Some Assembly Required

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

            I’ve never been a believer in the innate bad luck of Friday the 13th.   However, if I were, Friday the 13th day of April in the year 2007 is a day that would definitely be a “bad luck” day.  April 13, 2007, would have been my dad’s 88th birthday, but he had died four years prior to that day.  But even that wasn’t what made that day stand out as a not-so-great day.  You see—that was the day that my family got my definite diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer.  That diagnosis totally blindsided us.  It isn’t that we thought we were above dealing with any catastrophic situation; it’s just that most of us don’t walk around every day thinking about being a casualty of something devastating. 
            In praise to God for my continued good health, I’m sharing a blog that I wrote in 2011.

Blessed  By  Cancer
                            It was June of 2010, and I had just read a devotional written by a friend in which she explained how she had been “blessed by the fire” that had burned her house to the ground.  That reminded me of something that I had recently said to my daughter’s Sunday School class.  It was something that had been tumbling around in my head for a while, but I had never actually verbalized the thought.  And if you had told me even a short time before the revelation to the women in that class that I would ever actually say those words aloud, I would have told you that you were crazy. 
I have a very close circle of friends with whom I share everything, and we had not all been together for a while, so I hadn’t even told them what was in my head and my heart.  A couple of weeks after I shared my thoughts with the Sunday School women, my group of friends went on our annual retreat, and it wasn’t until then that I shared this very personal thought with them.  I’m still very cautious about saying these words because most people will not understand, but I have to say them anyway and trust that God will use the words wherever they need to be read or heard.
“I’m grateful I had cancer.” 
There!  I’ve said it again!  It took me only three years to say that aloud the first time.  Do I want to do the cancer thing again?  A resounding NO!  I didn’t want to do it the first time, and I certainly don’t want to do it again!  God and I have had that discussion—more than once!  I pray daily that I never repeat that experience, especially for my family’s sake.  However, I have arrived at the point in life that I can truly say that if that is how He chooses to use my life, then so be it.
2007 was without a doubt the worst year of my family’s life.  I was given the diagnosis of “possible cancer “ in late March; we were given the definite diagnosis of stage three breast cancer (with lymph node involvement) on Friday 13, 2007, and was finished with surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation on December 21, 2007.  There is so much I could say about that year—very little of it good.   Then how, you may ask, can I be “grateful I had cancer”?   Because God was involved, and He did many, many wonderful, loving compassionate things for us that year, and, to me, the greatest thing He did was to change me.  For that, I am eternally grateful!  I am a much better person now than I was b.c. (before cancer), and I like the new me much more. 
I have a clearer picture of so many things now—what my priorities need to be, how blessed I am in everyday life, the reality of what God wants me to do and be while I’m here on this earth.  The most important “clearer picture” that I received is that I got to know—really know—God so much better.  For that especially, I am grateful!  Have I arrived in my relationship with God?  Absolutely not, but I am so much farther along than I was, and I do not want to go back to being the person I was b.c.  Thank you, God, for teaching me, for changing me, for allowing me to learn so many things—even if it took cancer to do it! 
If you will remember, the name of this blogsite is “Some Assembly Required.” (See very first blog for explanation.) This refers to the fact that none of us is the Christian that we should be, and just as I constantly reminded (nagged ?) our daughters to clean their rooms when they were young, God will continue to work on us through whatever methods He deems necessary to help us grow.  One of those methods in my life is cancer; He used that to change me and grow me up in so many ways.    As awful as the cancer and its treatments were, God has taken that terrible year and turned it into good for not only me but for others as well.  Romans 8:28 (NIV)—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.
Do I understand any of this?  Not really---except for the fact that God is God, and I, obviously, am not.  I just have to trust Him.  Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)—For My (God) thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.  
WOMEN--Have a mammogram.  If you've never had one (heaven forbid) or if you're procrastinating, shame on you!  My cancer (already a stage 3) would not have been found "in time" without a mammogram.  I probably would not be here today writing to you if I hadn't had a mammogram.  Just do it!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Some Days My Life is A Sitcom; Other Days, It's a Sit-Minus-the Com

