Big “C”

It happened a year ago; it crept in silently, dressed in obscure clothing, so it wouldn’t be detected. It caused me to grasp my faith more tightly than ever. It reminded me I was alone, with no one there to be with me; no friends, or family to hold my hand and sit with me.  It was just me and this villain. Would it hold me hostage or take my life? What I did know was that no matter what it chose to do with me, God  would remain no matter what the outcome.

It took three of my four grandparents, my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Had it now chosen to take me? Examination followed examination and with each visit, leading me to another, the outcome appeared to be more realistic than the last. Then when I was told, we’re sending you to an oncologist, it was “Big C”, the word so many dread; cancer. The only real fear I had was knowing I was alone.

In the past seven plus years that I have been alone, there have been three surgeries, countless hospital visits and illnesses. Awakening in the night and struggling to get to the bathroom or becoming physically ill as I often missed making it to the bathroom before emptying my stomach were the realities of having no one at my side.  Through it all, God reminded me of His promises.

He couldn’t hold my hand, get me a glass of water, bring me a basin as I was ill or a fresh warm cloth to wipe my face and brow, but I had to know, He knew and understood. He didn’t choose for me to be alone; another did.  Nonetheless, I realized I would get through this as I had other trials, dozens of times over these past years. They had been difficult, but what would it be like to now face cancer alone?

What a blessing and joy it was when my beloved brother and sister-in-law noted they would not allow me to go into the surgery unaccompanied. They would make the 2,200- mile round trip to be at my side. Even though they couldn’t remain long, they would be there when I felt the most alone; as I was wheeled into the operating room.

Big “C” had fooled me this time, but perhaps next time it will be reality. Even though still alone, I know I can handle whatever comes my way because I truly know the one that holds tomorrow. Deuteronomy 31:6 NKJ, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Wondrous Things!

“Small Works, Great Wonders”, was the title of a western art show I volunteered for this week. Yet this same phrase can describe hundreds of situations in our lives; the birth of babies, observing beauty in nature as trees and flora bud and bloom, fledgling birds depending upon their parents until they fly from the safe haven of their warm nest, mothers in the wild protecting their young while often sacrificing their own lives.  The list of small works, but truly great and wonderful wonders is limitless, delineated by what we envision as such.

As artists see the beauty in objects which many don’t see, so too do writers see a story in what others might deem routine. As I joined some of my fellow Christian writers during one of our meetings, I was reminded why we as writers, share our stories about the “great wonder” of what God does in our lives; the jubilant, as well as the sorrowful.  One in the group spoke of sharing stories of her divorce, while another discussed sharing her story of the loss of her children. Such stories are not about small works, but mighty ones; how God allows each of us to use “His” stories to bring encouragement to others.

As Christian writers we realize inspiring others may come from bringing to life those things which seem unappealing. We too may view these situations as magnificent illustrations of God’s loving hand and “wonders.” I know that each of you reading this had a time in your life, you knew “if not for God”, things would have been much different. Each reading this may have experienced or be close to someone that had an “almost fatal” accident or injury, was caught up in a natural disaster losing all they had but their lives, suffered an illness or surgery that almost took their life and countless other life scenarios.

I have cherished the bible teachings of the “small works, but great wonders” of God. I read with hope of countless times He put through many of the bible “VIP’s” through trials and tribulations. Those that walked the closest with Him, never understood His actions, but they trusted He was with them. That has been my source of strength over these past years. There is seldom a week which passes that I don’t shed at least a few tears and often it is a “snotty nosed, tear gushing, sobbing” cry to God of “what in the world are you doing with me?”  Psalm 72:18 NKJ, “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things!”

Sweet Dreams

Once a month among the humming sewing machines and sergers, whooshing of the steam irons and the whiz of the shears and rotary cutters on fabric, a room full of caring volunteers produce bright, colorful, pillow cases for hundreds of patients at the local children’s hospital. Each case is packaged with a note of encouragement to the young patients.

During a recent day of volunteering at a local craft market, presenting our mission of making these gifts, one of the recipients stopped by our booth to offer her gratitude and appreciation. Another volunteer shared how our mission became an unstoppable goal of doing more and more for these precious patients. Such sharing from patients and fellow volunteers validates my rationale and desire to be a part of this team.

I also look forward to Thursday at the local food pantry and resource center. We gather as a group of volunteers to pray for the clients God is sending that day; to satisfy their physical needs, while also encouraging their hearts and minds with the love of God.

