Inspiration, Life, Love, Relationships, Spirituality, Women, Writing

Mission To Mom

momSometimes it takes time to understand  “why” something has happened the way it did or to understand how we have actually been in the right place, at the right time – even though it didn’t feel like it at the time.

For example.  The whole “job” thing.  It’s been one big question mark since I knew I was going to take medical leave to Walk Through the Fire.  The day I left work, I knew – deep inside – that I wouldn’t be going back , even though the Powers That Be had treated things so nonchalantly that they didn’t even bother assigning my work to someone else, or getting a temporary to cover for me.  And I actually did quite a lot there, after 10 years.

When I got laid off after being released to go back to work 11 months later, I was good with that as well.  I didn’t want to go back to that Toxic Waste Dump anyway, and felt God definitely had other things in store for me.  Since that time, it’s been an interesting journey.  So many stops and starts.  So many things I thought I would try, and didn’t – or did, to no avail.  Every time I applied for a job like I used to have, I felt sick in the pit of my stomach….a sure sign I am NOT on the right track.

Fast forward to last month.  I wrote about it in a couple of posts ago.  Basically, I had my own health issue to deal with, then my husbands’ surgery, and then my daughter’s medical emergency.  Granted, without a job or benefits, money has been tight.  BUT, we have been keeping our heads above water and – more importantly – if I had taken a job a few months ago, it would have been so much harder on all of us.  It’s been a priceless gift to have the time and freedom of movement to care for myself and my family.

My prayers were answered – just not in the form I thought, or hoped, they would be.

Yesterday I wrote about Closed Doors being an answered to prayer.  And just like that, within hours of posting, I got my next “Go This Way” sign.

I was on my way home from my Floral Design Course when I called my Mom to check in with her.  She’s 84, a widow, and is almost completely housebound (in chronic pain and nearly in a wheelchair). What makes her physical condition extra sad is that her mind is still really sharp for her age, but she is “trapped” in a body that is ceasing to function.

Mom lives about an hour away, and has a very nice lady, Secorro, come and help her several days a week with things she cannot do for herself: laundry, house cleaning, shopping…even some cooking and taking her to get her hair done.  When she picked up the phone yesterday, I could hear the stress in Mom’s voice.  Turns out Secorro – who has been a part of our extended “family” for several decades – just received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

THIS is a game changer.

And just like that, I believe I now have my next Assignment.  Granted, driving two hours plus, round trip, will be a pain in the ass.  In the last 16 years since Dad died, we’ve been unable to convince Mom to move closer, or into some sort of assisted living community.  She wants to stay in her own home as long as she can, though, and in her community – and I get that even though it makes “things” harder for us…for me…to care for her. A more stubborn woman would be hard to find – an attribute that seems to be gaining strength with every passing year.

But, she’s my Mom and I love her.  I know her days remaining on this earth are slowly coming to an end and keeping her as comfortable as possible feels like my “mission” now.  I don’t want her to feel afraid about what is going to happen to her, or that she is alone. It is the least I can do, for all she has done and all she has meant to me.  Count me as a full card-carrying member of the Sandwich Generation – that growing group of  us Baby Boomers who find themselves caring for 2 or 3 generations.  (While trying to care for ourselves as well.)

Perhaps not this week, but soon, I will make the trip out to Mom’s 3 days a week to make sure her life and self are as comfortable and “together” as possible.  I think she is even going to pay me what she’s been paying Secorro, even though I told her she doesn’t have to.  And frankly, the money will come in handy – I was just getting ready to start looking for a part-time office job this week.

So there is my Answer.  I have my direction, and with it, a deep sense of awe and gratitude that I have the freedom of movement and time to do this for my mother.  Deep inside, I know…without a shadow of doubt…that our financial thing will be taken care of.

God never leads us where He doesn’t also provide for us, be it strength, resources, or a sense of purpose.

Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her.  But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God.”

1 Timothy 5:3

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Inspiration, Life, Love, Spirituality, Women, Writing

Letters From Home

woman-writing-vintageEven after all these years, it never ceases to amaze me when – at just the right moment – I stumble upon the EXACT thing I need to read or hear.

That happened to me earlier today when I opened a little devotional booklet that I like to read in the mornings, and read these words:

“I AM trusting God with the desires of my heart.  He knows what’s best for my life, and I give Him complete control over all I am and all I have.  Any worry, fear or frustration, I turn over to Him.  I’m at peace knowing that He will get me to where He wants me to be, and I will never be disappointed.  This is my declaration of who I am.”  (From Joel Osteen’s work, “I AM”.)

