Summer “chill”

Tuesday, 8/19/14. Is it written somewhere in Murphy’s Laws that as soon as one step forward is taken, it’s imperative that two steps backwards will occur? That seems to be the way we’ve lived over the past two years. House renovations — not exactly like it’s portrayed on HGTV. Don’t get me wrong — I can find all sorts of ways to make the best of it: teaches patience — at least it tries your patience, so you either have to learn the lesson or just go systematically crazy. It just takes a really long time to get things done right. I’ve come to realize that things are never done right the first time, so just get over it. Right? Try to keep your head about you when all around you are losing theirs. This particularly applies when the PM (project manager) has completely given up or lost interest, or something. That has happened. I am pretty sure he has washed his hands of our job. Why do I care so much and why does he care so little? Oh, yeah — he isn’t as monetarily invested in the outcome as we are. Maybe he has gained enough on this job and has now moved onto the next one, both mentally and physically. BUT — it’s not quite complete.

So, how does one make good sense of this, without pulling every remaining strand of hair out of one’s head? Nothing is perfect, not in this life, anyway. Just realizing this in a real sense, and learning to live happily with this fact, is a true life lesson. I’ve just turned 60 — it’s about time I learned this lesson.

Why do we expect things to be done right? Why do we expect fairness? Why do we expect justice? There is something inside of us that yearns for the script to turn out the way we want it to turn out. We want others to care as much as we do about something that is important to us. Do I care as much about something important to those I love as they do? If it matters to me to be taken seriously and treated respectfully, then I definitely need to be willing to offer the same.

While living in Shanghai, we came across construction going on just about everywhere we went. Often there was a sign in Chinese with the English translation following: “making decorations.” Love that! Instead of this sentiment: “we’re sorry for this huge mess!”, the explanation was: “we’re busy making decorations so that things will be better for you!” If I can keep in mind that we’re nearing the end of our long spell of making decorations, that should suffice to convince my impatient self to just “chill.”

Psalm 39: 4-7

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude
6 We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
not knowing who will spend it.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.”

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Third of July

Tuesday, 7/7/14.

Note the date: 7+7=14 : )
Last Thursday, the day before the Fourth of July, Hurricane Arthur came barreling through the eastern coast of NC: in Wrightsville Beach, we had tremendous rain storms, thunder & lightning, strong winds, more heavy rain — I can now admit that it was all rather exciting because, in the end, we experienced no damage from Arthur — just had some minor garage “flood” water that didn’t amount to anything.

We were expecting a house-full of company (eight of us, in all), but for the three who had planned to fly into Wilmington on Thursday, their flights were cancelled or indefinitely delayed. It was a bit tricky, but everyone eventually arrived, one way or another (driving & re-routing flights) and we ended up with a fun weekend of sunny weather, boating, crabbing, food & drink & fellowship.

It seems so very clear to me that we can make our plans, make all sorts of arrangements, but in the end, we must remember that control is not always within our grasp. Holding on loosely is the best way to approach what we are doing — to plan the best we can, but allow for those plans to be thwarted and upended, because if that DOES happen, life doesn’t seem to crash down quite so hard on your head!

Proverbs 16:1: We can make our own plans,
but the Lord gives the right answer.
Proverbs 16:9: We can make our plans,
but the Lord determines our steps.
Proverbs 16:33 We may throw the dice,
but the Lord determines how they fall.
and Proverbs 16:32: Better to be patient than powerful;
better to have self-control than to conquer a city.

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Labor Day, etc

9/5/13 — Thursday evening.
Time at the beach is always fun. It’s even fun if the weather is bad — of course, if it’s sunny, all is right with the world! But, for those days that it’s too hot, too muggy, too humid, too windy, too rainy, too cold — all those days, it’s still fun to be here.

For the Labor Day weekend, we’ve had all three kids join us in NC — Rob flew in from Chicago. Several day later, Lee Anne arrived from Dallas for the long weekend. Jack drove up from Atlanta and he’s still here. Their trips overlapped for a few days and it was glorious just being together! I’m aware that I’m sounding more and more like my parents did when we would travel to see them — they would go on and on about our “being there” and how wonderful it was. Now that my parents are no longer here, I recall and miss how happy they were just by my being there — what a good feeling to make someone so happy by just showing up! I hope our kids have felt that over these past few days.

It occurs to me that, far beyond what we feel for our own children or what our parents felt for us, we are so very special to our Heavenly Father — He loves us with a love that is beyond understanding, with an unconditional, divine love. He not only created us, He knows us inside and out. He accepts us, just as we are. He loves us, just as we are. We don’t need to measure up — we already do! As we trust in Him, He will provide and make our paths straight. And, as we start to grasp the enormity of His love, it only follows that we will want to make choices that please Him.

Excerpts from Psalm 37:
3 Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
5 Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
34 Put your hope in the Lord.
Travel steadily along his path.

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Limbo

August 8, 3013.

Limbo: an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.

While I hate to admit it, I’ve become rather comfortable with our interim living arrangements (a two-bedroom, very conveniently-located condo), while our house renovation rambles along, in no particular hurry. I realize I’m giving the renovation a brain and a will, but it seems that way. Its will is to move along at a snail’s pace, while OUR will is that it would behave just like those renovations on HGTV — lickety-split, it’s done! And done extremely well!

