Dear Granddaughter…..

In September, we celebrated Peanut’s 9th birthday. NINE! It’s hard to comprehend it was nine years ago I was promoted to being a Nana. A lot has been packed into those nine years…sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago she was placed in my arms, but at other times, nine years seems to have flown by at warp speed.

I put together Peanut’s school photos from Pre-K to her current 3rd grade shot. While they are not drastically different, the person behind the face has transformed in hundreds of ways in just nine short years.

Since time is a fleeting illusion, I want to take a few moments and pass on some Nana wisdom to my first grandbabykin.

Dear Peanut,

You have always been and always will be loved. I loved you before you were even put in my arms as a swaddled baby burrito. That is not to say you don’t do unloveable things….and I may not like you at times….but I always love you and will always be here for you. You can bet on that and be sure to win every time.

To steal a line from the 2016 Cinderella remake, Be kind and have courage. Both are difficult to do. Kindness may be becoming a lost art in our “me first” culture. It takes a lot of work to be kind to people, especially when you don’t like them, are mad at them, or see them as different from you. Extending kindness to family members is sometimes especially hard because there are times we make more of an effort to be nice to people outside our family and save the worst for those closest to us…who love us always!

Have courage. It’s scary to try new things. It’s scary to step out of our comfort zones in the way we think and act. I know this from experience. it was scary moving to a new house and school when I was in 3rd grade. It was scary to move to a new town after Papa and I got married….a town where I didn’t know anyone. It was scary when Papa and I moved to Columbia…a town where I didn’t know anyone either. It was really scary when Papa was told he had cancer. It’s also scary to do the right thing when you think others will look at you differently or not like you anymore. This is especially hard when your friends are doing things you know aren’t right, but you want them to like you so you’re tempted to do those things anyway. Don’t. Have the courage to stand up for what’s right.

Keep your faith strong. So many people walk away from their beliefs when they get older, thinking faith is something only for children. Our culture doesn’t encourage strong faith in God. It does encourage strong faith in doing whatever we think will make us happy…or is convenient…or easy. Being an authentic Christian is hard work. It requires we believe and do the right things even when we don’t understand or see the reason. Many times you will be tempted to not make your faith a priority in your life. But, dearest Peanut, your faith will sustain you in those scary moments when the storms of life roll in and tear your life to pieces.

Trust. Trust those of us who love you that the things we do are to help grow you into someone others will respect; someone YOU can respect. Growing up is hard, and there are many times when you’ll think you know what’s best….but you won’t. I ask you trust even when you don’t agree; even when you don’t understand. It’s related to believing and trusting God has a plan for your life….a good plan….even though many times you’ll feel like you don’t agree or don’t understand why things are happening the way they are.

Love yourself. Not in a narcissistic way, but love yourself as a person of worth. It’s easy to feel like we can never measure up to our culture’s ideas and expectations. I want you to always love who you are, flaws and all. That is NOT to say you shouldn’t try to change areas of your life that need improvement. And, this is not reason to excuse bad attitudes or behavior. You are a child of the King….who loves you unconditionally. If you can love your imperfect self, you can love others despite their imperfections too.

Peanut, you are strong-willed and incredibly talented in many areas. I encourage you to use that strong will and those talents in positive, constructive ways…and never be ashamed of the things you have accomplished and will accomplish in the future.

In the years to come, you will face many challenges and ride the roller coaster of emotions. I hope by keeping these things in mind, life will be a bit smoother….for everyone involved!

Love always,
Nana

 

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Beautiful Coincidence

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above[a] proclaims his handiwork.
Psalm 19:1

Eclipse 2017 is on the books. For most of the country, it was a celestial event that won’t soon be forgotten; an event many of us may not ever see again in our lifetime.

So how special was it, really?

Yes, it was an event that doesn’t happen every day, although an eclipse of some sort happens in our world more often than we realize. But every time it happens, people stand in awe. Astronomers and those with more knowledge than I say the moon is traveling away from the earth and in a few million years, earth probably will not even have the type of total solar eclipse we just saw because the moon and sun will not be perfectly aligned in size.