I like to spend some time in contemplation and prayer at our little kitchen table in the mornings, journal and coffee at hand, with a candle burning.  It’s a time for seeking God’s Will and His Presence, and something I started doing 30 years ago as a new mother.  There have been seasons when I neglected this precious practice, or when the nature of that time was something other than it is now. I noticed that life doesn’t flow as smoothly, that my burdens seem heavier, and my attitude crapier when I miss these moments.  It is something I always come back to at some point.  My default position.

One of the blessings from the breast cancer journey I went through is a renewed commitment to my personal spiritual life – a Coming Home, if you will. I’ve winnowed out what works and what doesn’t work for me, what spiritual ideals and practices fit and which don’t.  Certainly, I don’t fit the mold of a typical fundamentalist Christian, and I’m good with that. I am a believer in, and a follower of, Jesus the Christ and look to the Bible for much of my inspiration and direction.  After all of the miracles I have experienced, after all the times when I literally felt the supernatural touch of God on me, I couldn’t be anything else.  And I’ve tried.

In this Season After the Fire, when my “New Normal” is being normalized, I spend even more time than usual thinking about, talking to, God.  For of all things that I desire – it is the desire to live out God’s Will that burns within me the hottest. Whatever that may look like, I am completely surrendered.

I think. (smile)

But deciphering God’s Will and plan for my life isn’t always easy for me.  Sure, there are times when divine direction is so obvious, I just want to slap my forehead and say, “Duh!”

Other times, however, the direction isn’t as clear, or doesn’t feel like it is showing up at all. and I am left contemplating the idea that what DOESN’T happen is the Will.  I am being led by what prayers AREN’T answered (or, perhaps, were answered with “No”.)

Times like when interviews prove fruitless, or the promises made to me by others don’t come to pass.  Other times I end up hitting brick walls, when the path I am on leads “nowhere”.

I’m in one of those times right now and it’s like trying to find my way out of a maze.  My view is obstructed and progress seems as at standstill.  It’s hard not to feel trapped.  Lost, even.

But I know – from experience – I am anything but.

This is a time when my faith is being stretched.  My desires, honed.  Growth often takes resistance, and I’ve learned that struggle isn’t a sign that I’ve blown it.  It could be that the struggle is producing the strength I need for the next part of my journey, much like a butterfly needs the struggle of exiting a cocoon if it is to be healthy and strong.

After months of Maze Walking, it was a real comfort to received a Word from the Lord this morning assuring me that His Hand is guiding me.  That His plans and purposes WILL prevail in my life.  It is important that I keep this in mind I can’t let discouragement weigh me down, or worry to steal my peace.

I just need to be patient and allow myself to be led through this season one step at a time, and trust that He is with me and that His plans for me are good.

The shift IS coming.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go.  I will counsel you and watch over you.” – Psalm 32:8

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Inspiration, Life, Love, Relationships, Spirituality, Women, Writing

Oooh, Child

It’s a cool drizzly morning here in So Cal.

Everyone is off to work and school.  There’s chicken in the oven for later, smelling up the house with yumminess, and all is quiet except for the sound of the sprinklers outside my window.  For the first time in almost 2 weeks, I have the day at home all to myself.  Even with all the chores I have to do, it is a much-needed oasis of solitude.

It’s been months since I’ve blogged.  Thank you to those that reached out to see how I was doing.  Up until, literally, the last couple of days – it’s been kinda crazy.  Over the Summer, while my girl still had her own apartment, I was taking care of my grandson one week a month, and some weekends in-between.  She got a great new job with the school district back in June, but it came at a price – specifically, a significant pay cut.  But she has a firm and reliable career path now, awesome benefits, and all kinds of perks that working for the district includes.  So for me to babysit one week a month to help keep financial life and limbs afloat (hers and ours) was a no-brainer.

School had just gotten back into session when, over the Labor Day weekend, we moved them in here with us.  Moves are hard and tiresome.  It took me a couple of weeks, but every room – every drawer, closet and corner – was thoroughly gone through and reorganized to make space.  However exhausting, the timing was Divinely Perfect as it coincided with the end of her lease and the end of my Unemployment Benefits.  Days before the move, I had another biopsy in my left breast after my first post-treatment 3D Mammogram showed “something” that needed to be looked at.  Jesus, I was scared…but I held on to the promises that I got way back when this all started – that the Lord had cured the incurable, and that I was healed.  I broke down and sobbed, falling to my knees, when I got the results. God showed up in a seriously miraculous way (maybe I’ll write about that another time), and the results of the biopsy were negative.

