Monday, April 29, 2013

"Puff the Magic Dragon"

When I was in grade school, I had a favorite teacher who would bring her guitar to school & sing songs. One of her favorites (& mine) was "Puff the Magic Dragon." As a child, I didn't really understand the meaning of this song, I just liked it. Yesterday, I had an experience which brought "Puff" to mind with almost more meaning than I could handle.

After living in our home for 17 years, I decided it was time to clean our basement. This was a monumental job for me. I have been procrastinating for months.  For some reason, last Friday, I decided to get started. As with most projects, getting started is the hardest part. Once I started, I couldn't seem to stop.

Last night, it was time to tackle underneath the stair well. This space was the American Girl Club House for my 2 youngest daughters. It was plenty big for 2 little girls, their Bitty Babies, their American Girl Dolls, horses, & paraphernalia. They spent hours in their clubhouse playing life. They fed their dolls, dressed them, taught them, fixed their hair, & cared for them with all their might.

Every Birthday & Christmas involved an American Girl doll, outfit, or other necessity. Last night as I crawled beneath the stairwell, precious memories flooded my soul. Just as the song said, "Little Jackie Paper came no more." The clubhouse was left just how they played that last day, probably 13 or so years ago. Babies were in their beds. Food was on the highchair. The horse was in his stall. The American Girls were dressed in their pretty outfits. Of course, their hair was even fixed. A little birthday cake still plays "Happy Birthday" when wound. I just sat in amazement.

I wanted to pause & relive a few memories. I saw my 2 pretty little girls playing life. I pictured them doing their dolls' hair, feeding them, tucking them in, & taking it all very seriously. Life is strange. That was my life watching them play at life. Now... I'm watching them live life. My oldest is about to have a baby (any day now). My middle daughter just moved into a home with her sweet husband. The youngest is away at school, but I've no doubt her day will come.

Watching them play life was fun. Yes... we had our moments, but the precious times were plenty. I savored those moments then, & last night I relived them, still savoring them. As my little grandson is about to arrive, there is excitement in the air. As my middle daughter settles into her home, there is delight in their new life. Beautiful flowers are springing up everywhere. Their dog now has a yard to run & explore. They even have a little fish pond. I feel so blessed to witness such joy.

As I reminisced on the floor of the clubhouse, I was overwhelmed by the passage of time. It was as if time was frozen in that clubhouse. It took me back (almost as if I could actually see them caring for their dollies). The memories are oh so sweet. The reality is just as sweet. Yes... time has passed. Little Jackie Paper is all grown up. I remember the lump that used to form in my throat as a young child. When Puff sadly slipped into his cave, I could hardly take it. Last night, as I washed up the Bitty Babies & tended to the American Girls, I marveled at real life. No... oddly enough I didn't have a lump in my throat. I just felt thankful.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I was bare to the world.

A year ago today marks my 50th birthday. I will always remember this particular birthday. My skin was beginning to break down from radiation. My dear friend took me for more radiation followed by our traditional celebration of my birthday at Red Lobster. Radiation had been a difficult leg of my journey. My skin had severe issues, & I found it to be demoralizing. 30 minutes every day on the radiation table was a lonely, scary time for me.

I was in an awkward position. I was bare to the world. I never knew what or when they were doing things to me. I couldn't budge an inch to look, & my head faced the opposite direction of the door to the room. Sometimes I got a nice warm rag upon my chest. Other times, it was a bit chilly. I knew I was displayed on a TV screen for all the world to see me in my glory. Actually, it was just for the nurses, but to me... it felt like the world.

I felt so alone. But then... things changed. I began to pray through the alphabet while I went through each treatment. My dear friend, Michelle, said that's what she did. This experience was life changing for me. I met God in a new way. I learned that He was with me, & His grace truly was sufficient. He met me in my darkest hour, & He stayed with me. By the end of radiation, I actually looked forward to this painful quietness because I had a half hour uninterrupted date with the only One who can meet my only real need.

