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Sweet Sam Moment

This morning I had a sweet moment. I snuggled with my grandson as I rubbed his little back and hummed the same tune I had sung to his mama as a baby. My grandson. Those two words still fall awkwardly from my lips. When I say them, I still feel as if I’m practicing words that are not yet real to me. He’s been here for over ten months and I’ve kept him three days a week since August and still I’m surprised that I am a grandmother. I often think of my Mamaw Bessie when I am holding him close. She had such a kind and gentle spirit. I remember the softness of her skin and the safeness I felt when she hugged me or I just sat next to her resting my face against her shoulder. As I held him and took in the sweetness of his eyelashes resting on his cheek, I continued to softly rub his back and pat his bottom. Without opening his eyes he slid his free arm up my arm and rubbed it slowly back and forth, then rested it there and slowly patted my arm. What a treasured moment of love. He is my grandson, my first precious grand baby and I love him so much.

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Radiating

So we’ve reached another hurdle to jump in this cancer journey. Radiation. It started with a doctor appointment on December 13th. We heard many new medical terms and explanations of radiation procedures. We were again in information overload, but, we left confident that this would be the final kick in the butt of this cancer that has been an uninvited visitor in our lives for the past nine months. It took the programmers, physicist, doctor and who knows who else a month to configure and calculate the big radiation machine (I’m assuming it is a big machine at this point but have not seen it). All this for 22 prescribed visits of 15 minutes of a laser type of radiation to be precisely shot into my big guys body, carefully dodging his kidney, aorta, pancreas and spine while basically frying the shrunken mass. Literally from entering the room to walking out of the building only takes 15 minutes! I am praying they clearly have that mass in their sight before they pull the trigger. I am sitting in the car right now waiting, looking at Springhill Hospital and thinking about how much time we have spent at this facility over the past months and feeling thankful that God created people who have the knowledge necessary to treat people who have been shocked by the word “cancer”. God is so good. I am not oblivious to the countless sweet people who are still struggling for answers and successful treatment. I am thankful He has walked every step with us and blanketed us in peace and the security He is with us. I am thankful that Lynn’s treatment seems to be working. I will never take our time together for granted, and will continually thank Him for letting me grow old with my big guy.

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Cancer Part 2

We are waiting….yet again. Cancer is not only a life altering experience in the life of the patient and their loved ones, but it’s a game of waiting….always. Waiting for diagnosis. Waiting for tests to be done. Waiting for diagnosis. Waiting for a treatment plan. Waiting for results. Today we are waiting for yet another CT scan so the radiologist can them create a formula of treatment for radiation. In theory, we think this will be easier than the last eight months, but we are no longer hanging our hopes on unrealistic expectations. It will take a week for them to do their thing and program the monster radiation machine that will shoot pin pointed radiation into my big guys body. Then, according to the consultation…a month ago….he will take 20-23 treatments that last 15 minutes (I find this hard to believe) and will happen Monday through Friday until he reaches the prescribed number between twenty and twenty-three.

Sometimes it feels like this cancer journey started yesterday and other times it feels like it has been going on forever. I wonder if we’ll ever get past life with cancer. Will we be able to walk through each day without the “what if” of cancer imprinted on our subconscious? Will the affects of the last year of life’s storms ever slip away and return to normal? I hope so.

answers, cancer, friends, God, Life, Love, People, promises, Uncategorized

PET SCAN Day

Well. Today’s the day. We’ve come full circle in this cancer journey as we sit waiting, in a room full of other cancer victims, to have another PET SCAN. This one even more important than the last. This one will tell us the cancer is gone….or not. But our gut feeling is this cancer monster has been conquered! Our lives have revolved around that frightening “C” word for seven months. 2018 will be our year of woes that was filled with blessings. 2018 will be our year of victory over cancer. I am not as anxious or feel like a deer in headlights this time. I am not afraid. My big guy has faced this giant with courage, with determination, with soldier like strength and I believe he will walk away a conquerer. Some say they are cancer survivors, but i think they should call themselves cancer conquerors! Fighting this beast is an all out battle both physically and mentally! God has sustained us and will continue to sustain us. He is worthy to be trusted. He will hold you up when you feel you are crumbling. He will provide when you aren’t sure where it will come from. He will send one of His children to wrap loving arms around you or to hold your hand and let you cry. He will provide humor to get through difficult moments and He is faithful to walk every step with you. I knew this before….but I am absolutely certain of it now. I trust Him…..no matter the outcome of today.

