being  I am currently on “break” from school. My courses run in eight-week sessions with a two week break between. I had grandiose plans of getting so much done, but today is the last “official” day. And nothing is done.

No laundry, no changing my textbook/study center, no closet cleaning, no swapping out winter clothes, no basement hoeing, no plant planting. No “thing” is done. I didn’t actually hope to accomplish all of that, but I thought I would get to one or two things on the list.

Even though I sound discouraged, because I do like a tidy home and a lovely yard, I am not. All these things will get done when they are supposed to, if they are supposed to. You might be walking up my porch steps as I put away the last pair of underwear or wash that last pan, but “just in time” works. If November comes and I pull a sweater out of the dresser in my bedroom, where it has been for the entire summer and fall, then I’d say I’m ahead of the game.

So if I accomplished none of these “things” — where did my break go?

Two events come to mind. One event was a “must do.” Our lives are made up of those. Not because others dictate to us, but because we understand the importance for ourselves of doing them. This “must do” was attending my uncle’s funeral. Nearly all of us understand the “must do” component — while you want to support your family and be there for the event, the “must” part comes because no one likes facing death. But it is part of our lives and it is a fact of our history.

The other event was only a “must do” in that it was time for us to get away. But this was mostly spontaneous, especially in that we didn’t actually plan where we were going and just decided along the way. We didn’t actually book hotel rooms, either. Well, I guess that’s not so unusual for us. We just “hope” it works out and we might find a deal. My poor kids can tell you how this usually worked when traveling long distances!

So we ended up enjoying four nights and five days of spontaneity. Each night, the hotel room hunt was successful. The capstone night was finding the Common Man Hotel and Restaurant in Claremont, New Hampshire. What a lovely place. And we were offered a discounted rate, besides!

We didn’t have any particular agenda; no schedule to keep; no people to meet. So we drove, relaxed and rested.

But always present was one extra visitor that we didn’t invite. It was “that guy,” Cancer. He’s always with us these days. Though the doctors have indicated he is not active, neither do they say he is gone. And sometimes, we are reminded that he invaded our lives because of treatment side effects.

So in our wanderings, he was there. But because we were able to cut out other stresses, the time together was refreshing and brought us closer together. I recently heard a friend say that she is “living” with cancer — we are still learning how to do that.  It is a challenge to teach yourself to live in the moment; knowing that cancer wants to limit the moments. Our journey has been somewhat calm, so far, compared to others we have known. We are thankful for that and it reminds us to pray for those who face very hard treatments and prognosis. Our long weekend resulted in some much needed rest, introspection, conversation and rejuvenation.

So those things that I thought I’d get done during break don’t matter. Life isn’t about “things” — it is about moments. Our wonderful, happy, spontaneous moments this past week — that was living.

Here’s what we got to do!
Friday morning – rescheduled MRI in Rochester;
Friday night – Syracuse (NY) Mets ball game – Tim Tebow at bat x3 ;
https://www.milb.com/syracuse

Saturday morning – breakfast in Syracuse with Titus and Abigail  
http://www.thegemdiner.com/menu/ – “World Famous” Gem Diner;

From here I thought we were going to Boston, but the traffic dissuaded us.

Saturday afternoon – stopped in to see Bud’s Dad;
Saturday night – Dinner at Lizzie Keays (Bud’s sister’s restaurant in Warrensburg, NY)
http://www.lizziekeays.com/

Visit with friends in Thurman, NY;
Sunday morning – church at New Hope Church – Queensbury, NY;
http://www.sharingnewhope.org/ — excellent place to worship!
Sunday – Lunch with Bud’s Dad – Bud’s locally famous spaghetti;
Sunday afternoon – Andover, VT;
Sunday night — The Common Man Inn and Restaurant in New Hampshire
https://thecmaninn.com/ – a must do for you!;

Monday – Andover, New Hampshire
AND Andover, Maine
Had a great late lunch here:
https://www.facebook.com/AndoverGeneralStoreandDiner/;
Tuesday – Joshua Chamberlain Museum in Brunswick, Maine – Bud’s “History fix” – a bit of history about a Civil War general.
http://pejepscothistorical.org/chamberlain

and Home!

