PURE JOY

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James1:2-4)

Considering “trials” as pure joy is not as easy as it sounds. Wait a minute, it doesn’t sound easy! It is true that perseverence under difficult circumstances can bring maturity and can strengthen your faith, as well as result in a new appreciation for life in general. It takes a concerted effort, however, to find the joy and not lose faith. A positive attitude is so very important.

There have been days when I have wondered if the decision to have the bone marrow transplant was the right thing to do. It has been a struggle and will be for a while. I am by nature a positive person, but I’d be lying if I said I never felt a bit depressed and tempted to just stay in bed all day. What helps me the most is that there are so many wonderful people praying for me and staying in touch even though they haven’t seen me in person since August of last year. That’s how long I’ve been in treatment; in and out of the hospital. It’s as though I’ve lost the better part of a year. I must be maturing!!!

And, these days, I am feeling stronger and able to do more, including having close friends over for a wee sip, and light dinner. It’s so good to be with loved ones and feel almost normal. I’m not sure I’m at the place where I can consider this “adventure” as “pure joy,” but it has definitely tested my perserverence and faith, and I hope I have passed the test.

Thank you, Lord, for carrying me when I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. Thank you for the fantastic support that I have had from family and friends; God bless them all. Help me to maintain a positive attitude and to finally consider this trial as “pure joy!”

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LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT

“Blow me a kiss across the room;
Say I look nice when I’m not.
Touch my hair as you pass my chair,
Little things mean a lot”

Here is another simple song from the fifties that reminds us how important “little things” are as we relate to friends, family, the loves of our lives. It reminds me of “Bud,” a dear friend who has moved from this life on to better “digs.” Bud always had a little joke to share, or a little piece of paper on which he had written some special greeting or a reminder that everyone needs to be hugged several times every day to maintain good health. He was always ready with a quick smile and a hug and he never failed to brighten my day. The magical power of TOUCH. Touch says so much more than mere words.

“Give me your arm as we cross the street
Call me at six on the dot
A line a day when you’re far away
Little things mean a lot.”

“Don’t have to buy me diamonds or pearls
Champagne, sables or such
I never cared much for diamonds and pearls
‘Cause honestly, honey, they just cost money”

Little expressions of love are generally more meaningful than lavish purchases of diamonds, furs, or other expensive gifts (well, okay, maybe one diamond!) The fact that someone cares enough to hold your hand, or take your arm as you cross the street, call you when he/she says they will, and takes the time to write a note when they are away means so much. When was the last time you actually received a hand-written letter or card expressing love or concern? It’s so much more meaningful than an email because someone actually gave you some of their precious time.

“Give me your hand when I’ve lost my way
Give me your shoulder to cry on
Whether the day is bright or gray
Give me your heart to rely on”

How wonderful it is to have someone who so loves you that you can cry on his/her shoulder when you are in need of a good, cleansing, heart-healthy cry! No need to feel embarrassed or inadequate, just in need. That’s what friends are for.

“Send me the warmth of a secret smile
To show me you haven’t forgot
For always and ever, now and forever
Little things mean a lot”

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of special friends. Thank you for the gift of touch – the ability to feel and express love with a simple touch of the hand. Thank you for loving us so much. Help me to remember that often a touch of the hand means so much more than the words that come so easily from my mouth. Help me to remember that little things mean a lot.

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THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

I grew up in the forties and fifties. Things were very different back then; in some ways better, in other ways not. I am convinced that “today” is the best; yesterday is gone and tomorrow is unpredictable. Nevertheless, it’s fun to compare the differences in lifestyle.

When I was a girl living in Michigan, sodas were called “pop” and my favorite was Faygo redpop. However, we rarely had “pop” and when we did it was a very special treat. Today my grandsons demand their sodas and have them on a regular basis (grandma thinks it’s too much sugar, but then . . . )

Being a large family with a single wage-earner, there wasn’t a lot of money for “extras.” My parents never bought candy and only occasionally ice cream. The only time we had candy was at Halloween when the five of us donned masks and, carrying large paper bags, scoured the neighborhood and the neighboring neighborhoods in order to bring home as much candy as we could possibly procure. Then the candy went up into the cupboard to be distributed by Mom as she saw fit. We never raided that cupboard (well, maybe my brothers did). The candy generally lasted for two or three months.

Eating out was something we never did. We made our own pizza with a box of Chef Boyardee pizza mix which by today’s standards was probably awful, but we liked it. We did bake our own cookies, mostly peanut butter cookies or refrigerator cookies. Mom baked and she was good! She made great bread and cakes and we loved it all.