escape, Uncategorized

The Armstrong Saga Continues

So the Armstrong saga continues. Today I sit here in our recliner, right leg propped up and iced down while watching Alabama beat Ole Miss. Yes, I am recovering from partial knee replacement…..and just so you know, it’s no joke. I had unrealistic expectations of walking unassisted and already returning to my regular routine. No. The bandage is off, I can see the approximate four inch incision with pieces of tape on each end mocking me. The knee is still pretty stiff and I haven’t achieved a 90 degree knee bend yet. My right hip is complaining, so while I ice down the knee, I heating pad the hip😳😭.

I have discovered a few things about myself: I am not a patient patient. Not necessarily with others, but with my own progress. I really expected to be moving more freely at this point (9 days in). I do not handle pain meds very well. I tend to get weepy and depressed. Not a good combo with my lack of patience with myself. And I have an amazing family who takes care of me and puts up with my issues (I hope), and great friends who sacrifice in their own lives to help us out! Shout out to Keith Bradley and his mad a/c skills and servant heart. And a special shout out to my dear friend of 37 years, Dottie Hartley, who stayed with me the night before surgery and got up at 3:45am to get ready to get me to surgery by 5:00am because Lynn was already in Springhill taking chemo. Speaking of Lynn, I love this man. Even though he’s in the first week after chemo, he’s been taking care of me, amazing. I do so much better when he’s babying me and holding my hand.Our lives are crazy, but the love of our family and friends is stronger!! I’ve said this repeatedly over the last few months, and I still shout it loudly, God is sovereign, God is faithful and He will walk us through this season.

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The Cancer Journey Continues

Today. Today is the day we find out if this cancer journey is coming to an end. We are waiting patiently in a room filled with other cancer patients who are in various stages of treatment. They joke with each other about whether they are doing good or not….as Lynn said to the elderly man next to him “Well, I guess I’m not doing too great if I’m here, right!”. The older man laughed a deep and crackly laugh. Blood pressure has been taken, more blood samples taken and now waiting for the doctor and the verdict. Fingers crossed and prayers flying up. It’s been a long three and a half months. If the subject had come up a year ago of where we would be in a year…THIS would never have been even been on the radar! But I will say this, this experience has given us first hand experience with the love and concern of God’s people and of God’s provision. We have re-evaluated our future and are choosing to simplify life as much as possible, to gather with friends more, to enjoy every time we are together with family and to reach out and love on others who may be experiencing the same unexpected illness.

This year has been probably the most difficult beginning with December of 2017. …

So the verdict is in. The mass has shrunk from 9.8cm down to 6.4cm. Yay! However,not enough to only have 2 more treatments. Lynn will have 4 more including the one starting today. We are a bit discouraged….we were hoping to be nearly done with this cancer journey. So dear sisters and brothers, don’t stop encouraging my big guy….he’s a bit weary and is trying to keep a positive front. But I know he was hoping. Hoping for a miraculous “it’s all gone” result. He’s been so strong and positive, but it’s been nearly 4 months of tests and needles and chemo and stays in the hospital and losing his hair and now his signature eyebrows 😁. He wants to move forward. We know God has a purpose in this, we know He is with us, we know He is sovereign. We don’t like this journey, this season, but we’ll walk it clinging to faith. Not faith in our own strength, but in His.

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I Cried Yesterday…..