But for now, what are the odds of the moon and sun appearing nearly the same size from earth’s perspective? There are mathematical calculations that have to do with angular size that are far above my pay grade, but they explain the coincidence of how the moon can appear to be the same size when calculating angular size in relation to distance from the sun.

To further make your brain hurt is the statistic that the sun’s diameter is about 400 times larger than that of the moon. Add to that, the sun is about 400 times farther away from the moon. This results in the sun and moon appearing nearly the same size as we stand on earth and view into the heavens; which is why we are privileged to periodically witness a total eclipse of the sun.

The closest comparison of what we experienced yesterday may be duplicated on Saturn with one of its moons, Titan. I’m not sure that counts, as no one can stand on Saturn. Earth is the only known planet where living beings are able to enjoy this type of celestial display.

A beautiful coincidence?

Guess that depends on what worldview a person holds. Personally, I don’t believe in coincidence when viewed as events or discoveries that seemingly happen completely at random. And, I’m not talking about the person sitting beside you who is wearing a hat, or watch or the same kind of shoes. I’m talking about “coincidence” on a much larger scale. There is a magnificent order to things in the universe, our world and within each of our bodies. And, I believe, that is by design.

God is not susceptible to proofs and disproofs. If you believe, the evidence is all around you. If you don’t believe, no evidence can be enough. 
~Andrew Klavan, The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ

Yesterday’s event was jaw-dropping awesome. Unless I travel, I will probably not be privy to another one that can be witnessed close to where I live. For me, I’ll be eternally thankful that the God who set these mathematical specifications in place did so on the only planet known to humankind that could actually enjoy it.

Beautiful coincidence.

Playing along with others over at Peabea’s Pictorial Tuesday.

Why I wear a cross

Do you wear a cross necklace? If not, you probably know someone who does. Do you ever wonder why?

I’m not going to debate whether a cross is a pagan symbol for various Sun-deities. Nor, am I going to debate whether Christians should or shouldn’t wear a cross. I’m also not going to debate whether Jesus was crucified on a “cross” or a “stake.” A case can be made for the later from some Greek translations of the New Testament, but that’s splitting hairs and we’re not going there.

It’s true, the cross symbol predates Christianity centuries before Jesus was crucified. It wasn’t until around 430AD that crosses began to be seen in churches. Over the centuries, this symbol has been both celebrated and perverted by religions worldwide.

In today’s culture I believe the cross has been domesticated…tamed to the point of being irrelevant. It appears on so many things, and its original intent (pagan or sacred) has been largely lost in translation. We see celebrities and athletes adorn themselves with crosses….sometimes in numbers that would cause drowning if they ever fell into deep water. They must be super religious, right?

I have a small cross I wear pretty much 24/7, but not as a fashion statement or good luck talisman that protects me from bad juju. There are no special powers about this piece of gold. I don’t pray to it or worship it in any way.

Soooooo, why do I wear it, you might wonder? After all, a cross or crucifix is representative of one of the most horrific methods of execution known to humankind. History states it was probably the Assyrians and Babylonians who originated this method of torture; but it was the Romans who perfected the art around the first century. It was so torturous that, by decree except in cases of treason, it was rarely used on Roman citizens.

According to Britannica.com:

Usually, the condemned man, after being whipped, or “scourged,” dragged the crossbeam of his cross to the place of punishment, where the upright shaft was already fixed in the ground. Stripped of his clothing, he was bound fast with outstretched arms to the crossbeam or nailed firmly to it through the wrists. The crossbeam was then raised high against the upright shaft …. Next, the feet were tightly bound or nailed to the upright shaft. A ledge inserted about halfway up the upright shaft gave some support to the body. Over the criminal’s head was placed a notice stating his name and his crime. Death ultimately occurred through a combination of constrained blood circulation, organ failure, and asphyxiation as the body strained under its own weight. It could be hastened by shattering the legs with an iron club, which prevented them from supporting the body’s weight and made inhalation more difficult, accelerating both asphyxiation and shock.