Warm summer days and evenings found us playing games outside; kick the can, hide and seek, bike riding, role playing, etc. Today, my grandsons spend their free time in front of the TV or computer, playing games with their thumbs. We did watch some TV, but it was relatively non-violent – cowboys vs. Indians, good guy catches bad guy, etc. Seldom did we see a woman assaulted or treated with less than a certain respect – even Gunsmoke’s Madam and saloon keeper, Miss Kitty, was portrayed as a refined woman and treated respectfully.

My siblings and I had to help carry the load at home. Mom never did dishes; she cooked the meals and we had to do the dishes and clean the kitchen. There was no dishwasher! Saturday was “cleaning day” and the entire house was cleaned — this was mostly done by the girls and Mom, the boys helped Dad with the yard work. My grandsons have to be bribed to help with housework and yardwork.

We never went to the doctor (no insurance then) unless we were very sick and the only time I went to the dentist was to have teeth extracted when they became so decayed that the pain was unbearable. Orthodontics was unheard of. Unless you had severe “buck” teeth (pushed forward), you lived with whatever imperfections you had. Today, most kids have braces by the time their twelve.

We didn’t have an automatic washing machine and dryer until I was in my teens which meant we hauled the wringer washer into the kitchen every Monday, filled it with hot water, and washed the clothes. Then they had to be hung out to dry – even in the winter (brr!) We didn’t have “miracle” fabrics then so we had to dampen the dry clothes, roll them up and let them set for a while. Then iron them with a hot iron that probably weighed five pounds.

If you have guessed that I was the oldest, you are right. I believe having so much responsibility as a child probably made me a more responsible adult able to cope with life and it’s ups and downs. I am interested to see how my grandchildren, whose life has been easier in some ways, will cope. In other ways, their life has been more difficult than mine. Too many choices, too many demands from peer groups – drugs, alcohol, etc.

Every generation faces new challenges and enjoys new life-saving and life-easing technology. Yesterday had its advantages and disadvantages; today also. As I said, yesterday is gone, tomorrow is unpredictable, Today is good!

Thank you, Lord, for the blessings of a loving family and the up-bringing that made me who I am. I have been truly blessed. I pray for my children and grandchildren, and the following generations, that one day they can look back and see their lives as blessed.

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

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“I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.”

Yesterday’s post found me looking at the world through dark, negative lenses and so today those glasses come off and are replaced with rose colored lenses which I very much prefer. I find that if I focus my attention on the beauty that surrounds me, the blessings of family and friends, my furry family members, and the ability to appreciate these things, the difficulties encountered are much more easily handled. <a

As some of you know, I have received a stem cell transplant with the hope that it will allow me a few more lovely years of life. Recovering from the transplant is a long and laborious procedure – no fun – but if I am able to stay focused, maintain a positive attitude, I believe my odds for victory over this disease are very much improved. Scripture tells us to be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil.4:4-7) That promise I claim – and it is amazing how the seemingly impossible peace fills my heart.

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“I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.”

“The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you.”

How different this is from yesterday – “They’re really saying I love you.” Such a simple song, but filled with so much hope and joy. This is how we should see our world but all too often our sight is blinded by self interest, fear and/or anger.
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“I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.”

It can be a “wonderful world” depending on what you choose to see. I choose beauty and truth. I choose to see friends I love, children and grandchildren, pets, birds, squirrels, lovely painted skies, roses, trees, and you.

Thank you, Lord, for so much beauty and joy to fill my heart and fill me with a peace that absolutely passes all understanding. You have, indeed, created a wonderful world.

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LET THERE BE PEACE (SIMPLE SONGS)

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God as our father, Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.”

Simple words, simple melody, profound meaning. Why is it so hard for human beings to live together peaceably, accepting, even embracing the differences? Someone once said to me that human beings are “despicable.” I find it hard to reconcile the fact that we were all created in the image of God and “God is Love,” while at the same time recognizing the reality that much of the time “human beings can be despicable!”

We can be the most despicable when we are afraid. Fear it seems is a stronger motivator than love. Perhaps it is our basic instinct for self-preservation which often misleads us into inappropriate and destructive behavior patterns. Our need to protect ourselves is sometimes out of proportion to the actual danger. Often the “danger” is as basic as penetrating our sense of “safe haven.”