            Sitcoms have been around so long that some of the younger folks do not even know the origin of the word sitcom.  You think I’m kidding?  Pick a youngster around 12 or 13 (even a 15 or 16 year old) and ask him/her for the definition of a sitcom.  I think you may be surprised to find that I’m right about this.  Those of us who have been around “a while” know that the word sitcom is the combination of two words:  situation and comedy. 
            A sitcom is usually built around one main situation:  Lucy and Ethel get jobs in a chocolate factory.  Comedy is added when they realize that they can’t keep up the pace of wrapping each individual piece of candy that the automatic conveyer belt sets for them; they begin hiding the candy wherever possible (under their hats, down their blouses, in their pockets, and in their mouths) so that the supervisor doesn’t realize that they are getting more and more behind.  Hence, the name Sit—com.
            Do you ever have days when your life is such a sitcom that you feel that your name may as well be Lucy or Ethel?  Another term that comes to mind is comedy of errors.  Those are days that you do such (pardon the terminology) stupid things that you just have to think, “Where was my brain?”  or “What was I thinking?” or, better yet—“WAS I thinking?”  And I must admit that the older I get, the more often those Lucy/Ethel days invade my life. 
            For example, do you ever put something away, but when you go back to use it again, some little elf has moved it—to who knows where?!  I am a person of routine, to the point of being in a rut sometimes, but I function better that way.  Having a routine way of doing things often saves my sanity.  Certain products are always kept in a certain place so that when I need them, I don’t have to hunt for them, and that saves much frustration.  For instance, my detergent, fabric softener, bleach, etc. are always kept on a wire rack beside the clothes drawer.  Did I say always?  Well —there was this one time.  I had done a load of laundry one day, put the detergent back on the wire rack (surely I did!), and went about my business.  A day or two later when I needed to do another load of laundry, the detergent was nowhere to be found.  It was an almost-new bottle, so I was relatively certain that I hadn’t thrown it away.  I was doing the typical Lucy number, looking every place that I could possibly have stashed it, getting more frustrated by the minute.  But it was nowhere to be found.  G-r-r-r!  The next day as I looked for something in the fridge, I saw an orange-handled container toward the back of the top shelf.  I remember thinking, “I don’t remember buying orange juice,” so I reached for it, and, you guessed it—it was my detergent.  In the fridge!!
            Then there was the time that I was packing for a trip to New Orleans, and, as I always do, I put the charger for my cell phone in a small ziplock bag to put into my suitcase.  This probably won’t surprise you, but that charger did not make it to New Orleans, and to this very day, that charger has not been seen again.  I have no idea what I did with it!  (Perhaps I should check the fridge!)
            And I probably don’t have to explain to you the kinds of mix-ups I’ve encountered in the shower where there are bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.  Some days, I get really bold and even use a skin product on my face while I’m in the shower, but I have to pay very close attention on those days.
            Probably one of my prime Lucy/Ethel moments came as a result of having chemo.  One of the chemo products that I was given in 2007 was one that had the “potential” side effect of loss of fingernails and/or toenails.  (One of many, many things I did not know about chemo.)  Even though there was a lot of pain with my fingertips and my fingernails, I didn’t lose any nails.  However, I did eventually lose the nail on both big toes—of course, the biggest, most noticeable ones!  I decided to give those fake toenails a try; after all, it was approaching spring, and I had all those cute sandals that I wanted to wear.  Now bear in mind, I’d never had fake nails, and I had no (none, nil, zip, nada) experience in using those products.  Bottom line—take my word for it, that glue will stick; it will even stick your toe to-the-floor!  Not a pretty sight!
            If you’re like me, having one little episode often causes another one which causes another one, which causes another one, etc; rarely do I have just one of those experiences a day.  What do you do with days like that?  Not that I’m always successful, but I’ve learned to remind myself that, “This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.”  (Psalm 118:24) 
            “B.C.” (before cancer), there were many times that those Lucy/Ethel days drove me to distraction.  I let the frustration get the best of me, and my resulting temper could not have been pleasing to God.  But one thing that cancer taught our family is to take laughter wherever you find it.  You have to learn to laugh at yourself and to learn to discern what in life is truly worth getting upset about (and how to handle it).  Believe it or not, there really are worse things in life than having your big toe glued to the bathroom floor!
This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.Psalm 118.24
Hopefully, you have just realized how wasteful we sometimes are with our days when we allow “little things” to ruin the precious time that God has given us.  But I’m also hoping that, perhaps, something hit home with you and that now you are more determined to take those crazy episodes and realize that, “This is (still) the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
But what about when those “little things” aren’t such “little things”?  The pronouncement of cancer, the loss of a job (and, therefore, benefits), a pregnant teenage daughter, a spouse’s walking out on you, an unexpected death in your family—not so “little,” huh?  Does God still expect us to “rejoice and be glad” in that day?  That’s the next blog; watch for it!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chairein (ki rain)