If the sacrificial death of Jesus was needed to redeem and reconcile humankind back to its creator, there surely were less gruesome ways other than crucifixion to make that happen; surely there were quicker methods that would have accomplished this atonement. Why so much brutality? Why so much savagery? Why death on a cross?

What’s missing from our 21st century view of the cross is exactly that….the raw realization of that brutality and savagery Jesus experienced….for his creation. Why did Jesus, the incarnate God, choose to suffer to this extent at the hands of evil? Why…since at any point he could have stopped all of it by simply stepping down off the cross…did  he voluntarily endure six hours of pain, broken bones, thorns pressed into his head, and eventual suffocation of his human form? Would blood from a finger prick make the same statement? It surely could have sufficed for a blood offering. How about a quick spear through the heart? Surely that would have been preferable to six hours of agony.

Which makes this historical event all the more an epiphany moment for me. The cross is representative of both darkest evil and radiating goodness. It’s message is one of both humble surrender and powerful victory. For six hours, evil was unleashed and allowed to do its damnedest against God the Son. And in the end, it appears evil was successful in silencing both Jesus and the movement.

Until three days later when the seemingly impossible happened. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are the perfect bookends to show his sovereign power over sin and death. And, the fact that so many people witnessed and encountered the risen Christ after the fact makes this seemingly impossible event all the more relevant. The authority of the empty tomb trumped the agony and savagery of the cross. It was the ultimate statement that evil did not, could not and will not win in the end. And, that is why this “movement” exploded during the centuries that followed. Too many people witnessed the impossible and Christianity became impossible to stop, despite continued torture and crucifixion of its followers.

That symbol of torture is my reminder of hope; it’s my reminder of how much pain Jesus suffered for my sake; a reminder of how much my life means to God.

A finger prick could never mean as much.

Playing along with others over at Peabea’s Pictorial Tuesday.

Am I the storm?

Fate whispers to the warrior,
“you cannot withstand the storm.”
The warrior whispers back,
“I am the storm.”

~Unknown

When I came across this quote, it really struck me as a powerful way to combat the fear, doubt, worry, anxiety and sheet exhaustion that goes along with the battle with cancer. While I’m not the one with the horrid disease, when cancer strikes, it affects the entire family. So to read this quote seem like it would be empowering, right? We look fate square in the eye, lean in close and, with an antagonistic smirk, declare we are the storm.

I don’t know about you, but left to my own capabilities, I am anything but the storm. In fact, left on my own, I tend to struggle to stay afloat in the pity puddle created through worry, fear and anxiety. And closely related to those are the ugly cousins of resentment, irritation and impatience.

Left on my own, this is more what I tend to do.
I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest. ~Psalm 55:8

No, as much as I would like to identify as a warrior who can confidently take on what may be considered the lies of Fate (or the Devil in some quote variations), I cannot do it alone. I am wonderful at talking the talk, but sometimes walking the walk is a completely different story.

I need the rest of the army….and let’s throw in some marines, navy seals and air force fighter pilots as well. And let’s make sure the commander is one worthy of taking on the brewing storm.

Your right hand, O LORD, is majestic in power, Your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy. ~Exodus 15:6

That ideal Commander-in-Chief would be the one who not only has the power to create the storm, but the one who also is sovereign over the storm.

And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. ~Matthew 8:24-26

And that army of warriors? Those would be everyone who has come to our aid in prayer. And, we have awesome prayer warriors…from here in our church to across the country…and jumping across the pond as well. Without these intercessions, I assure you we would be feeling more overwhelmed and lost than we already feel now.

Some days I feel strong and fearless in the eye of the storm. But then there are the days when I feel like a single drop just might drown me. Lately, some complications have arisen that are testing both our patience and resolve. And, I can confidently say I’m somewhat terrified. And, there are many nights after he’s asleep where I find myself feeling overwhelmingly sad that there’s a chance all the plans we’ve made for the future just might never happen.

So, am I the storm? Not hardly. But when I’m aligned with the one who created and has the power to calm the storm…and with those who know how to use the powerful weapon of prayer…and the mere mortals in whose hands we put our health care….

