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Friday, November 30, 2012

Follow your Heart...

 
 
 
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool
I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Because almost everything -- all external expectations,
all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure---these things
just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know
to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.
You are already naked.
There is no reason not to follow your heart".
                                                                ~Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple, Inc 
                                                                               Lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, 2011.
                                   
 
Following our Hearts this weekend,
There is nothing to lose,
and only Love to gain...
 
    May you find such Grace as you Journey on,
My Love,
         Jane

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How do you want to Live your Legacy?

Pancreatic cancer has a way of sharpening your focus, re-ordering your priorities and putting things into perspective...mom and I talked often about "her story"...she would be the first to remind us that we all have one.

A story...

From the minute we're born, our lives are telling a story.  But no one ever expects Cancer to interrupt that story.  It's wrong, it's rude, it doesn't fit...

And it didn't change, no matter how hard we denied, cried, and prayed...

Mom's pancreatic cancer added another chapter to her story.  For her it was the last chapter.  How do you ever write that chapter?

Cancer, especially terminal cancer, makes one think about the way we want our story to end...not something many of us like to think about...it just happens to be on my mind and heart more often as of late...

The questions have persisted as we've grappled with mom's story, her legacy.  For now I see more clearly than ever that my children are watching my life just as I watched and grew and blossomed under hers.

So I sometimes lay in bed, safe and protected in love's nest, eyes tracing the moon's trail, daring to ask...

What do I want my Legacy to be?  How have I shaped the people I love?  What will they remember of me?

How am I living my life?  This very day, this very moment...my Legacy is writing itself...will I like what people read?

How do I want to Live my Legacy?

                  nothing brilliant to post, sigh...
                                 ....still working on the answers, smile....

                                 But while I do, perhaps a video will speak to your heart...



Yes, I think I want to live like that....

Thank goodness for the Grace and Mercy of a Faithful God who delights in drawing joy out of my messy, complicated, 0h-I-want-to-live-like-that life...

                          Grace Falling Today,
                                               Jane

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Would you believe?

Triplets!!!
 
Oh. My. Goodness...
 
Our stable was rejoicing today with the sound of baby bleats in triplicate!  Fuzzy heads crowned with white stars all three...curious noses of black...and a trio of happy wagging tails...
 
 
A Thanksgiving Gift for this Still-Tender Heart...
 
Tomorrow beckons with turkey and pie, laughter and hugs, football games and afternoon hikes.  Mom would have loved every minute...
 
Choosing Gratitude has been a lesson in perseverance. Making that deliberate choice to see goodness despite the grief has been a work in progress... I started small..
 
Autumn Leaves tinting landscape with brilliance...
Cats sunning lazy in pool of afternoon sun...
Smoky rich smell of logs crackling in woodstove...
 
Then realized the Gratitude fell easier as I practiced.
 
Farm truck tires crunching in the gravel as we Sunday drove...
Giggles of granddaughters playing ageless game of tickle-me...
Chili-making with Husband-chef, kitchen warmth, melting heart...
 
Each moment captured from a God-Father who showers endless Good Gifts if we but look up from the grief valley.  And then, this...today...
 
 
You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance;
you have taken away my sorrow
and surrounded me with joy.
So I will not be silent;
I will sing praise to you.
LORD, you are my God;
I will give you thanks forever.
                        ~Psalm 30:11-12
 
 
Small, babies of fluff, touch my hand, open my heart, surround me with joy. Times three!  With mom's chair empty this year, I was dreading waking up in the morning to this first Thanksgiving without her.  Somewhere today, amidst all the snuggling and baby goat bouncing, I realized that Gratitude was simply spilling over.
 
Mom would have rejoiced with us over our Bounty.  And tomorrow the Thanksgiving festivities will end up in the stable at some point without doubt...Mom won't be there with us, but...we will still feel her presence.  She no longer speaks, but when I close my eyes and wait, my heart hears her laugh...
 
Gratitude follows Grace...And here on the farm we have been Graced with Abundance.  How can the soul not honor such mercies with a Heart full of Thanksgiving?
 
 
May your Thanksgiving, dear ones, be Blessed with Goodness and Grace
Touches of God's Love in Brilliant Display
and Hearts full of Gratitude for the Mercies Tenderly Bestowed,
 
All My Love,
      Jane
 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Silver Linings

Perhaps one of the most amazing things to come out of mom's pancreatic cancer journey is the realization that we are not alone...

And I know what you may be thinking.  Well, of course you're not alone, there are many other pancreatic cancer fighters out there all over the world.  And you would be right...There just weren't any other pancreatic cancer fighters in our corner of the world.

No one in our community had pancreatic cancer.  No one in the chemo lab had pancreatic cancer.  No one in our church had pancreatic cancer.  No one at work had pancreatic cancer...

No one...