Additionally, I’m honored and privileged to be able to serve people in our county as a Casa; Court Appointed Special Advocate for children currently in foster care. These are only a few of the volunteer opportunities God has bestowed upon me. There are numerous others which are placed along my life’s path.

While meeting someone for the first time, whom I will call “Mr. T”, his criticism and judgement were harsh about my involvement in volunteering. My extensive volunteer work has been a tremendous blessing to give back to others.

Even though I began volunteering with children’s events and church when my children were young, my volunteer hours were limited as my husband and children were among my greatest priorities.   When my life changed seven years ago, I knew the best way to compensate for my loss was to give back to others with needs greater than my own. It always astounds me when individuals are perplexed as to why I would give time to helping others.

Chuck Swindoll exquisitely explained why we do for others in one of his devotions. “In the gallery of His priceless work, the Lord God has included a portrait of vast value. It is the portrait of a servant carefully painted in words that take time to understand and appreciate…”Blessed are the merciful,” Jesus said. Mercy is concern for people in need… Offering help for those who hurt . . . who suffer under the distressing blows of adversity and hardship. Those special servants of God who extend mercy to the miserable often do so with much encouragement because they identify with the sorrowing—they “get inside their skin.” Rather than watching from a distance or keeping the needy safely at arm’s length, they get in touch, involved, and offer assistance that alleviates some of the pain.”

I Peter 4:10 NKJ “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

Not, “The One”

Today’s blog is not lighthearted nor perhaps even uplifting. It is also longer than the usual blog length. I write to those whom may be walking the same kind of difficult path as I. Having just begun Max Lucado’s book, “You’ll Get Through This,” it is a reminder that sometimes sorrows of life need to be shared; for through the sharing, God’s love shines through. As with pastors and Christian leaders that have stood before their congregation or their public to share the deepest sorrows of their heart, I now share mine. This is God’s story; how He will heal and use me for His glory and only in His time.

I’ve alluded to my heartache frequently but avoided sharing the real story; the ugly reality of marital betrayal. I’m going to share what it has been like to be the “other woman”, to not be what I believed was “the woman”, to my then husband, of 44 years, Charles.  I believed he was going to love me until death parted us.  Instead, I learned last year, I was the one that had been cast aside for his “chosen” woman, Debbie.  I had to learn while among a room full of strangers the reason Charles abandoned me was for Debbie, whom he had been with for years.

Yes, I want to be like Max’s wife and “arm myself with honesty.” I want to address this matter and say like Max says (but paraphrasing it for me personally), “I’ll get through this. It will be painful. It won’t be quick, but God will use this mess for good. I won’t be foolish or naive, but I won’t despair either. With God’s help I’ll get through this.”

I’m weary of being in such great emotional pain, of being told to “move on and shake it off.” How very grateful I am for an insightful young lady on our church staff that encouraged me to lament, weep and grieve the loss of Charles, the only man I ever loved. I’m grateful she reminded me that for as long as I was married, the healing will take awhile. I tearfully said to her, “I gave my life to my husband. He had my all. I remained with Charles during some very difficult times, but he was the man I promised to love, honor and cherish for as long as I lived.” I did! I kept my vows.

For many years, I gave a minimum of 2 hours each Saturday morning watching Charles’ favorite car and home improvement television shows. I laid aside any interest I had to be with him, for that was our time together doing what he chose to do. One of the programs we watched weekly, was Chasing Classic Cars with Wayne Carini.

In 2012, when we realized Wayne would be in KS, a drivable distance from our home in OK, we saved the date to be there for several days during the event which included Wayne’s appearance. A week before our departure, Charles informed me he was taking someone else. There was no discussion; no conversation. As he had done countless times during our marriage with decisions such as home purchases, without my knowledge, he had invited another to take my place aside him as he traveled to KS.

Devastated, astounded and perplexed, I did what I had done for the duration of our marriage during difficult times; I sought marital counseling. Why would the man whom I had given my entire life to, including time to spend with him doing something which was solely for him, now without my knowledge choose to take another on “our trip?”

During that counseling session, I realized this latest heartlessness toward me had been the culmination of the four previous years of Charles’ total abandonment of me physically and emotionally.  Even with my pleas for an understanding of his actions and rationale for what he had done, he walked away refusing any form of communication or interaction with me.

It would be six years later before I learned the reality of Charles’ departure from my life.  When I learned of Debbie from strangers, I desired not to accept hearsay about the man I had loved and been devoted to for over 51 years.  Charles admitted he had been with Debbie while we were still married.  He shared with me I was not the wife he desired and that he had not loved me for most of our marriage.