Actually, thinking that we are living-in-limbo may be the wrong way to look at the past year. If limbo continues for a long time, maybe it’s no longer limbo, technically. Maybe it’s the current state of affairs, and that’s just life.

Things going wrong: can we ever anticipate them? Should we even spend time trying to anticipate them? There have been several occurrences when things that have gone wrong with the renovation of this darn house — things that have been costly in terms of money AND time. Staying on an even keel, keeping life in perspective, has proved to be challenging! But the fact is that life is good — God is good — you STILL never know what is around the corner. We must not become complacent or overly anxious. Be on the alert — be prepared. God is in control, and only HE knows our future!

1 Peter 5:6-8
New Living Translation (NLT)
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

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Asking for help.

3/4/13 Monday night.

It’s been almost four months since I’ve written a blog post. Other than fighting off a bad case of bronchitis and traveling a bit, my days have been more or less tied up with house-building decisions. The renovation of our home has become kind of “major” — truly, we did not expect such a daunting task when we started down this road. So far, Jim and I mostly seem to be rocking along on the same page (we’ve only had one melt-down that I can remember!).

A couple of weeks ago, the old movie “Brian’s Song” was on TV. What a heart-breaking, need-a-box-of-Kleenex movie. Rob told me that he’s never seen it, so I put it on “record” — wonder if it will be tough for him to watch? Brian Piccolo (who played football at Wake Forest and for the Chicago Bears) was only 26 years old when he died from cancer (embryonal cell carcinoma).

It was two years ago, on Feb. 24th, that Rob’s amputation took place. As he sees it, that is the day he became cancer-free. He still had more chemo and intense physical therapy to go after that day, but his tumor was completely removed with the surgery, so he is absolutely right. He gets scans every three months to determine if there are any signs of recurrence. For two years now, his scans have been clear. Thank you, thank you, Lord.

Thinking of where we were two years ago and where we are now — I marvel at such resilience. It’s surely God-given, that ability to “move on” following such an ordeal. Because of our house remodel, we are NOT living in the torn-up house-under-construction — we are temporarily living together with Rob again — this provides a ring-side seat for me to observe him enjoying his life and making the best of each situation, whether it’s a setback or an opportunity. He remains “independent” and by that I mean that he doesn’t ask for help if he can figure out a way to do it himself. The absence of a “poor me” attitude in him is both heart-warming and inspiring. Surely he has cried out to the Lord, and he has been heard.

Proverbs 2: 1-8
My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.

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Sense of humor.

Thursday night. It’s under-rated — a sense of humor. We hear it’s a good idea to have one. We know it’s easier to face challenges with one. We love comedians — and of course, they have one. How do we face life without one?

While rifling through my dad’s office, full of important papers and memories, there were a couple of boxes of pictures that had been saved through the years. Inside one of the boxes there were a couple of framed drawings of my parents. One depicted a pear-shaped, bald head with a few hairs sticking straight up, a face with beady eyes and a friendly smile. The other one showed a flat-topped hat on the head of a woman’s smiling face with a witch-like nose, shapely lips, pointed chin…. obviously, neither of these drawings were what you might call, “flattering.” They were not intended to be. My parents never looked at these pics as anything other than reminders of a fun event — at some point in time, they posed and had these exaggerated likenesses drawn of them, and they apparently thought enough of them to get them framed and then hang them in our house. For years, these silly cartoons of my parents hung in our family’s rogues gallery.

In our current looks-obsessed culture, it’s refreshing to remember that my parents didn’t take themselves too seriously. They allowed caricatures in their unflattering glory to hang on the wall for all to see: good memories of fun times — what a blessing.

The recent elections have brought to mind how seriously we all take ourselves. It seems there is very little generosity of spirit. I think a sense of humor regarding oneself leads us to be less harsh in judgment towards others. Perhaps if we possess the ability to laugh at ourselves, then we can learn to accept others in their less-than-perfect state, as well.

Romans 12:8
If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

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The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Sunday night. The movie, “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, made in 1951, starring Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal, has always been one of my favorites. I remember thinking that Michael Rennie was such a handsome stranger from outer space! Besides the obviously scary idea of an alien coming to Earth from another planet (at least it was scary to me as a young girl…), there was an underlying theme having to do with the preconceptions that occur when someone is different. Although he was respectful, polite, oh-so-smart, and yes, handsome, he evoked suspicion from some. There was a young boy in the movie who only saw this man as a great guy and a new friend — interesting that children usually just go with the obvious and don’t consider ulterior motives or alternate realities. Even at a young age, I disliked the whole idea of prejudice, preconceived notions, and short-sighted judgments.

Two years ago yesterday, Rob received word that his biopsy results showed a malignancy: mono-phasic synovial sarcoma. That was the day the earth stood still for us. Upon hearing the news, Jim and I readied to leave for Atlanta. On our way in the car, Jim pursued finding the top sarcoma doctor, hoping we could get Rob in for a consultation appointment with an expert. Rather like the perfect storm (as Sandy bears down on us right now…), so many details needed to come together, and they did. At the time, and now in hindsight, there’s no doubt that it was God’s hand moving heaven and earth. Somehow we ended up in Dr. Rosen’s office in NYC four days later, and during that meeting it became clear that we’d need to move there, which happened just a few days after that… Throughout those eight months that we lived in New York, each necessary decision became clear at the time it needed to be made, as if the fog was constantly being lifted just in time to take the next step. Coincidence? Not really. God’s provision? Definitely.

