A little glimpse of Joy

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.
~William Shakespeare

I think I came across my first Joy encounter last week. Of course, there’s been some moments of happiness, but like we discussed earlier this year, Happy is not necessarily the same feeling as Joy.

This Joy encounter came from an unexpected source….the cancer radiation treatment center. Yes, you heard correctly.

Entrepreneur was scheduled for three radiation treatments last week. We drove to the hospital entrance for radiation patients with more than a little anxiety building about how these procedures could end up. Radiating the brain….the stuff of which anxiety is made.

It was a dreary, chilly, spring day with on and off rain showers. Much like our frame of mind. But as we drove into the private parking area for radiation patients, this is what greeted us.

A sea of yellow daffodils planted between the reserved parking spaces and entrance.

I felt my heart lift as soon as I saw them. Of course, they didn’t negate the harsh reality of what was about to happen inside, but for a brief moment, I was caught up in the beauty of the moment. I thought of all the hours it must have taken to plant these bulbs last Autumn. I thought what a wonderful gift to those experiencing the challenging darkness of cancer.

And, I noticed some of these splendid blossoms had been mercilessly beat down onto the ground, unable to hold up against the spring storms. What a shame, I thought. So, I rescued them to live in vases in my home. There is some poetic justice in this, right? 🙂

Joy. It can surprise us in the strangest of places.

For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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Renew and Replace

The flower that wilted last year is gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever. Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid.

And as it is for spring flowers, so it is for us.
~Daniel Abraham, The Price of Spring

Yesterday was the “first day of spring” although here is felt more like mid summer with temps in the mid 80sF! And, last week we had a hard freeze. So it is with spring in middle Missouri. I thought this was an interesting quote and am still processing its meaning.

My thoughts are still pretty much a jumble in my head these days and I’ve not been successful in penning anything worthwhile. But, with yesterday’s teaser, I’m ready for warmer weather. Although winter was not a harsh one, it came with its own set of challenges.

As I look ahead to warmer…and hopefully, better days…..I’ll leave you with some of the hopeful signs I found around the yard and vow to come back soon with something of more substance.

Asiatic lilies

Iris

Houttuynia (Hoot-en-ia) Caution: this plant is awesome, will grow anywhere, and is invasive. Plant at your own risk.

Comfrey

 And my favorite:

Happy spring!

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)

Spring’s impromptu photo session

So I’m sitting in the office “working” when she tugs on my sleeve. It’s not so much a tug as a violent yank.

My muse, the one who has been playing a game of one-sided hide and seek for months now whispers in my ear, what do you think you’re doing? Twix is mercifully asleep. Entrepreneur, The Investigator and Peanut are all out of the house. And I’m left alone…and to my own devices. A wave of panic washes over me that I may not have much time. So I grab the camera and head outside to capture a little bit of spring before everyone returns home my calm disappears.

Here are a few shots of my impromptu photo session with Mother Nature. This is much harder than it appears as our springs are usually accompanied by 20mph winds, making still shots almost impossible.

Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer!
I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.
~Gustav Mahler

I think this is my new favorite spring photo. It’s a serviceberry tree blossom. I love how, sometimes, a great shot will just wander in front of the camera and need very little tweaking. And I simply must tweak….it’s in my DNA.

serviceberry
Texture by Kim Klassen; happy heart, 50% multiply.