God be praised, Who is rich in mercy, strength and healing grace!

No sooner was that crossed off The List, my husband had a surgery he had been putting off for far too long because of all my shit.  The surgery was successful, but I was elbows deep in urinals and bed trays for a week while he recovered, sleeping on the couch for a couple weeks so as not to jostle him.  Eventually he was back to work and  I was just exhaling,  thankful that September was almost over when – just like clockwork – the third “THING” popped up.

A week ago this past Monday, my girl called me from the emergency room in serious distress and ended up staying in the hospital for the next 5 days.  It was awful, as they did test after test and couldn’t uncover the source of her pain.  I put in 12 hour days, getting my grandson ready and to school, driving the 40 minutes to drop him off, making my way to the hospital, then staying there with my baby until school was out.  Another trip to pick up our guy, back to the hospital to spend dinner time with Mommy, then home between 8 and 9 p.m. In between was a lifetime of prayer, staying all Mama Bear on the doctors and nurses trying to get her relief and some answers, and trying present calm and control for our little guy. While a firm diagnosis still hasn’t been made, the pain specialist is treating it as a nerve issue…a Myalgia of sorts.  It might even be a couple of things. But after a week of nerve specific medications, she is back to work just this morning, and I am so thankful.

Wow, I feel exhausted again just writing all of that. (Smile) Yet, here I am this morning, my heart full of gladness and a deep sense of God’s presence.  Things have been hard – in more ways than just physical – but here we all are, together.  The crises have passed.  The weather is cooler, the chicken smells delicious, the house is decorated so cute for Halloween and life is taking on more “normal” proportions as of 30 minutes ago.

Things are definitely looking brighter.

Inspiration, Life, Love, Relationships, Spirituality, Women, Writing

Every New Beginning Ends

100_0389When my oncologist looked at me yesterday during our regular 6 week visit and said, “So you’re done!” it took me a minute to understand what he was saying.

Fresh from the treatment room where I had received the IV medication I’ve taken every 3 weeks for the last year, I was still groggy from the Benedryl. “What?”

“That’s it!  You’re all done with your treatments!”  His smile grew bigger.

“But I thought I still had 1 more!”  Much more alert, I also suddenly felt scared, interestingly enough.

“Nope. You haven’t missed any and 17 is what I generally give and today you got 17.  You’re all done.”

Nearly 24 hours later, and I can still hardly believe it.  In February of 2015, when I was told it would take 18 months to complete the course of treatment recommended, I honestly didn’t think I could do it.  18 months was a lifetime!  It wasn’t just the surgery I had to face.  It was 6 rounds of chemotherapy.  It was the 35 rounds of radiation.  It was a year’s worth of Herceptin, and all the poking and prodding and testing in between.  It sounded like a hideous 18 month clusterf*** of pain and danger and potential side effects to deal with.

This wasn’t a sprint.  It was a marathon and I hate running!

I didn’t think I could do it.  I literally did not know if I’d be strong enough or brave enough to do it!   All I felt was fear – Me, who didn’t think she was afraid of anything, was suddenly a coward begging God to PLEASE make it all go away!.  Seriously, I promised to do literally ANYTHING if it all just miraculously disappeared.

But in spite of the prayers, God didn’t make the cancer go away.  At least, not supernaturally (which I know happens.)  Instead, S/he took me by the shoulders, pointed me towards the fiery furnace, and said, “Go.  Just take one step at a time.  And I will be with you all the way.”

That’s exactly what happened.  With every step I took, God was there  walking with me, never leaving my side and – during some particularly dark moments – carrying me through the flames.  One step.  Then another and another.

Suddenly, 18 months was over.  I made it!

I believe in the power of prayer.  I believe that all prayer is answered, just not necessarily in the form that we think or hope it will be.   Experiencing an immediate deliverance or an unfolding grace for the journey – both are answered prayer and both are miraculous.

Day and night.  Light and Dark.  The Lord created them both and while we may not always understand it, the Dark IS holy.  There are certain things we can learn only by experiencing a Dark Night, as fearsome and lonely and painful and confusing as it might be.  That’s why authentic Shamans are those who have experienced a real and traumatic “death and rebirth” of some type.  Not at all like the New Age folks self-identifying as shamans after taking a few courses, beating a drum, and finding a few hawk feathers.

Learning to accept the dark days of our lives as part of the natural order of things helps relieve some of our suffering.  We come to understand that we aren’t being punished when bad things happen to us – when we suddenly find ourselves face to face with the fire.  We are being called to transform.