Life’s twists and turns often lead us to unexpected places, unimaginable places. But, even though it seemed that the earth stood still, it roared straight ahead. As we consciously trusted that God was in control, the path became clear, day by day. Rob’s calm demeanor and surprising strength were surely God-given, and he still amazes us; Lee Anne and Jack stepped up to the plate to help in huge ways; Jim and I leaned wholly on God for daily stamina; loving and caring family and friends came alongside with prayers and TLC (never to be downplayed!), and we all seemed to move forward in the strange landscape that became our new normal. When a family member is diagnosed with cancer, the whole family rallies around that one whose life is on the line. For the one with cancer, it must be like entering a new realm, inhabited only by others who have received such a diagnosis — and from then on, they all speak the same silent language.

Two years later from that fateful day, Rob’s world has done anything but stand still. He’s been busy at work in the advertising world. He’s busy at play, learning how to become competitive in wheelchair basketball, getting his golf game back on track. He stays busy with constant prosthetist appointments in order to get his leg to fit right and work right. He’s busy with hobbies: photography, fantasy football, etc. Mainly he’s just busy being Rob — a full-time job.

Which brings me back to the theme of that 1951 movie: prejudice and preconceived notions. Following Rob’s amputation, when we were on the elevator in our building and a child got on the elevator with us, usually he/she would stare at the empty space where a leg should have been. Once Rob got into his prosthesis, we often noticed children staring at that strange metal thing where a leg should have been. It didn’t seem rude — they were simply curious. They were noticing the obvious, not making a value judgment. (Rob probably still encounters “stares” on a constant basis, and not just from children, I expect. But, I digress…) Anyway, to jump to the assumption that the “different” person is strange and untrustworthy just because they look, act, or are different in some way — that’s when the line is crossed. If we’re honest, we’ve all been there: either victims or perpetrators of such judgments, and probably both.

Matthew 7:1-3
Today’s New International Version (TNIV)
Judging Others

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

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Nihao.

Friday night. Tonight Jim, Rob, Ashley, and I went to China…. well, we drove over to Buford Highway in Atlanta — it just felt like we were in another country. We had to drive through Mexico to get to China. But, the food, which was the reason for our journey, rewarded us: the Chinese soup dumplings, kung pao chicken, egg-drop soup, and leek pie were all pretty amazing, as was the Tsingtao.

As we were driving home, as if we hadn’t had our fill of gastronomic delicacies, we had to make a u-turn to arrive at Zesto, one of the original soft-serve ice cream joints in Atlanta — seems like it out-dates Dairy Queen, but I could be wrong. As a little girl, I fondly remember Sunday afternoon trips to Zesto for a soft-serve, chocolate-dipped, ice cream cone, aka a “brown crown.” There was a sign inside that read “since 1955″ – that seems about right!

Decisions, decisions. There have been a ton to make this week, but one has been made for me: moving the rest of my dad’s stuff out of his leased office space. It will happen on Monday since the space has now been leased to someone else. Surely this must be a blessing in disguise — it’s been difficult to figure out how to go about it, and to be honest, it’s just not easy to close out these final details of his life. I think of how many hours my dad spent in that office, keeping all his papers filed and organized, albeit not perfectly organized, but pretty good for a man who, throughout his working years, was used to having things organized for him by a very efficient secretary. Jim has been a huge help in this endeavor, shredding papers like crazy. I’ve done some of it myself, but I’m much slower at it since I feel the need to look at each page…. So, tomorrow while Jim, Jack, and Rob play golf, I’ll go back to the office, try to remain dry-eyed, and go through more stuff in order to be ready for Monday’s move.

In case someone is puzzled by the title of this post, it’s Mandarin for “hello” — the Chinese wait-staff at Chef Liu spoke a few words to us in Mandarin. How quickly we forget these things — I used to be able to order ice-cold beer, bargain at the markets, important things like that, in Mandarin. Also we could count — but then we moved to Japan, took Japanese language lessons, so now I get all the numbers mixed up…

Just trying to put all this political “talk” on the news and the politicians’ sky-high promises for the future in perspective:

James 4:13-15
Boasting About Tomorrow

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

New International Version (NIV)

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September highlights.

Wednesday night. Whew – July, August, and now September are just flying by. Our recent move has me feeling off-kilter since we are not living anywhere permanently at this point. Lots can be said about that, along the lines of “where is home, anyway?” Seems the more that proverbial rug is pulled out from underneath me, the more I long to find that place where nothing changes, where security remains. It’s not in the surrounding circumstances, not in the physical realm, really. When we were faced with our fourth move, in 1991, the truth of that statement hit me squarely between the eyes: if we were being transferred from TX to CT, this was happening to us through the filter of God’s plan, and as much as I might regret the fact of it, I wanted us to be where God wanted us even more. This particular move meant leaving Houston where we’d become settled, where we were comfortable and had established some friends. It meant going someplace new, unknown. Yet another learning experience — but for the first time, I felt willing to embrace it, wholeheartedly. I’m not sure why — maybe I had learned something from the previous three moves. Maybe I had learned that God would not forsake us. I remember being inwardly excited to see how God was going to work, and He did not disappoint!