We felt all alone, against a giant foe, that no one knew how to stop...

When the doctors suggested treatment, they said they had researched the options and felt we should try this chemo regimen.  They didn't say they had successfully treated other pancreatic cancer patients with this chemo regimen.  When mom suffered her diabolical gall bladder attack, none of her doctors could agree. Over the course of a week, as her symptoms escalated, her doctors waffled back and forth... One said the cancer was progressing, one said the stent wasn't working and one said it could be a virus....It took an ER doctor (who was not an oncologist) to send her for an MRI and diagnose a rotten gall bladder...As we suffered thru that nightmare of a week while the doctors disagreed, we felt completely, utterly, all...alone...

And so, the silver lining comes as a quiet surprise over the many weeks and months since mom's diagnosis.  We have met so many valiant, courageous warriors on the same journey.  Most are online, cyber friends who have reached out to us in simply heartwarming ways...with a story, an inspirational quote, a prayer...and with that outreach came Hope and Strength.  There is truly Power in Community.

You have become our Community.  There is an instant understanding, a nod of comprehension, a bond of empathy.  Each has been down in the trenches.  Your faces, your hands, your hearts are tuned to the same war cry...Hope and Healing...Hands reaching out to help those that come behind, Smiles that lighten the day, Encouragement to face the Journey...all because we are, really, not alone...

In this past month, the silver lining has brightened even more, as I have had the pleasure to "meet" a family who has suffered much at the hand of cancer.  I have learned that it really doesn't matter whether the cancer is attacking the pancreas, the lungs or any other part of our anatomy...Cancer is malevolent and is no respecter of person, race or religion...When it knocks on our door, we find ourselves facing the fight of our lives.

And so it was with Cameron and Heather.  Almost 7 years ago, Heather was diagnosed with Mesothelioma Cancer, at a time when she should have been on top of the world, welcoming a blessed baby girl into their blissfully content lives.  Instantly their world changed and Cancer became their focus.  Not so different from the way Pancreatic Cancer changed our world...

Both Heather and Cameron have been blogging through their experience here and here..  Cameron has graciously written an article that honestly explores his role as a CareGiver and it just seems perfect to include it here as we celebrate Unsung Heroes..  Their story has that happy ending, but what makes this my silver lining, is the way they both are giving back to the Community, empowering others struggling with their own journeys, sharing Hope and Inspiration along the way...


My Experience as the Spouse of a Cancer Patient

by Cameron Von St. James

 

Three months after the birth of our only daughter Lily, my wife, Heather, was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.. Suddenly our small family was catapulted from a time of joy and celebration to a time of fear and uncertainty. I remember looking into my wife’s eyes as she cried and thinking, “How are we going to get through this?”

Immediately there were decisions to be made and things that needed to be done, but emotion overwhelmed me.  However, these difficult decisions brought me back to reality and forced me to focus on how we were going to beat this cancer. However, I still remained emotional. For days following the diagnosis, I was filled with rage and could scarcely communicate without using profanity. As days passed, I became better able to control my anger. I realized my wife and daughter needed me now more than ever.

Initially, my daily to-do list was so long that I frequently found myself overwhelmed. As days went by, however, I learned to prioritize the most important tasks so as to take care of my family as best I could. I also learned to accept help from the many friends and family who were there for us.  Without their support, we might never have gotten through those difficult times.
 
Despite the loving support system surrounding my family and I, the time of Heather’s fight with mesothelioma was intensely difficult for me. Following her surgery in Boston, I went through a particularly difficult two-month period while Heather was recuperating at her parents’ home in South Dakota, and preparing for her next phase of mesothelioma treatment, which would include chemotherapy and radiation. Since I needed to stay home and work, I only saw her and Lily once during this time.

Needless to say, I missed my wife and daughter terribly. I got into my car after work one Friday and drove 11 hours that night to see them. It was snowing, and I had to stop and sleep in my car for a few hours during the night while the plows cleared the roads. I visited my wife and daughter Saturday and turned around Sunday to make the 11 hour drive home so that I could go back to work. It was a short visit, but the brief time I spent with my family was worth every second of hectic travel.

While it was difficult for me to be away from Heather and Lily during this time, today I do not view it as a time of loss. There was no way I could have properly cared for our baby daughter while working full time, and it was important for Heather and Lily to be together during Heather’s recuperation process. Rather than viewing this or any of the other difficult decisions we made with regret, I accept them as the things we needed to do to save our family. Although the cancer diagnosis forced us to make difficult decisions, I found comfort in the fact that we could still make decisions.

This difficult time taught me to be grateful for the ability to make decisions. In addition, this challenging time taught me the importance of accepting help from others. Without the love and care of our support system, we would not have been able to make it through this difficulty. Through all of our struggles, Heather is still here and still healthy over six years later.  I hope that our story can be a source of hope and help to those currently battling cancer.
 
