Monday, July 25, 2011

Beginning Again -- for the 756th time!

It’s been just about two years since my oncologist gingerly approached the subject saying, “Have you ever thought about a diet?” You just don’t know, Dr. Happy, that diet has been the number one, central thought of my life since high school!!!! And now, since that awkward day two years ago, he has made my life just plain old miserable. There hasn’t been a single moment of my life where I am not bargaining, “I’ll start again tomorrow,” giving up, starting again, crabby at the grocery store, crabby at what I cook --- crabby if it’s diet because I don’t like it, crabby if it’s NOT diet because I’m off the diet. There’s no happy here. Two years of no happy, no progress, no nothing.

I have lost some, don’t get me wrong. When I began my cancer journey, I was sooooooo heavy, and I managed to lose about 40 pounds during that time. And in the past two years, I’ve lost about another 50. Not too bad sounding when you look at it like that. But I need to lose about another 100!!!!! And the past 6 months have been a total standstill, in fact, I’ve gained a few and it’s got me scared.

So here I am, beginning again. For the 756th time of my life. My doctor highly recommended the Weight Watcher’s plan. Since I am such a hermit, I did join the online program just to check out the plan, get an idea of what the point system was, etc. I’m a little leery about the “all you can eat veggies and fruit” thing, but the rest seems doable for me. I’ve been sticking to this now since Tuesday, and so far, 3 pounds have come off. It’s something!

Why does this have to be such a hassle for me? Food addictions are so hard, because we just have to eat, don’t we? And it’s sooooooo “acceptable” in society. No one hauls you off to rehab because you overate and went off your diet. The police don’t bust you for filling your grocery cart with all the wrong stuff. And people would NEVER think of agreeing with you if you complained about being fat and needing to lose weight. Yet, I think I struggle as much as any addict does with alcohol or drugs. I have all my bargaining chips, excuses, hiding places, etc.

And so. . . . I fell. . . But I get up again . . . And again. . . And again!!!!! And I put one foot in front of the other and look at the top of my mountain and plug on forward.

My house of overflowing with all the right foods and Buster is sooooooo worried. I’m licking my own plate clean and growling back when he asks for a bite. He knows. . . . . . He just knows there will be NO PIZZA BONES (the crusts) in his futue for a long while!!!!

558. A great selection of diet foods in the grocery store.

559. Lots of fresh veggies.

560. Ideas on how to cook this stuff.

561. Friends who don’t judge -- just encourage!

562. A group who listened to me and admitted that they did not understand that a food addiction could be so hard.

563. A God who always picks me up, sets my feet on a rock, and establishes my goings ---- AGAIN!

564. A Pastor who gives his all. . . And more. . . In spite of failing health.

565. Buster --- I just love this guy!!!! I realized how much yesterday when he started sneezing --- sooooo hard. Violent sneezes that wouldn’t stop for hours and hours, until he was sneezing blood. I was so worried and just held him and loved on him. He’s ok today.

566. Finding a check in the mail. Almost threw it out as I thought it was junk mail. I was reimbursed for that bra and boob!!! Thank you, Lord, for making something right that was just not right!

Joining with so many others in finding thanks and gratitude in the moments of living:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Love You, Aunt Jo!

I was eight years old, and I sat on the steps of her home. I told her that I had learned a new song in school that day -- “Do you want to hear it?” I asked. “Of course!” she said, and I began to sing.

“ 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.

2. 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.

3. 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!

I was attending a Christian school at the time, and this was the song we had learned. And as I sang this to my Aunt Jo, she cried. She hugged me tight and said it was beautiful. But I think her tears went deeper than the song or me singing it --- you see, her sister (my Mom) had just died suddenly, leaving me and my four brothers and sisters motherless, and she was left without her sister. How painful this moment must have been for her! I never forgot it. And this was 56 years ago.

Aunt Jo was special. If I loved anyone through my early childhood, it was this happy woman. She loved us kids, and made each one of us feel special, “one of a kind,” and loved. She listened, was compassionate, caring, and I always felt safe with her. I will always remember how she washed my hair --- tenderly making sure the soap did not get in my eyes, checking the water temperature to make sure it wasn’t too hot or cold, etc. I felt so special.

Life went on, and my Dad eventually remarried. Family happenings caused us all to drift apart, and I didn’t see my Aunt Jo for years and years. I missed her terribly. It wasn’t until I was an adult that we connected again, and I will never forget that hug. She hugged me so tight, and even now I feel that heart connection that I had as a little girl.