Christmas Points to Calvary

This year just needs to be simpler. So I only decorated a short little Big-tree-wanna-be. But the beauty still touches my heart. I placed on an ornament that commemorates our first date, one that is from our wedding, and mainly dough ornaments I made for our first Christmas tree. That first tree also had some tulle from the material for my wedding veil — I have echoed the idea once again in this tree. Our handcrafted (from a dear friend) angel was too weighty for the tree itself, but she’s there at the base.

With no adornment at the top, the tree seemed pretty empty. So I made a simple reminder. It isn’t a star, reminiscent of the Star of Bethlehem. It isn’t an angel to remind me of the account of the angel encouraging the shepherds to “Fear Not.”  It is a simple shiny red ribbon, surrounded by a lovely white bow.

” . . . Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; . . . “

And the tree, itself, is a reminder that though Jesus came as a sweet little baby, His destiny was the cross–the tree of Golgotha. It was this tremendous act of love that made possible the transformation of my sin, and yours, from scarlet to white.

Bud and I send Christmas greetings to one and all and we pray that your celebrations will remind you of God’s great love for you. He gave you the greatest gift of all, His Son.

2018Tree

Aware

HCHaSo, here we are at the second Christmas since Bud’s cancer diagnosis.

I think that the word that comes to mind for me now is “aware.” I am a bit more aware of the goodness of the Lord. I am also a bit more attuned to seeing that goodness around me.

Even before the diagnosis, when things seemed huge in our lives it seemed to be my “go to” statement — “God hasn’t brought us this far to just leave us stranded.”

Side note confessional: Okay, so the truth is I actually say “God hasn’t brought us this far to just drop us in a hole.” The first sentence sounded more socially acceptable. The second demonstrates the depth of the anxiety that was involved.

The main point is that usually it took a “huge event” to cause me to state my trust in the goodness of God. As I look at things as they are today, I see how many holes He has drawn us around, eliminated, or bridged over for us. And I understand more fully that each day is fraught with holes. The unfortunate thing is that I allow myself to think that I can handle those “every day holes.” I easily forget that without God, I would plummet every time.

Bud’s medical status is great. All of the locations have been radiated and the scans (as of this week) show no active cancer in these sites and no new cancer anywhere in his body. As a result of a trip to Sloan Kettering in August, an adjustment was made to his medication dosage that has eliminated the vast majority of the side effects of the treatment. He is feeling great and has good energy. We’re back to the lifestyle where I have a hard time keeping up with him.

I want to remember to remember the goodness of God. I want to see it every day and to be aware of it at all times. When I plummet into a hole, for certainly I will, I want the grace of God to draw me out of it and to bridge it over for me and I want to recognize His goodness even then.

God is good, of course all the time. I want to be aware of it, all the time.

 

Half-Way Day!

As many of you know, I (Linda) have been working on obtaining my funeral director’s license. I take classes through Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science.

pims  download

Last week was a milestone because it included HALF-WAY DAY! October 4, 2019 is the last day of my program!

Thank you for your encouragement and prayers! We’re on the backside!

There is the miracle

This is a modest edit of my May 5, 2018 posting to “Mercies in Disguise”

The scans show that there is no growth of the existing (lung) lesion! And no new growth! Both answers to prayer.

Bud has been off the protocol for 26 days and they have been waiting for the side effects to clear up in order to re-start. However, they were not satisfied that the side effects had subsided sufficiently and determined that he is not ready to start the protocol again. Since he can only be off for 28 days, that decision essentially removed him from the clinical trial.

He will now begin the treatment that he would have taken in November, had a clinical trial not be available.

Our status reports will now be every 12 weeks.

Bud and I have been through at least one catastrophic event in our lives (two if you count the day of the cancer diagnosis.) When Caleb died of SIDS in 1987, that was a catastrophe such as I had never imagined. The emotions were overwhelming; time was forever marked by that day. But the thing about a catastrophe is that it happens and immediately thereafter, the healing begins. The event keeps your mind preoccupied for a time, but a new normal settles in and you begin to adjust to the reality that you now have.