To recap the summer: in early July, we moved from Plano to Atlanta. Unexpectedly, upon our arrival we decided it would be best to do renovations before moving into the house we’d just bought. So, our current living arrangements could best be described as “living out of a suitcase.” Highlights: on August 9th (it coincided with my birthday so I’m seeing it as a wonderful birthday present!), Rob received his “permanent” socket and is walking well again on his prosthesis. Fast-forward to the end of August: we left for Wrightsville Beach and the kids all joined us there for Labor Day. We stayed in NC for a few more weeks, ending with welcoming our nephew, Cole, back from Afghanistan — so many prayers for him and his safety over the past year have been answered. Thank you, Lord! It’s great to have him back “stateside.”

I have just read a book, To Heaven and Back, by Dr. Mary Neal — tells the true story about a woman who was involved in a kayaking accident, died, went to heaven, but then returned. She literally saw her body, realized she was leaving it, then realized that she was being told to return…. I do not doubt for a minute the truth of her experience, having experienced a similar “visit” to heaven, and I could identify with some of her emotions, for sure. The book highlights the fact that God has a plan for EACH of us. I remember telling my mother, after her amputation in Aug., 2000, from Necrotizing Faciitis, that God wasn’t done with her yet, and that’s certainly why she had survived beyond all expectations. She lived for another ten years — extremely difficult years for her, but somehow it was a part of God’s plan. She proved to be such an example of perseverance, and she did not COMPLAIN. Wow. It’s hard to imagine not becoming a complainer knowing what she had to face each day. I reflected on her amazing example when I spoke at her funeral. Here’s the thing: God provides the gift of life for each of us. Sometimes it’s an inexplicably difficult road — and we always have to remind ourselves: this is not heaven! The truth is we never really know who is watching, who is learning, who is in need of seeing our “walk” with the Lord. It’s also true that we are constantly being refined, being prepared for what is coming next….

James 1: 2-5
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

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Lessons.

Thursday night. It’s July 19th — tomorrow is my mother’s birthday. I have one mind to go get a cake for her and celebrate. How silly does that sound? But, I miss her, and want to somehow say happy birthday to her. She had 86 of them here. Hmmmm — I wonder if we will celebrate earth-birth in heaven? Or will we celebrate heaven-birth? Or does the celebration just happen every day once we are there? I’ve heard somewhere along the line that the time constraints of earth are no longer relevant in eternity, so time and special dates are probably not even a consideration.

I was just thinking today that there would be so many questions I’d have for my mother if she were still in life. Perhaps I should pursue finding those distant cousins who might hold some of the answers. That “ancestry.com” commercial gets me every time. The older I get, the more important those elusive family reunions seem!

Yesterday I was privileged enough to go with Rob to his prosthetist appointment. He had an 8:30 appointment — we did not leave there until 3:00! An all-day-affair. But at the end of those hours, he left the building walking on his prosthesis (something he hasn’t done since last October) and even said it felt “pretty good!” That’s high praise coming from Rob — it’s been a long time since his leg has felt pretty good. Much credit goes to Pro Care Prosthetics and their diligence and commitment to getting Rob back into his leg. And, obviously, all sorts of credit goes to Rob who possesses more tenacity, persistence, and perseverance than most anyone I know. He had only been walking with his C-leg for five months before the pain issue started, and it’s been nine months since he was able to wear it. However, he has not let that stop him from living — he’s just been somewhat hindered by having to walk along on one leg with the aid of forearm crutches. Obviously, living will be much easier with a prosthesis, but in the meantime, he’s been busy working, traveling, riding a horse, fishing, spear-fishing, attending the Masters, and even playing golf (tricky, but he did it)!

As the saying goes, “when push comes to shove” — it’s that extra something — drive, determination, positive attitude — that comes shining through. I guess it has to be in there before it can come shining through — but from a parent’s perspective, it warms your heart when you see it shining through in your child’s life!

Here is an excerpt from one of Chuck Swindoll’s letters:

Ready for a surprise? You blink twenty-five times every minute. Each blink takes one-fifth of a second. So if you take a ten-hour automobile trip, averaging forty miles per hour, you’ll drive thirty-three miles with your eyes closed!

I know a fact far more surprising. Thousands of people go through life with their eyes closed. They look, but they don’t see. They have sight but not insight. On journeys, they notice roads but miss the majestic scenery. In museums, they see paintings but overlook the genius in the brushstrokes. They observe surfaces but omit the underneath. Sure, vision is present, but perception? Absent.

Ready for another surprise? The same thing can happen when we read the Bible. Sometimes overexposure to God’s Word turns our many blinks into blindness. That’s what happened to the boatload of Jesus’s disciples after He calmed the stormy Sea of Galilee. Remember their response?