…we can become the perfect reciprocal storm.

Playing along with others over at Peabea’s Pictorial Tuesday.

Musings from an Outlander Addict

You know what a cult show is, don’t you? No? Well, let me clue you in. A cult show is one that sucks you in so completely that you become obsessed with it. It’s the show that causes you rearrange your schedule just so you don’t miss any episodes even though you have a DVR. My first experience with a cult show was LOST. There have been a few since then, but none as powerful as the one I fell completely head over heals for last year….Outlander.

outlander-dvd

I blame The Recruiter. It’s her fault for watching the show in my family room when she, Peanut and Twix lived with us. It only took one time and I was hopelessly hooked. So hooked that I refused to let Entrepreneur get rid of Starz when he downsized our satellite TV package. So hooked that I talked The Recruiter into going to Starz on Demand and downloading the first two seasons for me. Last summer I binge watched Seasons One and Two while Entrepreneur watched sports.

So, if you are not familiar with the storyline, here it is in a nutshell.

Claire Randall, a former British Army nurse, is enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland with husband Frank Randall after WW II. Frank is a former English military officer and has taken a position as an Oxford historian. Unexplainably, through an ancient stone ruin, Claire is transported back in time to 1743, into a world completely different from her own. Because of her medical background, she is perceived as a healer. To survive, literally, she agrees to an arranged marriage to Jamie Fraser, a strapping Scottish Highlander and becomes caught up in the Jacobite rebellion against the English. After a tumultuous beginning, a passionate relationship develops between Claire and Jamie and her feelings become torn between two vastly different men across two centuries. Outlander is adapted from the best-selling book series by Diana Gabaldon.

Now that my binge watching is complete, I’m in the middle of what is referred to as “Droughtlander” before the next season begins later this fall, I believe the show has more to offer than a complicated, layered storyline, breathtaking scenery, hauntingly beautiful intro music, and Highlander eye candy (aka: Jamie Fraser). It’s the perfect mix of passion and romance paired with war, torture and rugged testosterone. Here are my observations and life parallels:

Love takes turns being the hero.
Both Jamie and Claire take turns rescuing each other from certain death at the hands of the British…more specifically, a British officer named Jonathan Wolverton (Black Jack) Randall, who has personal vendettas against both of them. They risk their lives for each other because their love trumps the possibility of living without the other. In successful relationships, the depth of commitment operates selflessly and without regard for personal safety, physically and emotionally. The well-being of the other person is of utmost importance and each will move heaven and earth to make that happen. The respect, devotion, gentleness and passion Claire and Jamie have for each other is enviable. It’s the platinum standard in relationships…real or otherwise.

Not everyone is capable of redemption.
Speaking of Black Jack Randall, he’s one of Frank’s (Claire’s 1940s husband) distant relatives. And where Frank is a kind and loving gentleman, Jack is diametrically the polar opposite. And to make the dynamic more complicated, they look exactly alike. The author and the actor succeeds magnificently in creating visceral contempt for this character. Just when you think there is a glimmer of hope in his moral character, he chooses to act in the most heinous way imaginable…and admittedly, without remorse. While my faith teaches no one is beyond redemption, a person like Black Jack Randall could make me believe some people may be irreversibly evil. The tricky question is, who gets to judge whether that is actually the case? The person I write off as hopeless may simply be a lost soul who hasn’t yet encountered the experience needed to change. Maybe I’m to be that experience? One thing’s for sure….I would not want to encounter a Black Jack Randall and be faced with that moral dilemma.

Feminism with femininity.
Claire is a progressive women of the 1940s. She is a veteran Army nurse and doesn’t put up with crap from anyone. She is opinionated and vocal. She takes that mentality with her to the 1700s, but quickly discovers this type of “strong woman” is not going to get her anywhere and could, quite possibly, get her killed. What results is a woman who becomes intellectually savvy and gives the appearance of restraint (for the most part). However docile she appears, underneath there’s a strong, cunning, resourceful woman who understands how to use her femininity (not sex) to her best advantage. Victoria’s Secret can parade those angels all they want; they’ve got nuthin’ on Claire Frasier.