I have pondered the contrast of catastrophic events and chronic events since that time. One is called on to pull out different resources to manage each. Many of us have had at least one time of wondering how we would handle some type of tragedy. Perhaps we’ve tried to stand in some else’s shoes and walked ourselves through how we would like to handle a certain type of event. I know that when I heard of people dying, I always hoped that I would have the spiritual fortitude to look to God for my comfort and to praise Him through the storm that had overtaken.

But at some point I started thinking about the chronic events of life and wondering how I would handle those. Years ago, we had a friend who suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He had a wife and one child at the time. Consider how little is currently known about this disease and then think how frustrating it would have been 25 years ago. But his wife was a woman of strength and dedication. When I think of my early examples of how to handle chronic issues, this couple comes to mind.

As I’ve considered them, I see how the catastrophe in our history perhaps prepared us for the chronic event before us. I believe that God used many details in the death of Caleb to touch others and to grow us. I believe that we have honored God in our representation of this event and in how we responded. It was a huge, huge event; I just cannot describe or tell all that happened.

And now, we are on the cusp of a chronic event. Yes, I agree that the initial diagnosis felt more like a catastrophe. But it hasn’t gone away and now we have to manage our lives around that intruder, cancer. The little beast is on our minds day after day preying upon our peace. We have no answers or conclusions, we have no point in time where we can “settle in” for a new normal. The reality is always changing.

We respond differently to chronic than we do to catastrophic. What do we do when there is a catastrophe in the family of a friend? It is so easy to be there for them and to support them. And it is so easy for them to let us, because it will level out soon. They understand the significance of the catastrophe and often they are depending upon God and shining His light and His love through the event.

Contrast that to how we respond when our friends, once again, need support in the same “old” trial. It feels heavy, doesn’t it? It feels like things are never going to change or get better — and that second part is really what we want — that it would get better. And, it’s difficult for them to keep accepting help. They know that in some way, they are disrupting our lives; that they are taking our precious time and maybe even some resources. They may have to pray more frequently about their attitude or they may be so discouraged that praying is hard.

Chronic is defined as an illness “persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.” (Google Dictionary) I don’t know what is classified as a “long time” but as I look at lung cancer, perhaps this is a chronic event for us. People may look at our blog or Facebook page looking for updates, but with a chronic situation, updates are sparse and usually uneventful. So what would I like for you to know about us and how we are handling our chronic illness?

We have to pray more frequently about our attitude. God is a comforter and healer and we know this. We know that He can fully heal Bud at any moment. And what praise we would offer to Him at that point! But sometimes, it is not about the miraculous thing that God could perform. Sometimes it is about the continual work that He is doing. He is continually comforting. He is continually communing with us. He is continually adjusting our attitudes. He is continually meeting our needs. Perhaps that is the miraculous; that He never grows tired of our situation and that He is bigger than the evil one who wants to pull us down.

I know that there are those of you who struggle with chronic illness or chronic obstacles such as addiction, family problems, emotional issues, or any number of things. We know that God could instantly remove all of those diseases or problems. Not since Jesus walked the earth has there been widespread healing. While there is healing today, still, and I do believe that, the normal course is to deal with the chronic event day by day.

And where is the miracle in that? The miracle is that He never leaves us; nor does Hemiracle-tree forsake us. The miracle is that He has given us His Comforter to come along side us and help us in all our situations. The miracle is that He loves us and provides for us each and every day. The miracle is the love of our brothers and sisters who reach out to us and who pray for us and help us. Have you stopped seeing the miracles in the chronic? The miracle is that He can adjust our eyes to see things the way that He does. The miracle is that we can daily depend upon Him and not be disappointed. The miracle is that He draws us ever closer to Him.

I pray that as I walk through this chronic event, that I will look for the miracles. If God were not with me, there would be no comfort, no help, no provision, no prayer, and only disappointment. In embracing the Him, there is the miracle.

Family, Friends, Faith

This has been a week of formally being thankful. I’ve seen so many thankful and grateful postings. I’ve heard people speak about gratitude and I’ve seen so many sharing their thankful lists. I don’t want the weekend to end without my own voice joining in with the others about the many things for which to be thankful!

1546363_10152035273148813_1391714057_nFamily. I am so thankful for all my family. Along with wonderful children and their spouses who we claim as ours as well, we have our parents and siblings and aunts, uncles, and cousins, etc. All of these people are part of our story and we are thankful for them.