In 18 months, I learned to prioritize and simplify my life.  To say “No” where before I said “Yes”.  I learned who my real friends were, and how to care for myself when no one showed up.  I learned to trust “in spite of”….in spite of my fears, in spite of what others had experienced, even in spite of doubt.  My personal spiritual beliefs were honed and sharpened. I know now what I believe in, and WHO I believe in, with a deeper understanding and depth than ever before.  The dross floated to the top and has been skimmed away.

The fire purifies, if we let it.

Every tear I wept was gathered in gentle Hands and kept for safe keeping.  Every time I bowed my head….in weakness or humbleness or fear or worship…those same Hands tenderly smoothed over my hairless head and brought me physical comfort, and an soulful awareness that I wasn’t alone.

And every groan of despair that rose from deep within my belly and broke through lips cracked and blistered was turned into a song of deliverance.

The dark is not to be feared, but revered.  For without the darkness of the night sky, we’d never see the stars.

So.  That’s it! And I have such mixed emotions.  As I turn the page to close one chapter of my life, the blank page of the next is staring me full in the face.  So much has changed, but I’ve never been more ME. I’ve lost much….friends, my job, my old identity…but I’ve gained so much more.

I feel like a new being.  I know that the Next Right Thing will reveal itself to me in due season.  The right people.  The right events.  The right stuff.  Trust in the Divine Plan for my life has never been stronger, forged in the furnace of affliction.

I have walked through the fire and, as promised, made it to the other side unscathed.

To God be the glory.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” – Isaiah 43:2

Inspiration, Life, Love, Relationships, Spirituality, Women, Writing

Hey! Over Here!

OlivettiLong before Social Media, people found their tribes online through chat rooms, online forums and blogging.  And while sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have their place in my life, blogging is still my first love… even if, as with my RL relationship, I don’t spend enough time doing it.

I THINK about it a lot though.  Jeez, I’m a thinker.  An over-thinker, really.  Like other writers, I have a constant stream of dialogue running through my mind. Experiences, quotes, books, animals….everything seems to set off the typewriter in my head to rap-tap-tapping.

Social Media only exasperates this, and not in a good way.  In fact, one of the things I enjoyed the most about my April FB hiatus was that the Voices in my head quieted to a gentle roar.  They were silent, even, at times.  I’m not sure I’d be back there now if it hadn’t been a requirement of my new Habitat For Humanity gig.  In fact, I know I wouldn’t be. After I went through a wee bit of withdrawal, I absolutely loved the quiet.

Learning to ignore distractions has been an ongoing thing for me.  My default, especially during stressful times, is to Check Out in some form or another.  Back in the day, it was drugs, alcohol, sex and spending money.  Oh, and a TON of romance novels – sometimes several a week. (Thank you, Nora Roberts!)

These days, checking out looks more like spending WAY too much time playing some silly game or cruising the Web (aptly named, I’ve always thought, for it’s tendency to snag and trap me).

It’s frightening how much time can be wasted checking email, checking all the Social Media outlets, playing this,  You Tubing that.  Before I know it, an entire morning is gone and I’ve gained what?  A bit of mindlessness and a whole lot of crap in my head?

Time is SO precious!  TOO precious to waste, especially on things and people who don’t matter in the long run.

Whether it’s patience, love, or focus, it seems the only way to master a thing is to be placed in situations where you have to practice it, over and over again – sometimes kicking and screaming.  Forming good habits is like building muscle.  Muscle takes time, persistence and resistance to grow (just ask my wings).

But before that, there has to be a desire to grow.  A willingness to do what it takes.  And, in my case, I have to acknowledge there may be is a little problem.

A decade or so ago, using the Serenity Prayer and the 12-Steps helped me overcome the sex and drug addiction.  The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess, because today – rather than admit I’m powerless over substances – I really need to admit I have ADD:  I am Addicted To Digital Distractions.

Like a person needing to overcome a food addiction while still able to eat in a healthy manner, I need help to overcome ADD and still be able to function in the Digital Age.  I am, after all, a writer and in marketing.  Social Media is an important tool in both fields.

It’s time for some real soul-searching.  Time to uncover the WHAT of it all:  What am I avoiding?  What is the payoff for checking out?  What am I giving up in order to do this?  What I am afraid of?

And – most important of all – what do I need to do to silence the one Voice inside my head that is constantly nagging me to

WRITE THE DAMN BOOK ALREADY

Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.

– Adam Hochschild