“They were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves.” (Mark 6:51–52)

What would have happened had they applied what they had observed earlier that day when Jesus miraculously fed the multitudes? Insight! They would have responded with faith. Remove insight and you reduce life to an anxious existence with frequent flashes of boredom or panic.

Life is full of lessons. If we live long enough, we have all sorts of opportunities to learn from our experiences and our mistakes. What good does it do to gain knowledge without applying what we’ve learned? Let’s not just settle for being anxious existers — let us all strive to become faithful appliers!

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It’s been a while….

Monday afternoon. Happy Birthday, Ashley!!!

I haven’t been paying attention to some things, like: how long has it been since I’ve added a post to this blog? Oh, gosh — it’s been three months!

Even though it may seem that I’ve become a slacker, there really were other areas that demanded immediate attention, so the squeaky wheel got greased.

Since April: we’ve house-hunted in Atlanta, several times; showed our TX home, several + times; kept up with life (bills, laundry, the usual), looked at apartments with Lee Anne; and fixed a myriad of minute details on our home — I’m referring to the smallest of small, microscopic, really — items that were found by the inspector who came through our house last August with his eagle eyes.

Our house was on the market for eight months. We had a few close calls: a few repeat lookers, a few offers to lease, but no real offer to buy. Such a disappointment. But at the end of the day, we had the corporate offer, which is the way we went.

However, and here’s where all the “fun” started, we were mistaken when we believed that we had until July 1 to accept the corporate offer on our home. Now, Jim and I have moved often so we aren’t newbies to this moving business. And, we were both on the phone call when we both heard and understood that date. Also, I had called back in the spring to find out how long we could remain in the house following accepting the corporate offer, if we chose to accept it. The answer was clear: we could have 60 days. We were going along, thinking this was our time table, thinking we had through August to move out, if we needed that much time. Suddenly, at the end of May, we realized that we had to either accept or reject the corporate offer by June 4. We still thought the 60-day rule was in effect, of course. A few days later, to our shock and surprise, we were informed that we had to vacate the house by June 30th. Wait, June 30th? Efforts to get an extension, any extension, were unsuccessful. So, on June 12, I flew back over to Atlanta and made a quick decision on a house we had liked very much all along. Not to say we hadn’t been on-task in Atlanta: during May, we had worked on an offer on another house for over a month. Now, however, we knew we were out of time and couldn’t waste any more of it on that particular house. Like Garth Brooks’ song, one day we’ll be thanking God for unanswered prayers on that one, I expect.

The last two weeks of June were busy beyond belief: moving Lee Anne into her new apartment, arranging for the move-out from our TX home, arranging for the closing on our new home in GA…. Somehow it all got done. Still wondering how….

My father liked to save and share inspirational quotes and articles — and here’s one of those:

The Purpose of Life

Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose.

From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men — above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow man, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received. My peace of mind is often troubled by the depressing sense that I have borrowed too heavily from the work of other men.

– Albert Einstein

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Questions.

Thursday night, 4/12/12. It’s been just over two years since my dad’s death, and that probably explains why I’ve been feeling so lonely lately — lonely for both of my parents. Strange that I thought I knew most of the stories, but how many times now I wish I could ask them questions about various things. My parents were the last living siblings in their respective families, so it’s not like I can ask one of my mother’s brothers to clarify some small detail, or go visit one of my dad’s sisters who were just so much fun to be around. During the summer of 2010, my mother was hospitalized several times — one of those times, I sat beside her bed and we went through the family tree on her side. It was interesting how many details I had never felt curious about before but I began to ask, how she had to reach back and try to remember, how invigorated she was by the mental exercise of it all. I think we always feel that there’s more time — time to hear the answers to the questions we haven’t yet thought to ask. Oh, how I wish I could still ask.

We are in the midst of trying to sell our house. It hasn’t sold, but things could change in a second. Change — are we ever ready for it? Change of any kind is difficult, but some changes are just so big that big adjustments are required. During our 35 year marriage, we definitely “have been moved.” You’d think moving would be easy by now — this will be the tenth time. Am I still flexible after all these years, or has rigidity crept in? Only time will tell, but I’m sure hoping for flexible.

Which brings me back to questions — and searching for answers. If we’re looking for security, then it can’t be in knowing what the future holds, since of course, that’s not possible. The best place I’ve found is relying on the One who has the plan. We often think we have all the answers, but have we even thought to ask the right questions?

Deuteronomy 10:17-21 For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. You must fear the Lord your God and worship him and cling to him. Your oaths must be in his name alone. He alone is your God, the only one who is worthy of your praise, the one who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes.

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Burdens.

Thursday. Augusta, GA. The burden of the day, the burden of the moment, is always the heaviest burden.

I’m presently in Augusta; however, I’m not at the golf course — instead, “the boys” (Jack and Rob) are using the Masters tickets while I’m accomplishing some important tax-related tasks (which will become burdens if not taken care of…!) and looking over a beautiful backyard, complete with black-capped chickadees, Eastern bluebirds, purple finches, just to name a few of the birds I’ve seen as I sit at the computer.