Caregivers come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are amazing spouses like Cameron.  He speaks truth when he said that "without the love and care of our support system, we would not have been able to make it through this difficulty." 
 
Where would we be without each other?  The Power of Community...
 
From the beginning of time it has been true.  When God saw Adam alone in the Garden, surrounded though he was by immense beauty and every good thing, the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone..." Genesis 2:18
 
 
Our Father God created us for community, for fellowship...

not to be alone,
but to be loved and to love,
to be cared for and to care for...

we find our place when we lose ourselves in the giving to another, whether it be spouse, parent, child, aunt, nephew, friend...this is the Power of Community and when we do...

Grace smiles "Well Done"
 
 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Unsung Heroes

care-giv-er, n.  (kar'giv'er) : 
      
         a person who provides direct care (as for children, elderly people, or the chronically ill)
 
If you are caring for a loved one with pancreatic cancer, then, by definition, you are a caregiver... And I'm willing to hazard a guess that you could re-write the definition in a million different ways!  Perhaps Mr. Webster would like to interview a few pancreatic cancer so-journers and their heroic caregivers...
 
Dad and I shared in the caregiver journey for mom as she battled pancreatic cancer.  And yes, technically, we provided direct care for her.  But, oh, it was so much more.
 
A labor of love and pain, grief and loss, joy and honor.
 
The emotions swirled constantly as we struggled to maintain a level of normalcy for her around the house, keeping her comfortable, meeting her needs, both physically and emotionally, as well as dealing with a diagnosis that left our heads reeling.  As the cancer progressed, we gradually began to do more and more for her...the cancer winnowing her strength to but frail, as our hearts wailed over the cruelty of this disease.
 
Maybe there are no words to define the role of caregiver in such situations.  It is all-encompassing, and in too many cases all-overwhelming...
 
...no two cases of caregiving could ever be the same, for the experience is unpredictable, complicated and ever-changing.
 
...the ministry of a caregiver offers a "rubber-meets-the-road" chance to be Love in Action.  Will there be Grief?  Will there be Tears?  Will there be Guilt?  Will there be Exhaustion?  Yes, in spades...
 
But there will also be more than enough Love Shared, Gratitude Smiled, Joy Sunk Soul-Deep to cover the pain.  Being a caregiver is possibly one of the most life-affirming gifts you can offer your loved one.  And in so doing you may just find the road to Healing the Hurting Heart...there is no prescription better than to give of oneself.  Even if no one ever thanks you...
 
Choose this day to offer yourself whole-heartedly. Don't give up.  Don't ever doubt that your work, your ministry is making a difference to the one you love.  A Gentle Touch, a Servant Heart, and a Love that honors the struggle.   As a CareGiver you have the choice to
 
Become the Gift...
 
You are my Unsung Heroes and I love what you are doing to Bless your Loved Ones,
 
Graced today by the Many, Many Walking Should-to-Shoulder together on this
Pancreatic Cancer Journey
 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sacrificed for Freedom...

Today is Veteran's Day.  And on a day when it would be easy to just say Thanks to the Faithful Veterans, perhaps we might spend a moment walking in the steps of one of the faithful serving to protect our precious country.  

His name is Caleb Lufkin.  He was serving in Iraq in the spring of 2006 when an explosive device hit his humvee.  He was 24 years old...

His story could be told a thousand times over in the lives of so many service men and women throughout the years.  But Gratitude runs deeper for the heart-ache this one soldier leaves in his wake, for...

His mother is our cousin, Marcy.

Caleb is one of our own.  His sacrifice was ultimate...for our Freedom...
His loss sears our very hearts.

 


May we always remember that
Freedom is never Free.
 
Thank you, to each and every Veteran for your Faithful service to both God and this Country...
your devotion is steadfast and honorable, an inspiration and a gift.
And thank you to the family, friends and loved ones whose sacrifice continues to this day.
We honor your loss and your heart-ache...
May God shower Blessings of Abundance on you,
Moments of Peace, Memories of Love, Mercy-Gifts of Hope
 
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SACRIFICE!
 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happy to Have a Glass...

Can I be honest?   I'm having a little trouble getting into the Thanksgiving Spirit...

Dad and I stopped at the grocery store several days ago and saw the freezers overflowing with Turkey Goodness.  I was reminded that Thanksgiving is less than 3 weeks away...and it's going to be out here at the farm.  Just like last year...but nothing at all like last year...

 
There will be an enormous hole at the family table and an even bigger hole in our hearts...
 
Some days we just miss mom more than is bearable.
 
It makes Gratitude hard.  Real hard.  And that is so foreign for me.  My family would label me the poster child for Happy...And truly, I think I was born with a heart full of happy.  I have never had difficulty finding the positive in most things, that is, until Pancreatic Cancer touched our lives...
 