This dear lady died suddenly today. I feel like an orphan. Though we did not talk to each other much or see each other often, the memories of childhood kept her close in my heart. I clung to those memories for years and years as one of the few good things I had been given. Why didn’t I call her yesterday? Or last week? Or last month? Why didn’t I find the time to say thank you?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Getting it Right

Keeping secrets can be the hardest thing in the world to do, especially when you are a child. But when fear is attached to that secret, and threats hang like thunder clouds over your head, it comes much easier. And as time passes, the winds of time blow more and more dirt and sand over things to where nothing can be seen.
And we think it no longer matters. It’s past. Long past. . . Until someone comes with a shovel and begins digging right where we buried the secrets!

It was a Saturday night, the end of a week of evangelistic meetings in our church, and this was Youth Night. As a group of young people, we all sat together just as we always did. We grew up together since cradle roll. We were all friends. The music was great and we sang lively songs for that time period of the early 60’s. And then came the message of the evening. The speaker gave a message about purity and God’s standards for our lives concerning sex and marriage. It led up to an invitation that would change my life forever, something that God never meant to happen, I’m sure. I will never forget that horrible night as long as I live. Even now, I can feel that nervous stomach, that lump in my throat, the hot eyes, the quivering of my lips. I hoped no one noticed. The man in the suit with arms outstretched begged each of us to come forward and promise before God and those present in the audience that we would remain pure for the one we would one day marry. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want their teenager to hear that and respond????

I stood there and in those few moments of decision making, my life flashed in front of me. As quick as a flash of lightening, that covered grave of secrets burst forth, up in my face, and I knew I could never make that promise to God. I had never heard about abuse, never heard it spoken. I was sure that this had happened only to ME! I only knew I was unclean, impure, used, and dirty. Could I just stand there and say no while everyone else went to the front of the church and said yes? I found my way. I thought it was God giving me an escape. I COULD make the promise -- all I had to do was promise God I would never get married, and that way I would never mess up any nice Christian guy’s life. And so there I was, in all my mistaken understanding of who God was, making a life decision in secret between me and Him. And I’m sure Satan himself smiled!

For years and years I kept that secret. No one ever knew and surely I would never tell. But there is something so precious and amazing in how the Lord works to make sure one day we just get it right. We don’t hear with our ears --- or even our hearts at times. Most of the time, what we hear is filtered through the experiences of our lives, and we interpret things to fit where we have been, what has been done to us, who we know, what we have been taught by parents and teachers and peers. If it doesn’t fit just right, we don’t hear it.

But then it happens. And the Lord takes me by surprise. One day, as I was sitting in church, we were singing the song, “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” I think I knew that song all my life. I didn’t need the hymnbook --- I knew all the words to all the verses. So there I stood, singing away, when all of a sudden the words to that verse hit me like a spear through my heart: “Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless I stand before the throne.” Could that be??? Could that POSSIBLY be???

My pastor at the time was doing a series of messages called, “On These We Stand.” He did a wonderful job on going through the main doctrines of salvation, justification, sanctification, etc. But I will never forget that same day, he spoke on how we stood before God and how He saw us as perfect. Dressed in white. Pure. All because of Calvary. I knew that. But why didn’t I KNOW that????

Do you know what that means to a little girl who thinks she’s dirty, unclean, used, and broken??? The little girl who wondered if the angels were watching? The same little girl who stared at the mural on the wall of the cross that bridged the chasm of sin and Hell? I had carried a burden of untruth for so long that I was never meant to carry. Since that day, my whole life changed as I saw God -- not as my stern, strict judge, but rather as my loving, compassionate Father who loves me and sees me perfect. Isn’t that the most amazing thing???!!!! Even more amazing is what it cost Him. To think that price paid was His only Son, just so I could wear a spotless robe of white. . . Thank you, Father!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A celebration of Gifts

543. Experiencing music in a new way. Went to an “open mike” night at a church in my area, and the music was so good. One group had worship dancers that were just excellent. I have not seen this before and loved it.

544. Great fellowship with friends as we enjoyed the music together.

545. A triple-chocolate overloaded Blizzard from Dairy Queen. I just know there will be Dairy Queens in Heaven!

546. A Birthday. Just passing another birthday seems like a milestone. Three years ago, I wondered if I would ever see another birthday. Somehow, they seem a little more special than they ever did before.