As I turned 50, I didn't want a celebration (just something simple with my immediate family). I was in a very childish state of mind, & I begged my husband for a cat. Prior to this birthday, we had an agreement that we were not going to have any more cats. Our last one had passed on, our kids were grown, & we didn't need a cat. However, I suddenly had this deep yearning for a cat. Finally, my husband gave into me. He gave me Bella!

Bella is so much more than a cat. She represents my husbands compassion & love for me at a time when I was in need. She represents his soft heart, & the fact that he cares more about me than himself. She is a precious cat. Her personality is so big. She comforts me & helps me sleep. She & Otis are my therapy. They enrich my life & make my house a home (especially since my girls are all grown up).

So... as I look back over this past year, I am in awe! I remember the radiology techs singing Happy Birthday to me as I stood near the radiation table wrapped up in a hospital gown completely stunned. I didn't know they cared enough to bring such joy to me on that day. I was touched. Since that day, God has blessed me with my first grandchild soon to be delivered. That's even better than a cat. How bout that!

This year has been a year of healing in every way possible. It has been a year of so much joy. Yes, it's had its scares & its hardships, but I have personally been filled & fulfilled with more than I could ever imagine. God has shown Himself to me over & over. He has given me new opportunities which make me feel alive. In spite of the fact that I truly believe I have forever lost bits & pieces of my brain, He still uses me. That is truly the best part of being me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

the value of an ice-cream

This morning I was watching The Today Show (not a part of my normal routine, but I am taking it easy due to a head cold). A young woman caught my interest. She was in her under garments sitting in a circle with other women wearing nothing but  undergarments. Some were sporting spanx. These women were a variety of shapes, sizes, & ages. The point was... "You have to love what's under the dress, before you can feel good in the dress."

This  hits home with me because it's something I have always struggled with. My husband sees it as a spiritual illness, & as much as I didn't want to hear that at first, I have come to agree with his diagnosis. I have reason to be unhappy with my body. After all, I am a breast cancer survivor. I have had a double mastectomy, implants,  reconstruction, & more reconstruction. I have scars to prove it, & a few heart stopping memories too, but that isn't what bothers me.

My worth has never come from my appearance. If you know me, I am not a glamorous person. I like the simple. I wear very little make-up. I never learned how to put it on, & so I gave it up long ago. I lost my hair (my defining feature) due to chemo. It's grown back in full, & I love my new hair. It's short, &   dangly earrings are fun. Simple, for me, is best.

Even though my appearance isn't my all in all, I am still vain. I like to keep my weight in a certain range. Now... on Tomoxifen (& other medications), that's becoming increasingly difficult. I've talked to a few of my doctors about it & even gone back to my nutritionist. Even though I understand what is happening to me, I am still bothered by the reality of it.

I work hard to find clothes that make me feel adequate. My daughter reminds me to just be thankful I am alive. I am. My family encourages me, & anything I feel, is truly a result of my own baggage. No body has ever said anything to make me feel bad. So... as I was watching The Today Show, I liked what I heard..."You have to love what's under the dress."

We all have different issues, & we all want to be healthy. I have found experts that say "eating clean" is the only way to go. I have found experts who say eating real food is best, but a cheat now & then is okay. And... of course, the gamut runs all the way to those who say "Everything in moderation" to those who swear that processed food is just as good for you as the non processed & even disregard the effects of artificial sweetener & such.

It's all very confusing & tedious to me. It, frankly, wears me out. It burdens me. My Nutritionist assured me that it's okay to eat a few chocolate chip cookies a day. My GI said that you get more value out of sharing an ice-cream with a friend than you do from eating clean constantly. My son-in-law knows a nutritionist that goes by an 80/20 rule. 80% of what you eat needs to be healthy. My Oncologist says everything (even protein) eventually breaks down to sugar. My GP says that studies show that if you cheat now & then, you stand a better overall chance to stay the course of a healthy diet in the longterm.

