a Girl, wear your pink and wear it proud. BUT don't do it at the sacrifice of the pancreas, the colon, the liver, hundreds of pediatric cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer etc etc. We may not have the cute slogans but we have family members suffering. And suffering with little medical hope.

I have posted a link from Good Morning America a couple weeks ago.

Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic cancer after battling 22 months. His wife was interviewed by Robin Roberts who is a breast cancer survivor. The interview highlights my point much better than I am doing in this post. Pancreatic cancer is where breast cancer was 20 years ago and it needs help. It needs marketing, it needs walks, it needs funding, it needs corporations to get behind it like breast cancer!

One day in the oncologist office it was pink out day. I asked one of the nurse when purple out day was. She didn't even realize that was the color for Pancreatic cancer, as she was treating my husband for the disease! Most people don't even know the color for pancreatic cancer but they know about the pink.

Again I am not dogging breast cancer fighters we just need to spread the love so that other cancer can share in the success.

Signs and symptoms of pancreatic
  • Upper abdominal pain that may radiate to your back
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Blood clots
After I explained myself to the RN at the office she said "well it sounds like a good job for you."

Well I do look good in purple....

Michelle has tackled a sensitive topic with eloquence and grace.  Pancreatic Cancer is robbing families of their loved ones with a methodical intensity that has changed little in the last 4 decades.

And I constantly ask, How can that be?

We can send a rover to Mars, we can create micro-computer chips smaller than our thumbprint that hold volumes of information, we can get inside a tornado and collect data.  The world is full of brilliant minds...and Cancer sufferers.  Let's bring them together and find the Cure, once and for all.  How Brilliant would that be?!!

Thank you Michelle for bringing the spotlight to bear on the task at hand...

I think we all would look good in purple! 

Trusting in Grace to Lead the Way,  Always, Jane

Monday, September 10, 2012

Welcome, Monday...

Some weekends just tucker you out!  In a good way, but tuckered the same!  And after the chaotic tumble of friends and family, Monday ushers in its own kind of dread...

Dishes Piled high remind me of the table surrounded, good food wrapped up in laughter and fellowship.

Laundry Spilling over shares the story of projects finished and new ones started. 

And Quietness Echoing Loud lets me know that everyone has gone off to work or school, and those stacked dishes and stained clothes wait for me alone...

The arrival of another Monday.  Sometimes I don't really welcome those Monday kind of days.

But, then I opened the back door to bits of the early morning beauty and my heart fell right on over.

As I approached the barn yard, how could I not smile back at this adorable little face, just waiting for me?
Is it breakfast yet?
And all of sudden Monday was a Welcome kind of Day.  With its own kind of Happy.
May your Monday usher in a week filled with the things that fill your heart right on up to overflowing.
Graced by Beauty this Monday, Jane