Like Joseph when his brothers cast him into the pit and sold him into slavery as in Genesis 42:21, “ we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear”,  I pleaded with Charles in 2012 and countless times since for an understanding. I desired empathy as to why he was not honest with me when he walked away from me and all our years together.

I pleaded with him to keep our family intact for the sake of our children and grandchildren. I pleaded with Charles to at least find a way to be amiable toward me in the presence of our family.  I pleaded for knowledge that when our marriage encountered problems, he was not willing to address them with me; to work them out, to seek help. I pleaded for understanding as to why it was easier to find a new love than to keep the woman, he had asked to be his wife for eternity.

Each and every time, my pleas have been rebuked.  Charles was adamant, he had no desire to save his marriage or his family. He had determined that “starting over” in his 60’s, that leaving me alone to fend for myself and to remain alone during times of illness and medical challenges were what I deserved. He wanted me to know he had carried anger toward me for over 40 years; anger I never realized yet felt the “sting” from. As with my replacement for the trip, seven years prior, Charles had shared of his disdain and anger toward me with countless others, but never with me.

What I now share is not a secret; for it was Charles whom so proudly began introducing Debbie as his “new woman” while I was still his wife. It was Charles that introduced her to our children and grandchildren within months of leaving me and long before I knew of her. It was Charles that began traveling on out of town and out of state trips with Debbie days after he left me and long before I knew of her. It is Charles that brings Debbie to events which the three of us attend, so that I can see the love and devotion he has for her; the kind of devotion and love which he never had for me. It is Charles whom has touted repeatedly that I was not worthy to be his wife.

This has been a pain so deep, so real, so emotional that I have wondered at times how I would survive even one day, but I did. It is the kind of pain which Max addresses in his book, “In God’s hands intended evil becomes eventual good.” Max reminds us, “you’ll get through this. You fear you won’t. We all do…the pain will never leave…will this gray sky ever brighten?” God doesn’t spare us of pain on this earth, but as Max notes, “He does plan to reweave your pain for a higher purpose.”

There will be a time when I see Charles and Debbie walk into a room arm in arm or with their hands upon one another, or hear his words that I was not the woman he desired and  I will be free of the pain. I will get through this because even though Charles didn’t keep his promise to love me until death parted us, Max reminds me, “I am God’s child…my life is more than this life…more than this broken heart, this is God’s promise and God won’t break a promise.”

Like Max’s wife that openly and honestly shared her personal sorrow, “she found God’s presence among God’s people” and so too will I.  My story is God’s story; of my entire life given to a man I loved. That love was not returned but given to another.

God has not abandoned me. His promises are forever.  My story of betrayal, pain and sorrow will be used for God’s glory. I look forward to sharing my journey of healing. It’s been long, but it would never have been this long had I known the truth of Charles’ abandonment in 2012. As I shared with someone only days ago, considering how far I’ve come since learning the truth of Charles betrayal on April 29, 2018, I’ve traveled a long distance on this path God has placed me on. Genesis 28:15 NIV, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.”

What Will This Cost Me?

How difficult is it to be kind? Because the dictionary defines this as friendly, generous and considerate, each of us should be able to be kind on a daily basis. What if a person is generous, but not friendly or considerate? Are they still defined as kind?

Recently I met a person whom I had conversed with on the telephone several times prior to meeting face to face. Almost from the onset of our meeting, the person was unkind; inconsiderate and insulting.  I’m always perplexed as to why people choose to be unkind to individuals they don’t know and are meeting for the first time.

For over 38 years I have invited total strangers into my home; some I knew nothing about except for a brief written profile. Often I lacked even a profile. However, I had welcomed them into my home, as my guest(s).  If they recalled nothing else about me or their visit, I knew one of the greatest gifts I could give them was to treat them with kindness. Not all my guests reciprocated such benevolence. Nonetheless, I chose years ago to give even if never receiving this gift.

When service people are in my home, they are also my guests. They may be hired to complete a task, but they should always be treated with kindness. While these providers are currently in my home, homemade cookies, coffee, tea, water, assorted soft drinks and chocolates are a hospitality I extend them.

What does the kindness of a smile do when someone is having a difficult day? During a recent atypical counseling workshop, I was reprimanded numerous times for “smiling”. I was astounded as my smile is as much a part of me as the color of my hair and eyes. From the time I was a young child, my smile is a gift I freely give; especially spending my career in health care when many in need appreciated a smile and frequently a hug.