Your mind is a garden,
Your thoughts are the seeds,
You can grow flowers or
You can grow weeds.
~Unknown

Wow, isn’t this quote the truth. How many times do we sow the weed seeds of negativity, blame and unhappiness. Even when we plant the seeds of hope, peace and tranquility, if we don’t pull those weeds of doubt and fear on a regular basis, they will eventually choke out any beauty we hope to grow in our hearts and minds.

blue phlox

The day the Lord created Hope
was probably the same day He created Spring.
~Bern Williams

For me, the unfurling of a leaf is one of the best symbolic signs of Hope nature offers us. What better way to show confidence in the future than by the creation of a new leaf? In it holds all the potential for a strong, healthy life. It’s like spring is making good on its promises after a dark and desolate winter.

redbud leaf

Life stands before me like an eternal spring
with new and brilliant clothes.
~Carl Friedrich Gauss

For those of us who live in where winters are long, cold and hard, the prospect of spring brings excited anticipation. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we embraced this mindset for our lives? To wake up each day eagerly anticipating new experiences that lie ahead? Yeah, I can’t do it either.

yellow-green daff

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. 
Notice the bumble bee, the small child, 
and the smiling faces. 
Smell the rain, and feel the wind. 
Live your life to the fullest potential, 
and fight for your dreams.
~Ashley Smith

All the above blossoms are wonderful, but these are the ones I’m waiting anxiously to bloom. My dwarf lilacs are still buttoned up tight….leaving me with nothing but anticipation. But, I’m sure I’ll know the moment they open because their heavenly scent will travel through the house. Like these buttoned-up buds, life is full of potential, even when it seems like it’s not going our way. All we need to do is pay attention to the opportunities that can present themselves…sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

lilac buds

Hope you’re enjoying spring if it’s arrived in your area. 

Linking up with those who love to share at Life Through the Lens, Texture Tuesday and Texture Twist.

Feeding faith and starving fears

spider mum center72

I don’t know whether to be thrilled or terrified.

Inconclusive.

Entrepreneur’s biopsies of his lungs and thyroid are inconclusive for cancer cells. A biopsy confirmed the cells in the removed kidney were, indeed, renal cell cancer. But the spots on his lungs and thyroid….which the physicians were 99.9% certain were metastasized renal cell cancer….cannot now be definitively identified as such.

And without a definitive diagnosis on those areas, the future is unclear. Do we go ahead with the IL-2 treatments and put him through the hellish side effects and risks? Do we wait and biopsy again in a few months and hope they don’t spread further?

More questions. Less answers.

Inconclusive.

How does that happen? What determines inconclusive? What does it mean when cells are in limbo?

To be sure, there are many prayers being offered up for him and our family. Prayers of comfort, healing and guidance. Deep down I’m hoping and praying that inconclusive is another word for transforming….cells being healed and cancer being removed.

And life goes on as usual. Work is super busy and it’s looking like March is going to be relentless, so I’m secretly hoping he’s not out of commission for most of the month in treatment. My class will be approaching high gear on their projects in March, which will require hours of grading and availability for student questions. The Investigator’s schedule shows no signs of letting up either…which translates to the same for the home schedule. The amount of attention each of these areas will need from me is daunting.

So, for now, I’m remembering my word for 2015 going to stick with feeling thrilled at inconclusive….and keep the mindset that there just might be something going on behind the scenes we can’t see. This year, we’ll celebrate a quiet Valentine’s Day together and be thankful for the memories that are being made in this house.

Some see a hopeless end, while others see an endless hope. ~Author Unknown

Linking up with LTTL and Friday Finds
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Putting everything in perspective

Christmas 2014
Texture by Kim Klassen; wonderful magic scripted
100% screen, 100% soft light, selective masking

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.
If you concentrate on what you don’t have,
you will never, ever have enough.
~Oprah Winfrey

It’s been a helluva month.

1. The university, in its infinite wisdom, decided if an instructor hasn’t taught in 26 weeks, they need to go through the entire hiring process again. Since my adjunct gig is only from January until May, all my access was suspended until I could be re-hired. Criminal background check…check; application complete…check; present identification in person at the HR office….

2.  ….present identification in person. Who puts an HR department office in a parking garage? Almost impossible to find. Then, I can’t get out of the garage in any efficient manner. And it is past nap time for Twix.

3. The top strand of Christmas lights on my tree is out. Not the entire strand…just the last half of the last stringer. The top of the tree is dark. Not cool.