When my children were very young, there were occasions when I found myself among others who had walked further down the parenting road than where I was at the time. Invariably they would say things like, “Just wait! You think it’s hard now, but you haven’t seen anything yet!” Now, saying that to a mother of young children, a woman who is generally always bone-tired, dragging around with toddlers in tow, sleep-deprived, thinking “if I can just hang in there until they are a bit older, it will then be easier!” — only to be informed that thinking that way is futile, because these moments which seem so trying are actually the easiest it will ever be…. well, that’s just cruel! But, they always tell you this, those older moms. Those wiser, “been-there, done-that” types. I guess now that my kids are “grown” — I’ve definitely crossed over to the older mom status, and I admit that when your kids are very young, not talking back yet, just constantly demanding of your time and attention, perhaps that’s really not the hardest part of parenting. But, I DO remember being a young mother, tired, and not appreciating the “words of wisdom” from those much more experienced women who shook their heads as if to say, “you just don’t have a clue…” You see, the burden of the moment is the biggest burden.

Not long ago a friend mentioned that she hated to burden me with an issue that was going on with her, as I guess she felt it paled in comparison with the rocky road of cancer treatment we’ve recently traveled. But, this same principle comes into play — the burdens we feel are real, not trivial. And, the burdens our friends feel are real to them — not trivial by a long shot. It doesn’t matter the scope, it’s still a trial to navigate. Those of us who are on the other side of cancer treatment know it’s a journey like none other. It’s always life and death stuff. It pulls the courage out of you that you never knew you had. It drives you to your knees in a way that makes you realize you never knew how much you needed divine intervention until then. But, it doesn’t change how much you care. It doesn’t cause you to stop caring about less “serious” issues, and it doesn’t cause you to stop caring about your friends and their lives. If anything, the journey might make you more empathetic. For sure, it makes you realize how much you appreciate friends and the support they provide just by being your friend. Reciprocating that friendship is such a privilege! And, in those moments when you just don’t have any strength left, God provides the strength needed for just one more day. Strength and empathy — I hope I’ve come through the journey having gained a little more of each.

Matthew 11: 28-29 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

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Testing.

Wednesday afternoon. In various Bible translations, the word testing can also be interpreted as temptation. Do we know when we are being tested or tempted? If it’s something big, I’d like to think yes. But, there are so many ways to deceive ourselves. It can happen so easily: for example, receiving too much change in the checkout line at the grocery store. Do we decide that we overpay for all these groceries anyway? A few cents won’t matter. But, those little choices start the slide, making it easier to allow more dishonest choices. As “they” say, it’s a slippery slope!

When things are going well, we can become complacent. Or prideful. We can become self-reliant. Who needs God when everything is coming up roses? Sometimes I wonder about those who so blatantly ridicule Christianity (Bill Maher comes to mind). What about when good times turn difficult for them? Will they know where to turn for strength and salvation? Do we? Perhaps not, if we’ve come to the point of ignoring God as a way of life.

On the other hand, when times get hard, do we give in to self-pity? Does it seem like no one else has “this” on their plate? The way Paul dealt with his thorn-in-the-flesh is a great example to follow. Asking the Lord to remove x-y-z, but then accepting His answer, even if it’s not what we’d choose, takes some deep trust and faith. Does God really love me or not? Does He have me (and the whole world) in His hands or not? Does He have: my husband, my children, my sister, etc., in His hands?

The following is excerpted from Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church’s Daily Lenten Devotional:

So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
–1 Corinthians 10: 12-13

Complacency. Pride. Self-satisfaction. Few things are more poisonous to our faith than these. We can go to church every Sunday, be baptized…, partake in the Lord’s Supper, but all these things added up do not necessarily equal a pure heart. The true test of our faith is not what we do on Sunday, but how we handle situations of temptation and hardship. Will we give up the second we face a moment of despair?

Will we doubt God’s faithfulness at the first sight of anguish? Or will we trust that God does not test us beyond what we can handle? God asks more of us than just showing up to church and acting the part. God calls us to remain pure and strong in the face of adversity, relying on the strength of the one who died for us on the cross.

Spirit, enter our hearts and minds this day so that we may not become satisfied in our own works, but rather keep our eyes fixed upon you. When we are tempted, show us the way out. When we are discouraged, remind us of your truth. When we are about to give up, restore our hope. Amen.
Charlene Han Powell, Associate Pastor

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Prayer.

Thursday night. At church with Rob on Feb. 26th — during the Affirmation of Faith, the congregation recited this together: Prayer means calling upon God, whose Spirit is always present with us. In prayer we approach God with reverence, confidence, and humility. Prayer brings us into communion with God. Through prayer, God frees us from anxiety, equips us for service, and deepens our faith. When we pray to God as “our Father,” we draw near with childlike reverence, and place ourselves securely in God’s hands. We express our confidence that we rest securely in God’s intimate care and that nothing on earth lies beyond the reach of God’s grace…

I thought it was worth sharing. I especially like the part about God freeing us from anxiety as we pray, deepening our faith, and equipping us for His service. It happens so often — I can’t sleep, so I pray. Finally, after turning over my burdens to the Lord, there is such a sense of release and calm….

Hymn: This is My Father’s World.

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, the morning light, the lily white, declare their maker’s praise. This is my Father’s world, he shines in all that’s fair; in the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad.

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Rose-colored glasses.

Friday. Inspiration. It can come from unexpected sources.

