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

I’m Moving

Almost exactly 3 years ago to the day, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

At the time, it seemed this news – and the 18 month healing journey I would have to undergo – was the end of the world.  And, in many ways, it was.   I was physically, emotionally, and spiritual stripped to the bone and then some.  The pieces of my life fell dead to the ground, bit by bit,  along with my hair.  I lost so much… my career, friends, a sense of self…All swept away.

And during the blackest hours, I lost hope that I would survive.  All I had to hold onto, literally, was the promise of better days – a better LIFE – as I kept my eyes on Jesus.

Fast forward to today.   I am a happy, healthy Stay-At-Home Grandma, carpooling my grandson back and forth to school, drum lessons, karate, and Brain Balance.  I take long morning walks in the park that make my soul sing, and spend as much time in the garden as my fingernails can handle.  My husband and I, our marriage renewed as well, are members of a loving and supportive church family where we are making new friends and are in community with people who believe like we do.

This past December I was accepted into the Master Food Preservers Program, offered through UC Davis Extension, and classes started last week.  I am back in school learning and practicing another of my interests – home canning and food preservation – while having the opportunity to make  even more new friends.  I also get to volunteer at local farms, farmers markets, the OC Fair, and more.

Next week, I’ll start my part time job working through Tax Season (February – April) in a local CPA’s office while HomeBoy is at school.   Last year when I did this,  I REALLY enjoyed not only the work but the people, so when they invited me to come back again, I didn’t hesitate to say, “When do I start!?!”

This morning I’ll be heading out to attend a workshop entitled “Craft Your Creative Vision For 2018”, and then get my hair done.  (YES, it grew back and YES, I am blonde again! :) ).  I’m looking forward to hearing what the instructor has to say, and how I can take things to the next level because frankly, they are pretty awesome right now.  But, greedy wench that I am, I’ll take MORE of the good stuff any day!

The life I live today, this life of freedom, joy, creativity, renewed faith and new friendship, wasn’t something I could “see” 3 year ago. But it was THERE, waiting for me, just as God promised it would be.  All I had to do was take one day at a time, keep the faith,  keep moving and remember:

It Ain’t Over Yet

Daily Inspiration, Inspiration, Life, Love, Relationships, Spirituality, Women

Things That Go Green In The Night

All Who Wander Are Not Lost

I suppose you know you’re a true fanatic when you find yourself outside at 5 a.m. watering and talking to the Mother of Thousands, who – quite synchronistically – has (finally) found “her” place in the garden.  And because she’s home, she thrives.

Ever since I’ve been on my own (it was 1976, after hastily marrying a professional surfer with a penchant for women, waves and weed), I’ve always had something green  to tend to.

In those early years, it was Pothos, Spider Plants and Wandering Jews in hand-thrown pots and beaded macrame hangers.  They could be found hanging in the bathroom, kitchen or – if I was lucky – outside on the patio.

It also wasn’t unusual to find weed growing in one of those same spaces, only minus the macrame.  I can still smell the buds, red haired and stinking up the air.

Yum.

As I matured and my home (along with my family) became a little larger, there were simple outdoor plants to care for:  A 50- year-old Camilla, rambling white roses along a fence, or a few pretty annuals.  Fortunately , watering and  the occasional trim is always enough to keep a low maintenance yard looking nice.  And a nice looking yard makes me happy.

Finding my Happy Place out in nature isn’t something unusual.  There are hundreds of thousands – millions! – of us out there.  We recognize each other by the slight green tinge to our fingers and a bit of dirt under a nail we missed.  People garden for all kinds of reasons and I do so for many.  One of the important ones? I hear God in the Garden.

With the sun warming my back,  perhaps on my knees bent over something in my hands, I often hear that Still Small Voice – the voice of the Divine.

I heard it again this morning as I was futzing in the yard.  I find myself instinctively in a “Spring Cleaning Mode” these days, even though we are well into Fall.  Oh, how I love this time of year.  It at once energizes me and breaks my heart – in a good way.  For some reason, I am particularly tender this time of year.  Things move me. And with the Season of Thanksgiving almost upon us, I find myself breaking out in spontaneous bouts of gratitude…many times, with tears streaming down my cheeks.  2017 has shaped up to be an amazing year, albeit not without it’s challenges.  I’ve experienced SO many answered prayers.  Prayers about the important things like faith, family, connection and healing.

This is also a season of LETTING GO.  And THAT is what the Voice was talking about.

I quit my job yesterday.  I’ve been there 6 months and just simply couldn’t bear it a moment longer.  This morning I woke up free from the pain and discomfort I’ve had in my head and neck for weeks.  It’s just GONE.   SO not a coincidence.  And the symbology isn’t missed.  That job has been a pain in my neck for months.  Thankfully, through an amazing set of  circumstances, it is over and I’m yet again amazed at the wisdom held in the soft animal of my body.  She KNOWS, intuitively and intelligently, what is best for me.  She speaks to me in pain and peace.  Her wisdom is true.