I cried yesterday. If you know me, you know I don’t do that a lot. It came out of nowhere. Completely unexpected. I have fought back the tears for a month….trying to be positive, encouraging and strong. Strong for Lynn, strong for my girls and strong for me. One word from my friend, which I can’t even recall what that word was right now, and the tears welled up and spilled down my cheeks. She quickly closed the door to her office and pulled a chair up next to me and took my hand in hers. She let me cry and try to get out the words that I had been pushing back for some time. She listened and held my hand tightly in hers, then gently rubbing it between her hands, it was comforting and personal and needed. Then she began to softly speak truth to me. I felt the flood of emotion begin to relax and recede. I felt my spirit fill with peace and my heart stopped aching. I knew everything she said was truth and was whispered to me in love. I felt myself breathing normally and I knew I was going to be okay. I trust God, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have to deal with fear. I don’t have to be strong all the time. I believe in His sovereignty and I know that He walks with us through whatever is part of His plan for our lives. We are not alone. We might not “see” Him, but He is with us in the hug of a friend, He is in the sweet whispers of encouragement, He is in the contagious laughter of my girls when they are together, He is in the warm meal brought to my door, He is in the beautiful sunset that takes away your breath, He is in the smile of my precious man-cub, He is in the quiet as I sit with my sweet husband finally sleeping quietly in His recliner, He is in the kindness of a friend riding by to see if our grass needs cutting, He is in the warm laughter of dear friends as we share breakfast, He is in the words of a song at the right moment, He is in the profound words of Psalm 46 as it reminds me that He has already won the battle and He is with me.

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I can run, but I can’t hide!

Today as I drove to work lost in my thoughts, only half listening to the Christian music station playing in the background, some of the words interrupted my thoughts, “You are not alone….”.  I immediately thought of the scripture I had read on Saturday as I prepared my lesson for my Bible Study class I teach on Sunday morning.  “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away. You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know! I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.  I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are both alike to you.” Psalm 139:1-12.  I am blown away by these verses!  Aren’t you?  Just think about this revelation for a moment.  The God of the universe, the creator of EVERYTHING, the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God is attentive to you…to me!  There is no place we can go, that He is not there with us!  Even into that pit you take yourself, where you think you are destined to live out your life…NOPE!….He’s there.  When I’m walking through life, and everything seems chaotic, NOPE!…He’s there!  When I’m laying in my bed at night, darkness surrounding me, only the sound of my husband’s breathing can be heard and I replay the day, trying to figure out how to make ends meet….NOPE!  He’s there too!  When I am alone and disappointed over something or someone….NOPE!  He’s right there too!  Recently I listened as someone prayed in church service asking God to reveal His presence….I was thinking, “Silly man, He’s already here!”  The truth is this….we don’t acknowledge the truth that He is ALWAYS with us!  We ignore His presence, run from His presence, look somewhere else for His presence, but according to these verses, His presence is already with us!   We want fireworks, rushing wind or a pillar of smoke…not just His presence.  He will not slap us in the back of the head and say “I’m right here stupid!”  He waits for us to acknowledge He is there….I truly believe that.  It’s in those moments that we stop, breathe in the truth that He is right there with us, that we “feel” His blanket-like presence wrap around us.  I love that He is not chasing us around like a little kid trying to get their parent’s attention, but He’s there, always there.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He’s looking ahead, checking out our path that He has prepared for us, He knows the words that are about to come from our mouths – even when they may not be pleasing to Him or glorify Him – He still knows.  The idea that He would still place His hand upon our heads in blessing is just too big to comprehend!  That is unconditional love, people!  He knows my thoughts.  That is just frightening!   I know what goes on inside my head, no one would want to be there!  But He knows…  He is there to lift my head when I am weary, He is there to comfort me when I am heartbroken, He is there to hold me when I am afraid, He is there to push me forward when I need encouragement to go on, there is absolutely no place I can hide from or be lost from Him.  We just have to acknowledge He is there to benefit from being in His presence… So, today, sitting there looking at this computer screen, reading my silly blog (which I appreciate, by the way!), close your eyes for a moment, and just breathe.  Acknowledge that He is with you!  Allow His presence to fill you and wrap around you like a warm blanket.  I promise, you will feel it and you will be overwhelmed by Him. 

Laughter, Life, People, Uncategorized, Writing

Who am I? Who are you?