Over the past couple of days, I happened to turn on the TV to find movies about both Seabiscuit and Secretariat. Both were amazing horses with amazing stories. Secretariat was the colt of an 18-year-old mare and the breeding did not demand high expectations, except that his soon-to-be-owner had a hunch about the possibilities of the breeding. Turns out her belief in her new colt was well-founded. Both horses are inspirations as to what a strong will can achieve. In both stories, it became clear that some magic ingredient seemed to be within the horse: desire, will-to-win, stamina against great competition, and ability to overcome obstacles along the way. Is that trained into them? Perhaps partly, but if it were so simple, we’d see more of the same, year after year. Rather, it seems there was just that spark on the inside — God-given. We learn it took a team to attain such results — the horse alone probably would not have achieved such greatness without good training, sensitive treatment, understanding the nuances and unseen issues. I love the scene of the groom of “Big Red” when Secretariat is running The Kentucky Derby — he’s standing along the sidelines and quietly says, “I knew he could do it!” Belief and having others believing definitely plays a large role in the outcome! But I just love Seabiscuit — reading the excellent book by Laura Hillenbrand illuminates so many interesting details. Time and time again, he and his “team” overcame great odds to win, plus that unexpected horse had such an innate desire, it couldn’t be squelched. Seabiscuit hits the emotional cords hard with heart-wrenching dramas involving the owner, trainer, jockey, and the horse himself. Neither story was about being just plain lucky — rather, all those involved were hopeful. Rose-colored glasses, maybe. Glass-half-full types, certainly. Persistent and persevering, definitely.

Scout (yellow Lab) has been busy healing — she was still gimpy when I left TX in mid-Feb. We are now giving her free rein in the house (a big step!). Recuperation from knee surgery with a canine patient who can’t understand why tight constraints are being enforced is tricky business! She often looked at us with an expression that seemed to say, “I must have done something that warrants punishment, but I’m not sure what it was….” Wish we could explain that it was all for her own good — and the pain and confinement she has experienced went towards the end-goal of normal activity and good life ahead!

I thank God for His continued presence and I stand in awe of His goodness: safe travels; Rob’s surgery is behind him and he’s recovering well (although we don’t know yet if his pain issue has been resolved); making progress towards the sale of this house — well, not so much, but I’m still hopeful. Having a house on the market is like walking on pins and needles, but as my mother used to always remind me, “This too shall pass!” Now, where are those glasses?

Psalm 3: 3-5 But, Lord, you are my shield, my wonderful God who gives me courage. I will pray to the Lord, and he will answer me from his holy mountain. I can lie down and go to sleep, and I will wake up again, because the Lord gives me strength.

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Patient patient.

Friday. 2/24/12. Happy Birthday to my brother-in-law, Marcus!

This week has gone by fast. Early Monday morning, we drove to Emory University Hospital Midtown (Atlanta) for Rob’s surgery — the purpose was to remove a painful neuroma. Dr. Monson (the doctor who did the original biopsy on Rob’s leg in October, 2010) did not find the neuroma, but he did find the end of the bone in Rob’s leg to be jagged, so he smoothed it out. He must have figured that was the source for the intense leg pain which has kept Rob from being able to wear his prosthesis. All I can say at this point is: time will tell. It is frustrating to think that possibly the neuroma has remained and might continue to cause pain. If that is the case, we’ll just have to go on to the next step. So, as Rob heals from the incision and the ensuing surgical pain subsides, he will know if the culprit remains.

One year ago was Rob’s amputation surgery in New York. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year as it seems so fresh in memory. But, so much healing and so much moving-forward has occurred — guess all that could not happen overnight. So, a year has gone by.

I remember my grandmother often spoke about time rushing by so quickly, saying things like, “It was just Christmas, and here we are, decorating for Christmas again!” It did not seem fast to me, as I was still young and years slowly clicked along, but I appreciated her feelings and knew she was telling it like she knew it to be, for she was always straightforward and truthful. More and more, I identify with her sentiment.

Rob is such a good patient. Perhaps it comes from practice, perhaps from an innate personality trait. Sometimes those who are wonderful people can be terrible patients! They just don’t want to be “laid up” for any reason! However, from a caregiver’s point of view, I can honestly say that it is truly a blessing to care for someone who doesn’t complain, demand, sulk, feel sorry for himself, and who expresses appreciation. I am blessed!

If you feel inclined, please join me in praying for God’s healing hand to remove Rob’s leg pain, which was the sole purpose of this surgery.

Psalm 23: 1-4a (New Life Version) The Lord is my Shepherd. I will have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass. He leads me beside the quiet waters. He makes me strong again. He leads me in the way of living right with Himself which brings honor to His name. Yes, even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid of anything, because You are with me.

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Surgery scheduled.

Wednesday night. The schedule is set for Monday — Rob will have surgery on Monday to resolve his painful nerve issue. I think I can safely say he’s more than thrilled to be taking this step forward. As long as this nerve problem persists, he cannot wear his prosthesis, and as long as he isn’t able to wear his prosthesis, he is hindered from accomplishing many everyday activities. It’s been a major frustration.