Here's what my experience tells me (& I can only speak for myself). I need to strive to be healthy. I need to eat healthy, real food, but I don't have to be perfect. If an opportunity comes my way, seize it! As I was meandering in & out of stores this past weekend with 2 of my friends, I experienced 2 of my happiest moments of the weekend. First, we visited my favorite candy shop. My friend ordered chewy caramel fudge. She asked the clerk to cut it into bite sized pieces. It was the best, most fun fudge I ever ate.

Lastly, we stumbled into a cupcake bakery. I ordered a white chocolate cupcake . We cut it into thirds & ooooohed & ahhhhed as we tasted perhaps one of the best things we'd ever eaten. Yes... we felt naughty, but we also felt alive. One of my dearest friends just lost her husband to cancer. She is a very intelligent person & knows so much about nutrition. She lovingly shared with me that she wishes she would have worried less about her husband's nutrition when he was here & just enjoyed being with him.

Friday, April 19, 2013


I would be remiss if I didn't share a little bit about yesterday. As some of my friends know, I spent the day with a dear friend in court. Yes... I was in over my head. I'm not going to pretend to be familiar with legal terms, protocol, or anything that happened yesterday. I was just "there" plain & simple, to support my friend.

It was a long day! We arrived just before 9am & left after 1 pm. I had to feed the parking meter during a short break. 2 hours was not enough time. My friend was almost the last to be heard. We watched case after case after case. I can't imagine how a daily routine of case after case impacts the lives of those who participate in running our legal system.

Some crimes seemed worse than others (at least in my eyes). The whole scene made me wonder if there would be a few similarities with Judgement Day, the day we meet face to face with our Maker, & must be accountable for the way we've lived our lives. To me that means my thoughts, my words, my actions... Basically the condition of my heart, my soul, my all in all.

Yes, if I have trusted in Christ, I am forgiven. I will have a dwelling place in Heaven. There will be no more suffering, no more tears, no more worries... Sounds too good to be true, but it's not. However, if I understand scripture correctly, I will have to face my history, & I don't think any excuses will excuse my bad behavior. Yes... God has the whole picture, & He knows even better than I do what has shaped me into the woman I am today, bur only I can be accountable for my sins.

We all know that nothing I can do makes me worthy of this Heaven that surpasses all of my understanding. I will only be there because I trusted in Christ, the Son of God, who suffered & died for each of my big & small sins. He paid my debt. I will be getting into Heaven ONLY because of Him. When I ponder this, I am so ashamed of my sins, both the ones that seem trivial to me, & the ones which really matter. Truth is... they ALL matter.

So... as I watched these offenders approach the judge one at a time to hear their crimes read aloud, I shuddered. Is this what it will be like the day I hear my crimes read aloud? I will be in the presence of Purity with my impure heart. I will have to be accountable for the things I've thought, the things I've said, the things I've done.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Little Person

Truth is... we only have 1 childhood, but we forever have a child inside of us. I believe that precious child inside of each of us has everything to do with who we are as adults. Some of us would like to forget our childhood. Perhaps the memories are even blocked from our hearts. They may be too painful to recollect or just too exhausting to recall. This is just my opinion, but I believe that it's how we respond to that inner child that often determines how we heal.

Our memories will come & go. Sometimes we will be haunted by them. They may trigger the same hurt we originally felt. We might even experience the same physical reaction we first noticed.  Some of our memories are so precious, we'd like to go back & live in that spot a while longer. We might even pine away for the "good ole days" & hinder ourselves from living in the present or moving forward. Perhaps we grieve our losses so much that we no longer feel whole.

I think it's important to consider our inner child. If we haven't acknowledged an incident that had a profound effect on us, we might be missing a link as to why we are the person we are today. Maybe we had something traumatic happen to us when we were young. Perhaps our lives were less than ideal, & now we are left with broken pieces. How do we glue ourselves back together? How do we function as adults when we are still hurting like we did when we were young?