 

Friends. I have been overwhelmed with the recent reminder of the many friends in our lives. You have come to our aid by taking Bud and his medical needs to God, by taking care of our dogs, by sending simple texts that say “Good morning friend. Just wanted to say I was thinking of you . . .,” by driving our trash to the transfer station, by offering a lunch out, by sending cards—so many cards of encouragement, by your special little gifts.

Faith. Some people do not claim a faith. In fact, some people consider it a crutch. If that is the case, then I’ll just admit it–I’m lame. Without faith to depend upon, life would be so bleak. The New Century Bible says it like this “Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I hope for a day without pain, sorrow, tears. Faith allows me to be sure that this day will come.

I hope for a time when I will be with Jesus. Faith means that at some point I will experience this blessed event.

I hope for a life free of fear, anxiety, and condemnation; a life of beauty, love, and peace. My faith assures me that this desire will be fulfilled.

All these things that I hope for are clearly offered in God’s Word. I know that these events and qualities will one day be mine. I’ve never seen anyone attain these things but I don’t have to see it to believe it.

I hope for comfort from God Himself, who loves me and promises to never leave me or forsake me. My faith tells my hurting soul that the help I have each day, the balm that heals my heart, the hand that lifts me up are all from Him.

But this is about gratitude.

So I am thankful for that day without pain, sorrow, tears. I am grateful that one day I will be with Jesus. I am thankful that He takes the fear, anxiety, and condemnation and trades it for beauty, love and peace. I am thankful for the help that I have each day as my friends pray for me, for the balm that heals my heart when I read words of encouragement that you have taken time to write, and for the hands that lift me up by praying for me. For this is the evidence that God Himself, who has promised to never leave me or forsake me, is comforting me.

Family, friends, and a crutch. I am deeply thankful.

gratitude

Rest

Bud has had three radiation days. These included radiating the two spots on his brain and the spot on his spine. He has two spine treatments left. And he has signed up for the clinical trial. Next week we will find out which group of the trial he gets. And on November 17, he will start the treatment; this will give plenty of time for the radiation to leave his body so that it will not interfere with the drugs.

So much has transpired in so few days. I feel like I’ve been through a year’s worth of living. Today I did not go with Bud for his radiation. It seemed like I need some rest.

Bud and I have been reading Max Lucado’s book, “Traveling Light” together. It is a book about Psalm 23. I am reminded of how the path that the sheep take is carefully prepared by a good shepherd. He does not let them travel down questionable or unknown roads. He is there with them, making the way for them. He offers them safe rest in green pastures and beside quiet waters. But he has first located these pastures and made them ready. He has first scouted out the water supply to assure that it is plentiful and calm. He has gone before them.

God always goes before us. He is not taken by surprise by a suddenly steep or daunting path. He has already been there. And He knows how to get us through. He is not unaware of the waterfall nearby; but He knows that the path opens to a wide field with a serene pool. And He places himself between us and the rushing water. He is fully engaged in our care. In all of the circumstances of life, He has gone ahead of us and He has made a way for us.

God’s care does not rely on optimal circumstances. Our rest does not depend on everything being just right. Our rest comes because of God’s diligent work on our behalf. He is always between us and the danger. His great love for us is manifest every day. That we are able to rest at all is evidence of God’s hand of provision and protection. Rest is good; every good gift comes from God.

So, today, I take that rest. I choose to rest in His great love. I believe that He has gone before me and He knows where He is taking me. His great love will bring me safely through the circumstances ahead of me, circumstances great and small.

quiet water

A Sacred Season

I know that this is a very difficult time of year for many people. It is hard for orphans, who long for the love of a family. It is hard for families experiencing chronic trial, who long for a measure of peace. It is hard for those who are caught in addictions, who long for something of true substance to fill the void in their hearts. It is hard for suicide loss survivors, who long for answers or the opportunity to intervene. It is hard for those who have lost loved ones to other causes, who long for just one more day, one more smile.

There are so many ways to be hurt and wanting, that I could go on and on about how the holidays are difficult.