I picture myself standing in the middle of a circle that I have drawn. I’m comfortable in that circle; let’s call it my
comfort zone.” Into my circle, I welcome folks who look like me, talk like me, and have similar beliefs. They are non- threatening. Others, outside of my circle, may have darker skin, speak a different language, have different religious beliefs, dress differently, etc. They seem threatening because they suggest change . . . and I am not particularly comfortable with change.

Change is difficult; it threatens my “status quo” and it suggests that I must step out of my comfort zone. However, If I want to grow; if I want to be able to live peaceably in the world and not just in my “safe haven”, it is necessary to step outside the comfort zone and test the waters. I must be willing to open my heart and mind to those who are different from me. But more than that, I must be willing to embrace the differences and determine whether the danger is real or imagined.

After 9/11, we became a nation strangled by our fear and so angry that we lost sight of the fact that we actually can live peaceably with our brothers and sisters if we will only make the effort to do that instead of flexing our muscles, spreading fear and hatred, and forgetting how to love. Yes, yes, I hear you . . . there are folks in the world who hate us and would destroy us if they could. That is a reality, but it simply is not every person who looks different, speaks different, dresses different, worships different an so on.

I believe that God intended us to love one another . . . why is it so hard? Why do we allow fear mongering to confine us to our little comfort zone, causing us to be fearful and angry and hateful. We need to try a little harder to be more God-fearing and less people-fearing.

Thank you, Lord, for loving us and having patience with us as we stumble through life trying to do what’s right and often failing. Forgive us for not loving enough.

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SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW

Somewhere over the rainbow, Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow; Why then, oh why can’t I?

I guess humans have wished they could fly since the first time they watched a bird fly overhead. Haven’t you? Just to be able to flap your wings and rise up free of the earth’s pull, catch a thermo and float along watching the craziness below. Birds can; why, then, oh why can’t we???

Far be it from me to question the Almighty’s reasoning, just wish we could have been given wings. Perhaps when we leave this world, we’ll receive our wings and be able to experience first hand the thrill of free flight. After all, angels have wings so they say.

Being home (from the hospital) is a little like free flight (grin). No longer attached to IV’s, and confined to a room with barely enough room to move about, with sleep interrupted every little bit to check “vitals” or administer platelets or blood or super-duper meds (all of which seems to have to be done in the middle of the night) – home is so good!

I do have to report to the Cancer Clinic three times a week to have blood drawn, receive platelets, blood, meds, etc. and this usually takes anywhere from four to seven hours, but then I get to go home. I’m not allowed to drive yet, so I have to depend on family and friends to bring me in the morning and pick me up when I’m finished. I am truly blessed with so many people willing to help out.

So, since I can’t fly free yet, I can enjoy my freedom from “incarceration” anyway and give thanks for the fact that I’m doing better and looking forward to complete healing in the future.

Thank you, Lord, for family and friends who care so much. Thank you for the wonderful medical staff and modern medicine which makes it possible for those of us fighting Leukemia to look forward to life! Thank you, Lord for your faithfulness and love. Thank you for birds that exhibit just one little aspect of the wonder of your creation and fill our hearts with joy and hope.

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SIMPLE SONGS

“It’s a lovely day today. So whatever you have to do, it’s a lovely day to do it in, that’s true. So, if you have something that must be done and it can only be done by one, there is nothing more to say. Except, it’s a lovely day for sayin’ It’s a lovely day.”

Another simple song, simple melody, and after probably 50 years, these words and the melody stick in my head. Perhaps I have a simple brain! But the reason it comes to mind today is that it is a lovely day inspite of the fact that the sky is filled with heavy grey clouds that seem to promise rain. We desparately need the rain and I would welcome it.

But the reason it’s a particularly lovely day today for me, is that I am going home from the hospital to enjoy watching it rain from my wicker chair on the lanai. And if it doesn’t rain, then I will watch the grass grow a little browner and not be bothered. I will watch the hummer as it flits about and protects its territory; I will watch and listen to the Carolina Wren as it feeds and cares for it’s babies; I’ll watch the mockingbird valiantly attack the red shouldered hawk that threatens the mockingbirds young ones; I’ll watch the Baltimore Oriole as it sits on the hummingbird feeder and sucks out the sugar water. It’s a lovely day today! I hope it’s a lovely day for you, as well.

Thank you, Lord, for music that fills my head and my heart, and for my lovely home and the beauty that surrounds it, and for my continuing journey toward good health. You are my rock and my redeemer!

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