God is in the business of recycling. When we humble ourselves & lay our broken pieces at the feet of Jesus, our healing begins. If we let Him, He will take our brokenness & use it to help another soul. In some strange way, there is healing in that because we begin to feel as though our suffering wasn't in vain.  That's simply one of the miracles of our Creator. As the trash in our lives is burned, as we watch it disintegrate, it becomes a breath of hope for another hurting heart.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ch ch ch cha change!

Today as I was watching my oldest daughter who is quite pregnant & her very attentive husband baptizing each other, I was moved to tears. Probably 28 people were baptized today in this amazing church. What moved me to tears? The testimonies that were shared before each baptism. These people of all ages came from all walks of life. Of course, some of the testimonies were more dramatic than others, but each, in its own right, was truly beautiful & powerful.

As the stories were told, I saw a pattern evolve. Each person was a changed person. Jesus had changed them from the inside out. Jesus = Change. If Jesus rules our hearts, I believe we are ever changing. When He walked the earth, He met people where they were, but He didn't leave them there if they followed Him. The same holds true today. He meets us where we are, & if we follow Him, we are constantly evolving into a more Christ like person.

I realized something about myself this morning. I, too, have changed. I am no longer the "stuck-in-a-rut" person I used to be. I love change. I love having new things come my way, shaking things up a bit, & navigating new territory. It's a sign of life, both refreshing & invigorating. I don't want to do "things" the same way just because that's how we've always done it. That just doesn't seem like valid reasoning to me anymore...

I want to do "things" the right way or the best way for today, not yesterday. I believe we need to evolve with our culture, & like Jesus, meet people where they are (both at church & in our personal  lives). It's not that I don't enjoy traditions; I do. It's that we have to be willing to let go of our traditions so that we can evolve into what we need to be for today, to reach today's person. Sometimes our traditions, our rituals, hold us back. Thinking the way we've always thought hinders progress.

Today's stories told of change made because what people were holding onto wasn't working. I heard stories of how sin running rampantly in a person's life was no longer the answer. One young woman had been abused in every way possible. Only Jesus brought her peace. A few people had served time in prison. Jesus met them where they were & gave them new life.  One man said misery lead him to Christ. With him came his 2 young daughters.

One of the Pastors in my church uses the expression "hold on loosely." It took me a while to figure out how this applied to my life. When we become attached to earthly things, even relationships, we need to hold on loosely. I think we hold on for dear life, knowing that in the blink of an eye, all could be lost. Our security can only come from knowing God. There is no such thing as earthly security.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


For some odd reason, my thoughts are on The Cancer Center today. As I was driving along in the pretty sunshine, I was having flashbacks. Strangely so, they were not sad or regretful. These flashbacks were peaceful. I was thinking of how The Cancer Center melted away my fears & equipped me to face cancer.

From the first chemo therapy, I had peace. I remember sitting on a bench crying one day because I didn't know how I would face the next day. The steroids were having a big effect on me in more ways than one, & I could barely function emotionally. As tears began to stream down my cheeks, my chemo nurse & her nurse in training stopped to ask me how I was. Without batting an eye, they began to comfort me & reassure me. They sat with me until I regained my composure. They hugged me & helped me navigate my new journey.

I felt loved. I had a few answers, a next step to facing my journey. I didn't feel quite so alone. Scared? Well... yes. My fears still come & go, but they don't seem to rob me of my joy. I shared with a friend this morning that I don't regret my cancer journey. Yes, it has robbed me of a few things, but when you see them as a trade off for your life, their importance grows slightly pale.

I'm sad to say cancer is everywhere. A day doesn't go by that I don't hear someone's sad story. I hope that I can be just 1/2 the comfort that my 2 nurses were to me. At times, I've felt as though I have a whole community walking  my journey with me. There's my Facebook community, the community in which I live, my church, friends, & of course family. To be lifted up in prayer & be encouraged by so many people is one of the greatest treasures of this journey. Words cannot explain.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Last week I assigned my Bible Study a little bit of home work. I asked them to brainstorm & see how many ironies in the Bible they could come up within 5 minutes. I believe that looking at the ironies helps one appreciate the greatness of our God. I think I too should complete the homework assignment. So here goes...

