Monday, June 29, 2015

Family and Grace

Geneseo Methodist Church, Buckingham, IA
This last weekend brought us up to central Iowa for a family reunion - my mother's side of the family.  My brother Tony brought us together - he'd gotten tired of only seeing this group when they were sad, at funerals.  It was a marvelous idea; a good time was had by all.

We spent the night nearby, then came back the next morning for church.  (My sister-in-love, Christie, is the pastor there.)

It was a good service - the praise band was joyful, I was enjoying watching Tony and Maggie, his daughter, sing. When it came time for prayers and concerns, one woman sent prayers to a group of breast cancer survivors she'd recently seen at a run - she was impressed by their numbers and their courage. I added my own prayer - I am looking forward to the day when Kate will be well enough to run in her own pink shirt.

Christie explained a little of the background to the congregation, we all prayed, and the service moved on.

The next song was about God with us and making it through the hard times with God's help.  Maggie started it, her eyes swimming with tears.  Then Tony broke down - as true pros, he and Maggie took turns with the parts where they couldn't sing, the parts where the words spoke too deeply, creating a beautiful back-and-forth duet. My tears overflowed; Rita and Joe, next to me, also had silent tears running down their faces.  Kate had been there at the reunion, rockin' her bald head, and right then, we all faced the reality that while she's almost very positively without doubt going to be just fine, there's this slight possibility.  and that possibility cannot be faced without tears from those who love her.

Fortunately for us, the prayers and concerns part came near the end of the service. We all came together on the altar and had a great big soggy group hug. Someone found tissues. Facing our fears and tears together, sending our prayers and love to Kate, sharing a moment immersed in God's healing Grace. I won't try to speak for the others, but when my tears ran out, Grace remained.

God Is.  Grace Is.  Healing Is.

(Christie later commented that God's Spirit must be partial to the Kimberly-Clark corporation - tears so often accompany the Spirit's presence.  True, that...)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Chemo Truck: Round IV

There's something about the fourth round, in Kate's case, the last round (we hope. for a very, very long while, at least), that has made it easier to endure.  The nausea, the aches, the pains, all came back, but this time,

Hope whispers...  this time, when she begins to get better, she can keep getting better.  She won't get knocked down again in three weeks.

Hope whispers...  yes, she still has another mastectomy to get through (scheduled for mid-July) - but excision is not poison, and the recovery will be easier.

Hope whispers...  and when she recovers then, we hope the cancer will stay away forever.

Hope whispers...  without the toxins fogging her brain, she can begin to think again, and finish the last three months of work she has to do on her thesis.  The last three months that have been waiting for her since December.

Hope whispers...  graduation will follow the completion of her thesis.  a nine year odyssey will be over; new adventures beckon.

Hope whispers...  recovery.  It's a beautiful star, beckoning her on.  Her energy will return.  She can leave the pain and fog behind.  She can return to her previously interrupted life.

Hope whispers...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Picker Upper

Today I had a hard time finding my happy place.

Fears and worries kept coming to the fore - too many changes, coming too quickly for me to be at ease with them.

I was doggedly keeping at it anyways - activity generally works to bring me around, especially if I'm actually accomplishing something.  And I was, accomplishing something that is, but I was still grumpy and out of sorts.

Joe and Rita (yes, they're still happily dating) dallied their way through the morning and coming home from church.  I was busy fretting; the neighbor's fence needed replacing and I wanted to get it done today.  I was worried about rain and heat and and and and.  They finally got home, and we got to work - and the job was done in less than three hours.

Why were replacing the neighbor's fence you ask?  Well, it's not because I'd run out of projects around here, trust me.  Partly it was just because it really needed replacing, and they weren't going to be able to do it on their own any time soon.  Partly it was because their back yard is where we dumped the parts of our own fence that we weren't going to use, and a couple of weeks after we'd dumped it over, I realized she didn't have the tools or experience to replace it herself.  She'd welcomed the material - but needed more than that to get the job done. I felt vaguely guilty for just throwing it at her without making sure she was able to use it, and I wanted to set things right.

Somewhere in the time we were replacing the fence, my bad mood evaporated.  The new fence looks SO much nicer than the old; it felt good to be able to be a good elf.

Halfway through dinner there was a knock on the door. It was our neighbor, back from her day's activities, beaming her thanks. Which was thanks enough for me, but then about an hour later, she was back - with a plate of freshly baked cookies and a thank you note.  She said we're her heroes - it's nice to get to be somebody's hero...  and cookies.  cookies are good.

A most effective anti-depressant.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Stop. Breathe. Relax.

Portland Rose Garden
I have turned into a true Missourian.  It had to happen eventually; I've been here thirty years.  It's sad, but I succumbed.  Yesterday, I turned on the air conditioner.  Not to get cooler, no, but to get rid of some of the humidity in the air.  I couldn't stand it.  (today, I would have turned it on to cool the air anyhow - poof!  it's summer out there; humid and upper 80's...)

It's been a rainy spring.  We see the sun just often enough to not go stir-crazy, but it rained almost every day in May.  The ground is so saturated the neighbor's yard was bubbling water like a spring several hours after the rain had stopped after a heavy rain earlier this week.

I got up early this morning, decided to go for a walk.  When I was on the road, my sister gave me a shirt with my mantra emblazoned on it:  Stop  Breathe  Relax.  I'd put it on this morning; it took me a bit to realize why people were smiling at me as I walked.  I ran into one gentleman twice on my circuit of the park.  As I passed him a second time, he said, "I listened the first time I saw you.  Thank you."

And I began to slow down a bit myself.  To enjoy the building heat, the people on the paths.  To consciously breathe.  And I felt my shoulders loosen a bit as they came down an inch or two.  I noticed my legs and feet, carrying me without complaint.  I noticed the blue of the sky against the green of the trees.  (with all the rain, it's REALLY green around here)

It was nice to take a break from the tension of my days.  There's change in the air in my life.  I'm leaving Cristo Rey at the end of the month.   I want to go to Minnesota for a while to help Kate until she gets better.  I'm not sure if that will happen, but signs are promising.  There's a part of me that's gibbering in fear because I leave my job in two weeks, but haven't yet lined up another one.  There's another part of me that's trusting that I'm doing the right thing, and believes the work will come if I'm supposed to be up there.

Stop.  Breathe.  Relax.