Not only am I pain free, but I can’t wipe the smile off my face.  PEACE  flows through my veins like a river, and joy bubbles up like a spring.   It’s a time for me to be (re)planted at home, tending my family and my garden, waiting for the New Great Adventure to arrive.  Like my Mother of Thousands plants, all it took was a SHIFT to different location to begin to thrive.

With a sigh of relief and a heart in overflow, I can say with all certainty…..

It is well with my Soul.

Inspiration

Uncovering The Gift

I’ve been staring at it for years.

I see it while sitting at the little table in our kitchen where I have my quiet time with God, writing and praying, crying and thinking…you know, doing Life.

Even though hidden by a tan cloth cover, I can see it anyway.  It was something I coveted and longed for, for years: A brand new black and chrome Artisan Kitchen Aid mixer. I bought it one birthday about 5 years ago.  Initially, I stored it on top of our maple hutch while waiting to move somewhere that had more than the postage stamp sized counter space the 800 sq. ft. Craftsman we were living in provided.

4 years ago this month, we moved into just that sort of space. The Kitchen Aid, however, has remained hidden under tan fabric on the top of the hutch where it’s served as a book end for my collection of vintage cookbooks.  A very expensive, guilt producing bookend.

That is, until yesterday.

Thinking back on it now, I am again filled with awe at how God works in my life.  Waking at 1:11 a.m., I made my way to the coffee maker and the table.  From years of experience I know when I’m not going to be able to get back to sleep, and I have no problem doing “whatever” comes to mind in those pre-dawn hours. My mother’s life has taught me many things.  One is, don’t push against the insomnia.  Don’t fight it and bitch about it.  Embrace it.  Make it work FOR you, not against you. There are reasons for getting up while other’s are sleeping, and many (if not most) of them are sacred.

They are Holy Hours.

You would think that after so many years of being the recipient of Just In Time answers to prayer, worry wouldn’t wake me in the middle of the night.  But it does, and it did, and so I knew a a Mind Dump was needed…. the writing out of my concerns into my journal that always brings relief (and often, answers).

I write a bit, sip coffee, stare at the tan lump on top of the hutch, at the vintage dishes stored inside it, at my cook books and cooking accoutrements.  I REALLY should bring The Lump down and uncover it.  I REALLY should use it or sell it. (a familiar refrain for months).

For whatever reason, yesterday was the day and at 2:30 a.m., after rearranging items on the counter top to create space, I climb onto a chair and surprise myself at being able to lift the damn thing from so high up because it’s weighty.  Brushing away cobwebs and snatching the cover off, my breath catches.

KAOh my God, it’s SO beautiful!  So shiny and perfect. How did I not do this before? Why did I wait so long?

Not only does it fit perfectly in it’s new home, the things on top of the hutch are arranged in a more pleasing way as well.  A domino effect of order and attractiveness ensued, and with it, a sense of relief mixed with import in the moment.

The word “Artisan” catches my eye….black lettering on stainless steel….tugging at my soul strings, trying to get my attention.

It’s symbolic, isn’t it,  this lovely, costly tool that’s been covered up, unused and forgotten?  It’s something about me.  My life.

My gift.

I sit back down to pray and write some more. 3 pages in, I find myself writing about writing.  Recalling a time when I was in an inspired and prolific flow, when words literally poured out of me, I relived the sense of satisfaction from being in my purpose felt as I heard from people who were touched after reading me.  They didn’t feel so alone, somehow.  They felt understood.  WE felt understood, my audience and I together.

And then I remembered when that wellspring of creativity stopped, why it stopped, and who stopped it.

Ugh.

In the decade since, I’ve never again been in that sort of inspired flow.   Did I decide I would be punished like before if I “went there”?  That I would be hurt? Scribbling furiously, I continued along this line of self questioning…

Did I subconsciously BLOCK the flow in order to protect myself from feeling pain and frustration?  Is there something in me that wants to be expressed?

IS THERE A BOOK INSIDE ME THAT WANTS TO BE WRITTEN? THAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ?  (all caps now)

…..Yes.

(ok, that wasn’t me….I keep writing….)

What’s it about?

.….Not giving up….

(huh.  yeah, well, I guess I do know something about that)

Is it fiction or non fiction?

….Nonfiction….

(whew.  I’m not so great at making things up.)

Who is my audience?

….Women Who Want More….

More what?

…. Hope, inspiration, understanding, fulfillment, guidance….

….. GRACE

And that’s when I am given the title.

I am stunned.  I think God just showed up.  For reals.

As I ponder all this, and the direction it was going – how this idea connects to that passion that connects with something else creative I started last year – I found myself grabbing a pencil and sketching in my journal.   It’s the Kitchen Aid mixer.  The sketching itself feels like a meditation as I sip coffee, adjust lines, and think about, well, what just happened.

It’s about 4:30 when I get it where I want it and write the title underneath it.

And just like that, I see it.  Literally.  Ideas start filling my head.   Excitement and inspiration course through me.  I run to the back office and pull out my project from last Winter.  I am amazed at how the disjointed pieces of half finished work and a dream left for dead start fitting together – like a puzzle. It was all right here, the whole time, just waiting to be uncovered. The Plan.  HIS plan.

I know what to do.

“I am the Lord Your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”  –  Isaiah 48:17

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