And so, Gratitude, or the lack thereof, has occupied much of my thoughts the past few days.  Perhaps that is why my radar tuned in to the following excerpt from Live Your Dash by Linda Ellis.  It struck a chord and has given me pause to examine my heart:


"I consider true gratitude a skill or an art - a trait that is not inherent but acquired during the course of life's journey.  Furthermore, I've come to understand that it is the very core of achieving tranquility, contentment, and peace in life.  Without it, there is an indiscernible unrest...a nagging, consistent inner turmoil.  I compare it to constant ripples in the waters of our soul in lieu of smooth, still springs.
I am referring to those haunting, taunting ripples caused by desire.  Desire is gratitude's nemesis - a silent enemy that hounds us unrelentingly, teasing us with "what could be," while simultaneously squelching our appreciation for "what is."  Not until we learn to retire desire and include gratitude can we calm these ripples of unrest.
Gratitude is a focus...an attention given to "what is."  It is a concentration: a deliberate devotion to absolute appreciation.  It is an acceptance, a recognition and absorption of one's personal reality.  It is a slow-down; a deceleration of our high-speed lives allowing us to drink in the often-transient blessings that are present in our "now."
It is a reversal of a thought process: a philosophy created by society's altered views of success, which may have become ingrained in our minds.  It is our willingness: a readiness to open our hearts and minds to truly seize what is available in our "here."  It is a realization: an awareness that failures and disappointments are not only blessings in disguise, but also important, necessary life lessons. 
Gratitude and appreciation form the very foundation upon which you can build lasting contentment for your soul, your self, for your life.
Time is one of our greatest current blessings...so why not try using more of it, being thankful for what is, as well as less of it regretting what was or yearning for what isn't.  Expressing gratitude for our blessings on a regular basis is a proven method for increasing feelings of inner peace."
 Whether you are in the midst of the angst of your own pancreatic cancer battle or desperately bearing the burden of a loved one's journey, I know how hard gratitude can be.  Pancreatic cancer can leech happiness from a heart with harrowing intensity.  Practicing gratitude is an act of the will,  even as we journey on with the cancer beast.
Linda Ellis closed her notes on Gratitude with a quote by Joe Farrel:
"I don't really care whether my glass is half-full or half-empty...
I'm just happy to have a glass."
Pancreatic Cancer leaves us with a glass that is so much less than half-empty.  The struggle can overwhelm even the most faithful heart.  But even in these depths, we can raise that glass with thanks.  If you are able to breathe sweet air into lungs, feel the sun warm your face, wrap your arms around a loved one, then we can choose to give thanks for this, that the Giver of all Good Things has lavished His Love upon us... Gratitude turns our focus to the blessing of our very cherished life.  A life that has been Graced by the Gift of a Savior... Pancreatic cancer cannot  begin to touch the Love holding us close . 
The Grace we have experienced on this journey has opened my heart to the advent of Gratitude despite the grief of this past year... I am finding that Gratitude is more than having a Happy Heart...it's opening my eyes to all the Goodness around me and for the glass He's given me to hold. 
 
Half Full... or Half Empty...
I am just Happy to Have a Glass.
I choose gratitude.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Scary Sounds in the Goat Barn...

Just when you thought it was safe to go out in the dark...

Dogs bark.  Cats hiss.  Something is rustling in the Goat Barn...

Last night as the Halloween moon waned over the Farm, fearful eyes peered from around trees and under straw beds as moans escaped the corner goat pen and hung on the chilly night air.

Hair raises on my neck and my breath hitches as I open the door...to...find...

 
Our Newest Additions!!!
 
We named them Spooky and Boo!!
 
 
 
This sweet Halloween treat actually began as a "teenage" trick last June!   The teen-ager in question would be Elvis:
 
 
Yes, you!
 
What?!
 
One warm June night, exactly 5 months ago (that would be perfect goat gestational timing), Elvis scaled two fences and slunk into the girl's dormitory for a wild night of partying...Big Time Rebel, Elvis just wouldn't listen to reason and wait until August breeding season began...Oh no, Elvis was in a hormone-induced haze.  He started the party early!  And after all, he snorted, it was just one night...
 
One night is all it takes.  (Now I sound just like my mama!)
 
And do you think those teen-agers listen?  Of course not... they can't see beyond the next feed pail.  Do they even consider the consequences?  More children to feed, the end of sleeping in, not to mention saying good-bye to that girlish figure...
 
So, here we are 5 months later, under a moon-lit night... falling head over heels in love with Spooky and Boo!
 
 
No mistakes here...
 
Elvis, you may have rushed our man-made timing,
but there's nothing rushed with God's Grace-Filled Timing...
 
Gift of soft, warm, cuddly, goat-baby fluff... times two!!
 
A bit of Heaven for this Happy Goat Herder,
Love and Hugs,
            Jane