Situations are not always as they seem.
Claire and Jamie would like nothing more than to see Black Jack Randall leave this earth….however, Jack is Frank’s ancestor and to eliminate him too soon could cause Frank to never be born. Enter, Mary Hawkins; a wisp of a girl who, according to Frank’s genealogy search, is supposed to become Black Jack’s wife and continue his lineage. The problem is, Mary loves Black Jack’s younger brother, Alex. Claire knows the genealogy of Frank and how Mary and Black Jack fit into it. She logically reasons Mary cannot marry Alex or Frank will never be born. So, she intervenes and talks Alex into leaving Mary. Months later, to her horror, she finds they’ve reunited, but Alex is very ill. Claire is begged to heal him, but she recognizes he suffers from tuberculosis and congenital heart failure. There is no known cure in this era. And, Mary is pregnant. Faced with his fiancé’s uncertain future with no husband’s wealth to provide for her, Alex’s dying with is for his decorated, military brother, Jonathan, to marry her. As abhorrent as this idea is to everyone, including Black Jack, Claire knows (according to genealogy and history) Jack going to die in the next day’s battle…so, it’s all good. Mary will not have to suffer at the hands of this depraved man. Claire breathes a sigh of relief knowing Frank’s future is secure.

My point? My point is sometimes situations just are not as they seem. There was a reason Mary and Alex were together….but no one knew what it was until Alex was on his deathbed. All of Claire’s efforts to discourage Alex and Mary’s relationship were misguided…and based on her assumption of what would/would not happen if she didn’t intervene. Sometimes, we jump to conclusions about situations before we know the circumstances. Sometimes our actions to steer events the way we think they should go are misguided and shouldn’t be pursued.

Things happen for a reason.
Dovetailing with the above observation is this one. The driving story behind Seasons One and Two is Claire and Jaime’s desire to change history and avoid the Jacobite rebellion. Believing Jamie will die in the Battle of Culloden, Claire’s focus is on how to alter the events leading up to that fateful battle. Jaime is on board and the two of them work towards disrupting Bonnie Prince Charles’ plans to overthrow the current king of England…. all the while appearing to be a supporter of the rebellion. But, despite their scheming and manipulative efforts, they are unsuccessful and the battle happens as planned.

As much as we’d love to go back and change some things about our past, events and experiences happened for a reason. For those of us who believe there is a plan for our lives and a path we must travel, it’s easier to accept this. Events are tied together for a reason; change one and you unravel everything because nothing exists in a vacuum.

I’m now (im)patiently waiting for the debut of Season Three to be announced. I admit, I’ve cheated a bit and gone online to read summaries of what we can expect to see based on the next book. And, I’m following Outlander sites on Twitter and Facebook.

Yep, definitely a cult show.

Playing along with those over at Life Through the Lens.

 

 

 

Might have been bad timing….or not?

Can you believe I chose “Joy” as my One Word for 2017?

Joy. Really?

When I picked this word back in January, my crystal ball was evidently malfunctioning. For who in their right mind would choose Joy knowing their husband would be facing brain surgery in a month and a half? How in the world is one to be able to pay attention to Joy in the middle of crisis and chaos?

I had good intentions choosing Joy for my word this year. Yep, those good intentions were to try to see moments of Joy around me. But it’s oh so much easier to notice Joy when life is beautifully smooth, isn’t it?

Joy seems more elusive when we’re weary with one challenge after another. It’s hard to see the Joy in life when we’re up to our eyeballs in worry and anxiety. Choose Joy is a phrase batted around by those trying to offer help for people facing hopelessness, despair and uncertainty. Like “choosing” joy is as easy as choosing which pair of shoes to wear…or choosing what to order for dinner.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~Matthew 6:34

Isn’t that the truth.