4. Entrepreneur is diagnosed with kidney cancer…metastasized to other organs.

Number four…making the first three null and void on any scale of importance.

Oh my. Cancer. I can barely say the word. We received the diagnosis shortly after Thanksgiving. Surgery needed to remove the kidney. We’re talking about aggressive treatment options for the other areas.

I’m numb. I’m terrified. And in complete shock. My emotions are reeling. My head is swimming in what ifs. This isn’t happening.

But it is.

My faith will now be tested beyond anything I’ve experienced so far in life.

I look at him….my husband of 34 years….the epitome of good health…on the outside. And I realize that, while there are volumes of things he does that irritate and infuriate me, there is absolutely nothing he has done or will do that I cannot forgive. The thought of living without him isn’t even on my radar. I realize how unappreciative I’ve been in the past. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Memories fly past my eyes and the preciousness of time weighs heavily on my heart.

For better or for worse…in sickness and in health……My priorities have been shifted into perfect vision. And as my head swims, photos are taken, and unmentionable details are finalized…just in case.

As I sat in the surgical waiting room last Friday waiting for news, I’m surrounded by Entrepreneur’s parents, my mom and her husband, JW. And I find it amazing what gifts presents themselves in a crisis. Meals are provided. Dear friends of great faith surround me…physically and in spirit; he’s on prayer chains from coast to coast. The outpouring of care and concern has moved my heart.

Stories of hope are shared.

One diagnosed with cancer that invaded lymph glands. Multiple physicians concur twelve to eighteen months to live. That was 12 years ago.

Another of an unexplained regression of Parkinson’s symptoms.

Two of many stories of hope that have been shared.

Stories of miracles.

I hope and pray we are the recipient of one.

He sends forth His word and heals them
and rescues them from the pit and destruction. ~Psalm 107:20

Linking up with Texture Tuesday and Texture Twist
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Disappointments

diappointment72

God, when I lose hope, help me remember your love for me is greater
than my disappointment and your plans for my life
are better than my dreams.

How do you deal with disappointment and broken dreams? How do you overcome when tragedy takes the form of a medical diagnosis, loss of a loved one, career shift or troubled relationships?

Do we cling to hope and keep optimism alive? Or, do we give in to the depression that so often accompanies disappointment and sink further into despair about life? We all want to live a charmed life. We all want to be able to follow our dreams and succeed in everything we do.

Hope is a funny animal. On one hand, if our hope lies solely in career accomplishment and amassing “stuff” in life, we’re setting ourselves up for a huge FAIL.
But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. ~Ecclesiastes 2:11

On the other hand, if we’re too afraid of being disappointed to try a new direction, there’s a good chance we’ll miss out on something fantastic…and perhaps unexpected.

Disappointments and Despair both begin with D, but they don’t need to be synonymous. If we let them, disappointments can build character and make us stronger and more resilient.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. ~Romans 5:3-4

Everyone experiences disappointment. We’re disappointed in our parents, spouses, children, friends. We struggle with our own setbacks and challenges to our dream life. We compare ourselves to others and come up lacking (especially compared to what is posted on Facebook). All too often, disappointments overwhelm us and drag us down into despair about the future.

And we look to the sky, shake our fist and ask “Why Me?” In reality, we probably need to re-evaluate and, instead, ask “Where do I go from here?” But that’s really hard when we’re broken-heartedly looking at shattered dreams and a life that looks like it’s in ruin. After all, our default position tends to be to place blame and complain how unfair we’ve been treated. It’s hard to accept, but we need to develop a flexible attitude about disappointments and realize it may be God’s way of telling us we’re headed in the wrong direction. If we can let go of our own stubbornness and trust in God’s direction, He will provide us with everything we need to be successful, regardless of which way we’re pointed.

The answer to our cries of “Why me?” are usually answered with “Trust Me.”

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

Linking up with Life Through the Lens and Sweet Shot Tuesday
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