547. A birthday dinner at Applebee’s. Sister and a special friend made it so great!

548. A Kindle from my Sister. My mind is making a list a mile long of all that I want to read.

549. A surprise in church last night. “My Guy” sang a song so special to me. Sis got him into this covert operation of getting the pastor, his wife, the drummer and the keyboard guy to sing “God of the Mountain” -- a song that just meant everything to me during my cancer journey. It caught me by surprise and the tears
Just flowed. I’m not one who cries easily, but last night I sobbed.

550. Tiny birds at my feeder. So many little ones with high-pitched voices and fluttery wings waiting to be fed.

551. Oatmeal. Why do I love that sticky, pastey stuff??? A little butter, brown sugar, and I’m good to go!

552. Pork Roasts on sale BOGO. I couldn’t resist. I had one before, and it was just too good. I hate to admit this, but there are now eight of them in my freezer!!!

553. Green peppers still going strong in the garden.

554. Watching vultures get soaked in a rain storm. Is that being thankful or vindictive???? They were all in a large, dead tree as it poured down rain. I was so praying that the Lord would send lightening and strike that tree!!!!! At least it kept me entertained for a few minutes as I watched them dripping wet with their wings spread like umbrellas.

555. People who ask me hard questions and make me think deeper than I have dared to go in a long time.

556. That God has the answers to hard questions.

557. That He doesn’t mind us asking Him.

You can find so many others who are counting their gifts with Ann VosKamp here:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Are You Shaved?

During that summer of playing on swings in Mrs. Gravendyk’s back yard, my sister and I met a strange man. Strange to US, anyways. We would bound up those big steps and run down the walk and up the slate steps of the big, wrap-around porch. And there he was. Not just once or twice ---- but every single time we arrived, he was coming out of the big double doors with the oval, glass window panes. Maybe he had breakfast there, or was just passing time, I don’t know, but it seemed that we just couldn’t avoid him. We soon found out that he was waiting for the bus which would take him into New York City. Every single time, he told us the same story: How God had called him to tell the Jewish people of New York City about Jesus and that He was their Messiah, along with a whole lot of other “blah-blah-blah” that made no sense to a 9 and a 7 year old. Then he would show us the tracts that overflowed out of his pockets and explained how he gave them out. We would stand there politely, looking at our feet, saying “uh-huh”, wishing we were a million miles away . . . Because we knew what was coming!!! He would always end his speech with a big, booming, “ARE YOU SHAVED?????” (yes, it sounded like “shaved” but we knew he meant “saved) with piercing eyes, pointy fingers, wrinkled forehead, etc.

I think we would mutter “yes” or something, but I KNOW mine was never very convincing to him. It couldn’t have been. I knew I wasn’t good enough, clean enough, important enough for God to save me. But he would leave, catch his bus, and we were free to play on the swing. All I wanted was to get inside that house and look at the mural on the wall --- the cross that led to the city of gold and the angels that protected those crossing over.

I wish I had a recording of that man’s voice. To this day, if I were to ask my sister, “ARE YOU SHAVED????” in that . . . . Voice . . . . She would know beyond the shadow of a doubt who I was talking about. We never forgot him. I wonder why???!!!!! He was probably the first who personally confronted me about my soul. Maybe not the best presentation for a 9 year old to hear, but convicting and soul-piercing, nonetheless. Now that I think of it, up until this point, not one person had ever cared to ask me. Parents, family, Sunday School teachers, Christian School teachers, Youth leaders, Pastor, etc. NO ONE ever once asked me personally if I knew Jesus as my Savior. Yes, I knew the way of salvation as it was explained many times in group settings. And yes, later I DID make that decision to accept Him.

During the past few days, I’ve thought a lot about this odd man and the lasting impressions and memories he had on my life. No matter when I hear of a ministry or of anyone who shares their faith with a Jewish person, I think of him. No matter when I’m asked if I’m a Christian or if I’m saved, I hear his booming voice asking that embarrassed, uncomfortable little girl the same question. No matter when I find myself in the position of presenting the way of salvation, I DEFINITELY think of him, and have better ways of presenting God’s gift of salvation than he did. But. . . . . . It still all boiled down to. . . .


Always Thank you! -- Always!

528. That the sun is always shining, even behind the clouds.

529. That leaves glisten and shine like new when washed.

530. How Buster wants to share my pillow with me at night.

531. How his tail starts flopping when I whisper sweet nothings in his ear.

532. How his lip wrinkles up on one side if I point something at him.

533. How he chews on a raisen for ever and ever -- then spits it out.

534. That my washing machine just keeps on going and going and going. . . I just
love hearing that buzzer when another load is done.