Back in January, it was so easy to write that Joy doesn’t come from a worry-free, prosperity-filled life. In a more self-reflective moment, I wrote this:

I believe Joy is something felt deep in the soul. Something apart from the temporary warm fuzzies of pleasure and happiness. It’s something intangible that grounds the mind, despite the circumstance. Joy settles deep in the heart and soul, creating peace and a strength that makes a person feel they can endure the worst life will throw.

Very profound if I do say so myself. I just don’t know how well I’m doing in this department while in the middle of these “circumstances,” which are hard and more than little overwhelming at times. Left on my own, I don’t feel anything has settled in my heart except mental exhaustion, much less peace and strength.

But there I go again, confusing Joy with Happiness.

I have discovered my hindsight is working fairly well. In hindsight, I’m thankful for the flu. Yes, you heard correctly. I got the flu the Sunday before we were to leave on vacay. By Thursday, Entrepreneur was showing the first signs of it. A flu headache, coupled with the headache he already was experiencing is was drove us to the ER…and to the discovery of the cancer mass.

As terrifying as this event has been, in hindsight, I see it did provide opportunities to repair some family rifts, and opened up heartfelt conversations that otherwise might not have happened. I suppose there are things to be thankful for in the middle of chaos. Focusing on being grateful can result in experiencing Joy.

So, even though 2017 has not started the way I’d hoped, I am going to try and feel those moments of Joy in the middle of chaos and confusion by focusing on being thankful and grateful.

february-rose-72

For better or for worse

For better or for worse…

It’s been five days since my post on Entrepreneur’s unexpected brain surgery. Definitely a low point in our 36 years of marriage.

For richer, for poorer…

Emergency Room visit, five-hour surgery, recovery, and in-house rehabilitation; not to mention more CT scans, MRIs and other tests too numerous to count; and we’re not even to the part that involves treatment for any remaining cancer cells…let’s just say I’m feeling the “poorer” part of the vow. We met our deductible in…oh, about the first minute.

In sickness and in health…

In less than a week’s time, my over-achieving, fiercely independent, take-no-prisoners husband…the man who has come back from countless athletic injuries, a hematoma under a shoulder blade, rotator cuff surgery, knee surgery and, most recently, a kidney removal from cancer…has been humbled beyond belief by the need for a walker and help with the most mundane daily living tasks.

Because the cancer mass in his right temple measured 4.7cm and went deep into the brain, this necessitated the neurosurgeon cut around inside his head. And when people cut around inside your head, there’s trauma, swelling, bleeding and other damage that results in diminished physical abilities, capabilities and strength, And that’s in addition to the psychological, emotional and spiritual trauma that occurs when your body and thought processes don’t want to play well with what your brain want them to do.

But I signed on for the long haul. And a long haul is exactly what we’re facing now. Unless someone has faced this type of humbling disability, I’m not sure it’s possible to convey the feeling of sheer terror and helplessness that accompanies stepping into these unchartered waters.

It’s hard to remember that today’s “reality” will not be the reality of a month from now…or two months from now….or six months from now…or a year from now. Success will not be measured by the calendar days but rather, by accomplishments…however long they take.

Our lives are forever changed by this event. I’m not sure I can even comprehend what our family will go through over the coming weeks, months and years. All I know is I will be beside him every step of the way. I will celebrate the small victories as well as the major milestones. I will cry. I will curse the fates. I will pray.

“I will hold you by your right hand—
I, the LORD your God.
And I say to you,
‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”
~Isaiah 41:13

But I know we are not facing this challenge unarmed. We are not climbing this mountain alone. The outpouring of prayers and support is literally spanning coast to coast…as well as a few across the pond (a shout-out to my international Facebook/Bloggy friends). We are connected to an amazing support system and unbelievable prayer warriors. Earthly angels sent to minister to our family. No, we are far from facing this alone.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”
~Isaiah 35:3-4

And I need to remember this when the days seem overwhelming, when the nights are filled with fear, when the odds look like they are not in our favor.

entrepreneur-surgery

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
~CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)

But, I’m sure it’s going to feel more like this…

We’re not doubting that God will do the best for us; we’re wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. 
~Letters of C. S. Lewis (1966)