Chuck Swindoll speaks of kindness, “I have a suggestion. It may not seem that expensive or sound very novel, but believe me, it works every time. It’s one of those gifts that has great value but no price tag. It can’t be lost nor will it ever be forgotten. No problem with size, either. It fits all shapes, any age, and every personality. This ideal gift is . . . yourself. Don’t forget the unusual value of kindness.”

As mentioned in Ephesians, forgiveness is also very much a component of kindness. NKJ Ephesians 4:32 “ And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Laments are Exercises in Faith

I dashed in the door from the cool, gently falling rain, grabbing a bright, crisp apple from the fruit bowl, savoring the aroma of brewing coffee, as I eagerly anticipated getting comfy in my jammies and fluffy slippers. These are comforts of a warm and inviting home, yet I was unable to curl up on my sofa in front of the fireplace in my house. I was making my home in a hotel for the next few weeks.

Over my 44-year marriage, my then husband, Charles and I often had to make our “home away from home” in hotels during his numerous career relocations and premature sales of our houses. As we snuggled together on a sofa, viewing movies on our hotel television and dining on carry out dinners, we both knew we had joyful adventures awaiting us; a new job, a new environment and always a new home.

My life as a single has been filled with challenges and dilemmas. Now, I am displaced from my home; alone and due to a careless moving company.  In all my situations I always have to realize, “God  is in the details.” As with the many other challenges over these past seven years, I can say “thank you God” for the blessings of this.

My insurance company has been accommodating on the move from my home and the stay in the hotel. Even though at the beginning of this adventure, I feel optimistic when this troublesome element of my life’s story is history, there will be a benefit.

My heart was warmed yesterday as I visited with one of our church staff about the possibilities of beginning a new ministry in our church. Tearfully, I re-lived the circumstances which caused me to be conversing with her.  We discussed the circumstances of my life, including my current temporary home. For if life had not placed me on this  path, even the “hotel home” would not be a chapter of my story.

I told her of the frequent criticism about moving forward. She reassured me God doesn’t  expect me to heal overnight. Our conversation was another gift, as she listened with her heart, as well as her ears. She reminded me learning last year of the rationale for the loss of a 44-year marriage is a cause to lament.

Christina Fox cites in her on-line article, “the laments in scripture do more than just voice painful emotions. The psalms of lament, in particular, go further than just releasing pent-up emotions. They are more than mere catharsis. Within themselves, these psalms are a theology, a doxology, a form of worship. They are reminders of truth. They are exercises in faith…”

The next time I begin discussing the path my life has taken over these last seven years, I can proudly shed my tears.  Lamentations 1:2 NKJ, “she weeps bitterly in the night, her tears are on her cheeks…”

Anger is a Gift

As I was driving home from Casa Court today, I was listening to an interesting segment on the radio about the positive aspects of anger.  All of us have heard someone say to us, “why are you angry?”  or tell us, “well don’t get angry”, when that emotion was not in our mind nor was it what we were feeling. Did you then say to that person, “well I wasn’t angry until you said that?”

As the psychologists proclaimed the positive aspects of anger, I was reminded of being in counseling years ago and stating to my Christian counselor that I just couldn’t be angry. Seriously he queried, “why?”.  I stated my concern, “if I’m angry it will hurt my Christian testimony.” He reminded me anger is a God-given emotion and it’s how we handle that emotion which causes our problems.

As I listened today on the positive traits of anger, I compared those to situations in my life. The psychologists noted anger is calming. We might chuckle at that, as it’s seldom I see a truly angry person acting calmly.  Anger helps you cope with the stress and tension, which may leave you feeling calmer. Anger as an energizing trait parallels this philosophy of bringing a calm to our hearts and lives.

The specific trait discussed today was the effects on anger for leaders.  Anger gives us a sense of control, helping us to feel in charge, rather than helpless. How often have you used anger to command your requests? You pleaded nicely with your children to do something and after countless times of asking, you then became angry and demanded.

Psychologists have noted most often anger stems from hurt. Thus, we are hurt and over time we may become angry about the situation which brought us this pain. This is especially true when dealing with those we love and rejection from them.

Recently, after a person queried me in depth about some of my interests and volunteer work, I casually commented, “my Dad beat me as a child and now I’m a Casa (Court Appointed Special Advocate) to be there for children that have no voice.” I had no thoughts of anger when the comment was made. It was a statement of my rationale in volunteering as a Casa. Thoughts from my childhood and the realization there was no one to intervene on my behalf when I was being so violently abused, caused me to do something positive.

The emotions God gives us are gifts. If we use them in a positive manner, they can achieve remarkable results. Those emotions thrust upon others in a negative way negate the blessings we can give. NKJ, Ephesians 4:26, Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”