If all goes as planned, surgery will take place on Feb. 20th (in Atlanta). One year ago, Rob’s amputation was on Feb. 24th (in New York). While this recent set-back has slowed things down, it’s been just that — a set-back, not a complete road block. I expect that Rob will set his mind on as quick a recovery as possible so that he can get back to the list of things he wants to accomplish as an amputee. He originally wanted to finish his list in one year, but in my opinion he should just work the list and keep working it, for as long as he comes up with more list items!

I’m reminded to be ever so grateful for life, for progress, for goals, and for hope.

Lee Anne and I watched the movie “The Horse Whisperer” tonight. What the mother did for the daughter after her traumatic life-threatening accident, was quite amazing. She drove across the country with that very broken horse and her very broken daughter, in hopes of finding an answer, any answer. What she did gave her daughter a renewed outlook, a second chance. The mother sought out and found the help that healed the horse, as well. It was brave. It was not-taking-no-for-an-answer. Sometimes movies can help us pin-point admirable traits in the heroes/heroines.

I’ve heard it said that we are all role models, one way or another — you can be either a good role model or a bad one. And, we all have it in us to rise to the occasion. Just praying that next week I can rise to the occasion of being a caregiver, once again….

Psalm 28: 6-8 I praise you, LORD, for answering my prayers. You are my strong shield, and I trust you completely. You have helped me, and I will celebrate and thank you in song. You give strength to your people, LORD, and you save and protect your chosen ones.

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Weathering February.

Sunday. 2/12/12 (another cool number date!) — and the weather in Dallas is snow, sleet, wintry mix! We’ve just watched Glen Campbell sing on the Grammy Awards show, and he did a great job. Of course, Adele is just amazing.

While there are only two more days until Valentines Day, around our house it gets kind of swallowed up by the fact that our anniversary is just around the corner. In mid-February, suffice it to say that both chocolates and yellow roses usually make some sort of appearance.

Update on Rob: unfortunately, he’s still having way too much pain in his leg to even think about wearing his prosthesis. This has been going on for almost five months now — way too long. The pain is caused by a neuroma, a ball of nerves which developed some time ago, apparently not an altogether uncommon occurrence following an amputation. Hard to believe, but soon it will be a year since his amputation. Rob has dutifully done all that he was instructed to do: he took the special nerve pain medicine, underwent back injections to quiet the nerve pain in his leg, and then, finally, he saw an orthopedic oncologist in Atlanta this past Thursday. Most likely, Rob will soon have surgery to remove the neuroma. I’m sure for Rob, soon isn’t soon enough!

Major frustration: when the CT scans were sent over to the doctor for his viewing before this important and long-awaited appointment, the scans sent were the wrong ones….

Rob is weathering this major frustration well — it’s probably for the best that I wasn’t there on Thursday for certainly I would have pitched a fit, much to everyone’s dismay, had I been there in person.

I’ll keep this blog updated as to the details of Rob’s upcoming surgery.

Just one week from now is our anniversary. I’m fairly certain Jim will be in town this year, but quite often we’ve been apart for various reasons. Business trips have frequently taken Jim far away from home on Feb. 19th, and a couple of years ago, I was away in Atlanta helping my dad with his failing health issues. This year it’s looking likely that we’ll be together to celebrate — 35 years!

“Marriage has less beauty, but more safety than the single life. It’s full of sorrows and full of joys. It lies under more burdens, but it’s supported by all the strengths of love and those burdens are delightful.”
― 16th century bishop

I’m not sure if the bishop’s synopsis of marriage is exactly on target, but it sure makes some good points — especially that there is a strength in love and loving someone for many years. There are undoubtedly joys and sorrows, ups and downs, fun and not-so-fun moments. But, at the end of the day, I’m so thankful we’ve been able to do both: weather the burdens and experience the delight! However, I know that ALL of the credit is due to our loving Father in heaven and His constant presence in our lives.

Psalm 100 (New Living Translation)
Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

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February 2nd.

February 2. Happy Birthday, Lee Anne!

It’s also Groundhog Day. Here’s an interesting fact:

The celebration of Groundhog Day lies in a German superstition stating that if a groundhog dog sees his shadow Feb. 2, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter will last another six weeks and if no shadow is seen, spring will come early (from an International Business Times article).

Who knew? A German superstition. Well, I don’t really buy that the weather is controlled by a rodent who either sees or does not see his shadow on the second day of February, but it’s fun, apparently, for the 18,000 people who gathered to watch the spectacle in Pennsylvania today.

According to the International Business Times article, “Punxsutawney Phil, America’s most famous weather predictor, showed his shadow Thursday, predicting winter for six more weeks, but he was in the vast minority among other groundhogs who think that spring is coming early this year.

Phil emerged from his lair Feb. 2 to see his shadow on Gobbler’s Knob to predict the weather.

But groundhogs in other five states – West Virginia’s French Creek Freddie, Georgia’s Gen. Beauregard Lee, Ohio’s Buckeye Chuck and New York’s Staten Island Chuck – did not see their shadows, Associated Press reported.

Even Ontario’s Wiarton Willie and Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam did not see their shadow.

More than 18, 000 people gathered at around 7.30 a.m. at Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to witness the prognostication ceremony.”

Guess they had nothing better to do.

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