Who am I?  Or who do people think I am?  I ask myself that sometimes and ponder deeply who I am and what I am here for, or I wonder what people really think of me.  I wonder myself sometimes about other people.  Who are they really?  Have I just determined who I think they are because of their actions or their relationship to me or what they tell me?  Do I look beyond the chatter and actions and see the person behind the mask.  Because believe me, people wear masks!   I am beginning to believe that I do not really know anyone!  I only know the person they want me to see, the person they present to me. Which brings me back to my to my first two questions of who am I or who do people think I am.  Better yet, who is the person I let people think I am.  Complicated, huh!  We seem to present a different persona to different people, depending on the environment and situation.  It’s true!  We want people to like us.  We want people to respect us. There are those rare individuals who are the same, whether at work, home, church or at play.  But, I think they are rare.  I want to be that person.  And I think I am that person.  But I can’t be certain.

Among believers, the people who I worship with, the people who I see several times a week at church whether in worship or in service, the people who have been walking this walk of faith with me for years, these people are the people I seem to be most susceptible to believe they are who they say they are.  But, I am wrong.  It has a deeply disturbing effect on me when it turns out they aren’t who they say they are!  I chew on it for days!  I lay awake at night searching through memories trying to figure out how I could be so gullible!  I ponder on how they could go in a direction that is so contrary to the words I heard from their mouths over the years and I try to figure out a plan of action to bring them to their senses!  I waver between getting them alone and talking sense into them or throwing a bag over their heads, taking them to a secluded location and beating some sense into them!  But, sadly, that is not my job.  How do I know that, God told me so!  I can’t fix everything.  He can use me but I can’t make them change their path.  That stinkin’ free will thing always gets in the way!!!  But God knew what He was doing when He created us this way, and I don’t want to go second guessing the Creator!

But seriously brothers and sister in the faith, be who you really are!  Quit trying to fake people out!  Quit trying to play some stinking Shell Game where we have to pick the right shell to see the real you!!!  Life is hard enough in this world without having to be suspicious of every person calling themselves a Christian.  If you are a Christian, you should walk, talk, act and make decisions like a person who believes the ENTIRE Word of God, not just the parts that are convenient.

Who am I?  I hope when you answer that question you would say “Dana is a woman who believes every Word in the Bible.  She loves the Lord with all her heart.  And she tries as hard as she can to live a life that honors Him.  She is loyal.  She is compassionate.  She is merciful. (no snickers from anyone!).  She speaks her mind sometimes when she should be quiet and ponder. If you don’t want her real opinion, don’t ask her.  She is fierce when it comes to her family, her children, her friends and the students she teaches.  She tends to be self-condemning, but she knows it and is working on that.  She believes people can turn around and do great things for God.  She believes people can make a difference in other’s lives and in this dark world.  She tries to see the positive, but is sometimes anxious and overwhelmed by the ugliness of this world, but likes to reclaim the truth that GOD IS IN CONTROL!  She wants to make a difference in this world but is not always certain as to how that looks for her.  She is sometimes unrealistic. (but thanks to her loving husband of 23 yrs she has learned to overcome some of that) She believes in marriage between one man and one woman (it’s in the BOOK people, read it).  She believes there is a positive side to everything (except sin).  She loves family vacations with her hubby & 3 girls with no fussing!  She believes we are all called by God to do something specific.  She gets more frustrated with believers who know right and do wrong than she does with lost people who do wrong.  She struggles with wanting everyone to like her and believing that most people don’t.  She struggles with feeling like she is invisible.  She gets mad at herself when she does the right thing even when she doesn’t want to do the right thing. (what is that about!)  She hates being overweight, and hates that as hard as she tries she just can’t lose the weight.  She wants to be a published writer, but thinks it will never happen.  She does not struggle with “gray areas” contrary to some peoples opinion (because you guys, there aren’t really that many gray areas).  But I hope people would mostly say, she is not a fake.

So, friends, if you are still with me and still reading, ask yourself the same questions.  And if you are really brave, and want to know what other people think about you, ask me, I’ll probably tell you.

Laughter, Life, People, Uncategorized, Writing

So…I was reading through old posts and old short stories I have written and found my self amused, and yes, empowered by this story I wrote a year ago….Please comment if you read!

Coolness Does Not Always Trump Experience!