I believe that funeral directors feel this depth of hurt in their own way at this time of year. These people are wired to empathize with the pain that they encounter. While they have not walked every path of pain, they understand it’s depth and power over people.

This is perhaps why we walk a little more softly, so to speak, at this time of year. We pray for people in our community, that the Valley of the Shadow of Death would be a trip that each can avoid during the Christmas season. While the journey is arduous at any time, walking that valley during the “most wonderful time of the year” is nearly overwhelming.

We know of some who are, indeed, walking that valley right now. Our hearts are heavy for every one of them. Even as they are experiencing the ravages of death upon their bodies, they are doing all that they can to hold on to family traditions and to make memories for their loved ones to hold on to long after they have departed. These “would be” joyful days are tinged with the sadness of knowing that these are the final days.

Yet some who are traversing the valley do so with a bit of anticipation. While this is most definitely, the “most wonderful time of the year” they know that the most wonderful time of their lives is just a bit closer to their reach. Undoubtedly, they have the same sadness as others, but it is buttressed by a sure and certain knowledge that heaven awaits them at the end of their journey.

There are so many ways to be hurt and wanting, but there is one sure way to receive comfort and peace.

No matter what is causing your pain during the sacred season of the Savior’s birth, there is hope and peace for you. This song has touched my heart this season, perhaps there is something in it for you as well.

I would be happy to pray for you during this time. Please feel free to comment about your prayer needs.

There She Goes!

When you go to all of the funerals in your town, you begin to see patterns, or repetition might be a better word. Sometimes the repetition can be dismal or sometime1k_full-sail-publicity-photos it can be comforting.

There was a particular pastor who always told the “Parable of Immortality” in the services he conducted. That piece captured my imagination and I never tired of hearing him tell it. I’ll share it with you:

Parable of Immortality

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze

and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch until at last she hangs
like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says,
” There she goes! ”
Gone where?
Gone from my sight . . . that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment
when someone at my side says,
” There she goes! ”
there are other eyes watching her coming . . .
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout . . .
” Here she comes! ”

Author: Henry Van Dyke

 

 

Frugality

One of the things that my mom did really well was to teach her children frugality. While it was not a predetermined goal of hers, it certainly was a necessity.

Our childhood years were marked by difficult times and Mom did her best to take up the slack. We didn’t have expensive cuts of meat on the table, our Christmases were often lean, and our clothes seldom came to us new with the tags still on. But she didn’t complain about it, so it just seemed like our lifestyle was normal.

I believe that since she didn’t complain, as we entered our teen years, the “hunt” of the garage sale and the thrift stores was truly a fun thing for us. It was a great adventure to see how far we could stretch our dollars. I came through those years feeling as though I had everything I needed and much of what I wanted. Even still as I go “hunting” I frequently end the day feeling as though God put something in a shop especially and specifically for me.

Frugality is truly a great life lesson.

This life lesson has carried through all stages of my life — even into the present day. Serving a small community in funeral directing is a very fulfilling life. However, it is not the lucrative life that one might think. Yet we have done remarkably well in raising our children, renovating our facilities, and giving back to our community through this life. I believe that God has not only provided the funds, but He has also stretched our dollars in memorable ways.

The latest big thing in our lives is that we are building an addition onto one of our funeral homes. This, too, is proving to be a great adventure to see how far we can stretch our dollars! Sometimes we have the money we need for certain things. Sometimes we re-evaluate to determine if this thing that we thought we needed is really a need. And sometimes God just stretches our dollars to bring an idea to fruition.

My funeral director husband does an amazing job as a general contractor. When you calculate the savings of doing this task himself, he has really stretched our dollars! He keeps his eyes open for less expensive ways to accomplish our objective and very often he is led to just the right solutions.

I am a good match for my husband when calculating up the dollar stretching genius. And even now, during the construction phase, I am looking ahead to the interior decorating and gleaning ideas and making a plan. It is not in my disposition to hire someone to do this portion of a project. Besides, I love creating inviting spaces…when I grow up I want to be Joanna Gaines. Throughout all the decorating plans and ideas, my mom-taught frugality continues to guide me.

As I look at our project, it is rewarding to remember those points where God has undoubtedly stretched our dollars.

2011-7edit