Jesus (a king) was born in hay. Even thought His arrival was prophesied, it seems very few knew what to expect. He had no riches. He didn't wear a crown except for one made of thorns the day He was nailed to a cross. God always seems to work through the simple. For instance, our king was born of a  virgin teenage girl.  Not really what you'd expect if you didn't know the scriptures. Following Him means putting Him before anyone or anything. It's not about rules; it's about relationship. Hmmnnnn... most memberships involve dues, rules, perhaps an oath, maybe even a secret password. Trust is all that's required to live eternally with this king.

Although we were originally given 10 Commandments in the Old Testament, Jesus compiled them into one. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, & strength, & your neighbor as yourself." Jesus loved the disenfranchised. He seemed to be drawn to them like a magnet. Seems to be the opposite of kings both past & present. We expect them to be surrounded by wealth & riches, body guards, etc. I don't believe Jesus ever had a body guard.

He was betrayed by a kiss. That beats all. A symbol of affection & love was used to identify Him so that He might be put to death. Even though He turned water into wine, walked on water, calmed the wind, healed the sick, & drove out demons, people rejected Him. The miracles Moses performed gave him credibility. The miracles Jesus performed caused controversy. 

God sees the heart. That's all that matters. So what's on the outside is not what's important. Before it's all said & done, "Every knee shall bow & every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Even the demons recognize Him. Believing He is who He said He was isn't enough. Following Him is required. He was put to death for blaspheme, for claiming to be who He is. Ironic. I think my 5 minutes is up. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

& now, they are adults...

Watching your children grow up is one of the most fascinating experiences in life. Yes... I wanted to freeze every stage of their lives when they were young. I loved them as babies. I thought the preschool age was adorable. As we moved into the elementary school years, I did all I could to help out at school, with Girl Scouts, little groups at church. Whatever they were into, I encouraged & enjoyed. I laughed a lot of laughs, wiped a few tears, & cried some myself.

One of our favorites was riding our bikes to the candy store on The Square. I don't know about the kids, but this always brightened my day. Summer days spent at the Park Pool were the best. Sometimes I'd even put them in their jammies after an evening swim & tuck them right into bed. The Carnival that came once a year was a big deal. Armband night, of course, was the best deal.

We loved watching movies together. We still do. Celebrating birthdays was special. Always a cake & presents, sometimes a party. Oh those parties... what memories! Sometimes they were awful. Ha! Often we stayed a week at Nana's. How she could endure a week of us still causes me to marvel. We were a handful! We loved our pets. Always a family dog & a cat. In fact, when I look back, I usually reference the stage in our family according to the family pets. Yes... they enriched our lives beyond measure. Each one forever holds a special place.

The teen age years, naturally brought new wonders & concerns. These years were not easy, but so fulfilling. Looking back, I'd have to say, keeping the lines of communication alive was key to survival. I loved being their chauffeur before they could drive. I learned more in the car with their friends than I did from most of our conversations at home all put together. We had our sad times too. Wisdom teeth always scared me. Boys, boys, boys... Hmmnnnn.... that's a topic all its own. However, just thinking about them, makes me smile (mostly).

Tomorrow, my baby turns 21. Yes, my baby becomes an adult. No... this didn't happen overnight. It's been a life time of growth, hard times, fun times, lots of laughter & tears along the way. Lots of questions, lots of tender moments. Memories beyond belief. Precious memories. Watching my 3 daughters grow & become adults fascinates me. I know I'm just a little bit older, but that's okay. Looking back at their journeys, seeing who they were, & who they've become tickles me.

As I page through the memories in my head, I see bits & pieces that contributed to today's young woman. I see bits of their Dad, & I see bits of me. Scary, I know. But most of all, I see beautiful young adults, beautiful beyond measure. I see their traits, & I'm in awe. Wow! Look what God did! No... they're not perfect, no more perfect than their parents. But... when you shake the whole bag up, they are remarkable. No... I'm not bragging. I'm just thankful for the beautiful moments we share!