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24
          As a general rule, I no longer make New Year’s resolutions.  That whole ordeal got to be nothing more than my making a copy of last year’s resolutions and just changing the date to this year:  you know (I hope!)—that whole thing about losing weight, studying more, cleaning house, etc!   So I just don’t even fool with it anymore.  Am I the only one?!
          However, at the beginning of this year, a certain Bible verse kept popping up every so often, and I really got the feeling that that was what I am supposed to be focusing on this year.  I didn’t really get it at first if you know what I mean.  But it wasn’t long before it was coming through loud and clear.  I realized that I was supposed to start every day by saying, “This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it” and then really work to make it happen.  When I say “start every day,” I mean even before I get out of bed.  For those of you who don’t know me, to say that I am NOT a morning person is such an understatement that it’s really a joke!  When I am  having to force myself to get out of my nice, comfy bed every morning, the last thing I want to do is “rejoice”; I don’t really get into the rejoice mode until around 10:30 or 11:00am. 
          For a while, it seemed as if every place I turned, I was constantly being bombarded with this idea of  “rejoicing.”  Beth Moore’s Bible study on James talks about chairein—translated  Joy to you.  In looking for a daily devotion book for the year, the first book (literally) that caught my eye was by Angela Thomas—Choosing Joy.  (BTW—it’s an awesome book!)  What really confirmed my feeling that I was supposed to be focusing on “This is the day…” was a visit recently to a local gift shop to buy a birthday gift for a friend.  The first thing to catch my eye was—you guessed it—a cute little plaque with the verse Psalm 118:24 on it.  Okay, okay—I may sometimes be a little slow on the uptake, but I finally did get it, and that cute little plaque now sits on the window ledge above my kitchen sink as a reminder!
          I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, but sometimes when I’m teaching/speaking on a certain topic or trying to learn something in particular (i.e. rejoicing), God seems to occasionally give me little pop quizzes along the way to see if I’m really learning anything or if I really believe what I am teaching.  It can be quite uncomfortable at times, and this time has been no different!          
          Can I tell you that since I’ve been working on this J-O-Y  thing, I think we’ve had one of the toughest years so far in our married life.   I don’t mean just our family, but so many of our friends are dealing with some really tough stuff—pop quizzes. My heart has been broken for them over and over again as they talk to me and so often ask me how to deal with the hand they have been dealt in life.  And guess what I have realized!  They need J-O-Y!
I have also come to the realization that I can’t teach what I don’t know; I can’t give away what I don’t have!  J-O-Y!  I’ve got to have it!  But the great news is that it is available to you and to me no matter what our current circumstances—Galatians 5:22-23; then it is up to us to share it—2 Corinthians 1:2-4.     
My next blog is a continuation of this topic, but it’s more along the lines of having
 J-O-Y in everyday life.  I think you’ll enjoy it, so watch for it.  It’s entitled “Some Days My Life is a Sitcom; Other Days, it’s a Sit-minus-the-com.”  You may even recognize yourself in that one.