535. Ditto with the dryer!!!!

536. That the smell of a barbecue pork roast in the crock pot can make a home smell like Heaven's kitchen!

537. That in writing down the stories of my life, I have seen God's hand of protection and guidance -- even when I thought He was not there.

538. That even though I doubt myself and listen to untrue voices learned from my past, God's voice is louder still and filled with encouragement and love.

539. That He is there, even when I'm sure He isn't.

540. That He cares, even when I'm sure He doesn't.

541. That He has a plan, even when I'm sure I don't.

542. That Verizon connected me to the internet again just so I could post this.

Joining in with hundreds of others as we count our blessings every moment of every day:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Angels and Kool-Aid

She was a slender, tall, older lady with a big smile and immediately welcomed us into her home. We were standing on the porch, looking through the glass double doors of the great big house. Her wavy, gray hair was pulled back into some kind of twist in the back, and there was a sparkle in her eyes that drew me in. Her accent was Dutch, and there was a sing-songy way in which she spoke. She had a gold tooth which sparkled when she smiled. Her dress was always long and flowing, covered by an apron with a big bow tied in the back. She stepped out onto the porch where we were standing, bent down to where she could look straight into our eyes, gave us each a hug and welcomed us. It was genuine. I could just feel it. And I liked her immediately. I was about 9 years old. And I needed someone to like.

Mrs. Gravendyk was her name. She and her husband lived in a big, old Victorian home and had started a house church there. And I was there for Vacation Bible School --- about the third one of the summer that I had been sent to. My younger sister came with me, along with a few other neighborhood friends. The house was set back, giving room to a big front yard. A few steps led from the city sidewalk up to the walk leading to the house. A huge wrap-around porch with a white railing graced the front of the house. Big, heavy slabs of slate made the steps up to the porch interesting and inviting. It was here we waited each day for Mrs Gravendyk to open the doors. 9:00 am. No sooner. No later.

The meetings were held in the basement of the home, so down the steep, narrow steps we went. There were several rooms divided off, and one had lots of little chairs, a piano, and a flannel graph board all set up and ready to go. Pipes ran along the ceilings, and someone had already attached strings to these pipes. I felt important when I found a string with my name on it. Mrs. Gravendyke came over, put her arm around me and told me that I had “caught” 5 fishes for my string as I had brought with me 5 people. I felt sooooo important! The theme of the week was “Fishers of Men.”

I loved it there. I loved the new songs I learned. ( Of course, we sang, “I will make you Fishers of Men“ at least once every day ---- with all the hand motions!) I loved Mrs. Gravendyk’s enthusiasm as she played the piano and sang. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone play “The Assurance March” like she could! I loved her Kool-aid and cookies, the little crafts we made and the way she told stories. But most of all, I loved the little church --- the sanctuary that I had supposed was once a large library or living room. I stood in awe of what I saw there, and I’ll never forget it as long as I live.

Mr. Gravendyk was an artist and painted murals on the walls of this home. All of them portayed some Bible scene. The one in the sanctuary was my favorite. There were two cliffs divided by a very deep cavern. But stretched across this cavern was a cross. And there were all these little people walking on this cross across the cavern to the side that portrayed the city in gold. There were angels protecting those who were making the crossing. I don’t remember much of what went on when we went into that sanctuary. I was taken by the mural on the wall.

Vacation Bible School came and went, but my sister and I continued to visit with this unique old lady. She gave us permission to play in her huge back yard. All that was there was a tire hanging from a thick rope and we would swing for hours on that thing.

And then, like clockwork, she would come with a few glasses, a pitcher of Kool-aid and some cookies, and we sat on her steps and enjoyed her company and treats. Sometimes we would go inside. And she always let us see the murals.

I felt safe there. There is no other word to describe it. Perhaps it was the ONLY place during that period of my life where I did feel safe. In the darkest of nights, when I closed my eyes so tightly, I saw that cross, and the shiny gold city, and the angels -- and I wished that just one had been there for me.

We moved away shortly after this summer of tire swings and Vacation Bible school. But I never forgot Mrs. Gravendyk. Angels? Perhaps it was this very lady who was sent for such a brief time to add a little light and safety to my steps. I know one thing: Every time I sang the song, “The way of the cross leads home,” I could see that painting on the wall, and I thought of one little old Dutch lady who was faithful to her Lord with Kool aid and cookies.