I have observed that people are not really interested.  Interested in what, you are probably asking at this point.  I am beginning to believe, that in general, people aren’t really interested in other people.  I spent 4 days last fall at a National Youth Workers Conference, in which our small band of youth workers were jumbled together with some 8,000 other youth workers and youth pastors from across the nation.  After congregating together in the “big room” for worship and a speaker, we quickly dispersed to various seminars on a myriad of subjects.  We tried to spread ourselves throughout the seminars in order to gather as much information and knowledge as possible.  I found myself in a couple of classes alone, well not alone, but sitting among strangers.  I had tried hard to read name tags as people passed me in the convention center and in the classrooms, curious to see where all these people who must love working with students were traveling from to learn more about ministering to youth.  I noticed that we band of eleven from the heart of the south, the belt buckle of the Bible belt, were in the minority.  Most people seemed to hail from the north and west to California, then the East Coast, and a large group of mid-westerners.  I tried engaging some people in conversation by asking “Where are you from?” and usually I was given a short, quick answer.  I started to think my southern twang was hindering our ability to converse.  As I sat in one seminar, the instructor asked us to turn to the person sitting next to us and give three words that described our Middle School experience.  I shuddered inwardly, not wanting to remember those three years of torment.  I glanced at the young woman sitting one chair away from me, waiting for her to glance toward me to follow our instructions.  She continued to look forward for a moment, and then slowly looked toward my southern (albeit awkward) smiling face.  I saw her forehead give just a slight crinkle as if she was suppressing the urge to frown.  With no expression, other than the brief crinkling of her perfect brow, she uttered three words in a distinct Midwest accent, “They were great.”  Then she turned her face back toward the speaker, never waiting for my response.  Was she trying to be amusing, I wondered?  Did she misunderstand the assignment? I sat there staring at the side of her perfect face, examining her perfect make-up, her perfect long thick hair twisted into a perfect bun and clipped with some chic hair accessory.  She wore a long dark fitted top with a gray lightweight coat and one of those wonderful scrunchy scarfs that only people with long necks can pull off.  Her long legs were crisscrossed and covered in dark tights and riding boots.  Her arms were crossed across her waist, adding to her air of superiority.  I was 49 years old and this 30 something young woman had just dismissed me.  Her body language and actions revealed her apparent belief that the activity was beneath her or that communication with me was unnecessary.  I was still disturbed by her response and by the fact that if you stood the two of us before a group of teenagers, she would be their obvious choice among the younger generation.  She was young and hip (that word alone ages me!), she was tall and shapely (I am not), she was beautiful, she seemed educated, for all accounts she was visually more appealing than myself.  I could see the scenario play out in my mind.  She would be surrounded by giggling girls and hormonal teenage boys.  I would be left standing alone, rejected and cast off.  I shook my head, clearing the scene from my mind.  I became determined not to be ignored.  I had worked with youth for over 20 years in many different aspects.  I had seen and heard things that would have left this young woman speechless.  I had held the hand of many a crying teenage girl as she blubbered about a broken heart.  I had been roused in the middle of the night by a phone call from a student to come and pick them up or just because they wanted to talk.  I had endured sleepless nights at camp and retreats and the most feared – lock-ins!  I had had my house rolled and forked so many times that at one point I had decided to leave the yard décor left by students to make it easier for the next go around.  My car had been painted and saran wrapped on many occasion – no small feat when you drive a mini-van!  I had convinced many a student to come clean with their parents over secrets they were keeping or to reveal an unplanned pregnancy.  I had prayed over and with students about small and big decisions as they looked forward to life after high school.    I had taught the truths of God’s Word to every age from 12 to 18.  I had earned my stripes and the sprinkle of gray that was shining in my auburn hair!  I was not going to be discounted as some short, fat old lady trying to be cool by attending a youth leader’s conference.  I smiled my most charming southern smile and tapped the young woman on her shoulder.  She slowly turned her face toward me annoyed that I was trying to engage.  “Excuse me; I am sure you were wondering what three words I would use to describe my middle school experience.  And yes, in my day, it was called junior high, but nevertheless it was middle school.  The three words I would use to describe that time are Challenging, Abstruse and Empowering.”  I smiled at her again and turned my attention toward the speaker who had resumed her lecture.  I felt the young woman still staring at me but mustered up the most pensive expression I could and pretended to be engrossed in the speaker’s content.  I felt a sense of victory at having trumped her aloof manner.  She might be young and pretty, but I was old and experienced!