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Cancer Sucks

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#cancersucks has been a frequent hashtag of mine lately. Well, it does. I’ve spent the better part of January in the hospital, at a bedside of the dying, or at a hospice center. I’ve lost two people very dear to me, and it has been painful.

Cancer is an ugly, heartless, and cruel beast. A devourer of beauty, and an instrument of pain and death, brought to this beautiful but cursed planet by an enemy bent on our destruction. It’s pretty dang effective so far unfortunately.

But like everything left in the fingers of God, beauty has come from what is cursed, broken, and filthy. Because He has that kind of power, that kind of love.

When I was a seven year old girl, my sister 5, my mom brought home another boyfriend. By then we thought not much of such an event and didn’t ever get attached. We didn’t expect this one to stick around long either. But then, we didn’t count on him falling in love with us just as much and more as he did our mom.

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Over the years they broke up time and again, but he never broke up with us girls. No matter how far he moved or where his life took him, he always came back.

I was especially close to him as we got older because my sister had a father, whereas I had never known mine. (I had thought, and was told that my sister and I had the same father until 6th grade, when I got into trouble, and was informed that man wasn’t my father. From that point on he stopped pretending too. But that’s another story for another time.)

Bobby D taught me to drive. Usually while he was drunk, if I’m honest; but learn I did. He wiped my tears, he stuck up for me when I was wronged, and he never pretended to be what he wasn’t.

In his latter years, he had quit drinking altogether. He puttered around the farm he built with his wife, graded the dirt roads in his neighborhood for his neighbors, and built an addition on their home. A custom job that would make any magazine, it was that nicely done. The man could do anything.

I knew he wasn’t my father, and I didn’t call him dad, but you know what, looking back on our history over 42 years together, he was in it for the long haul, and what more can I say, but he stayed close and did the things a father would do. For all intents and purposes he was my dad. He was a grandfather to my children. They all loved him and were able to travel to his bedside and say good-bye.

He told me repeatedly in the last several weeks that he was my dad. He introduced me to medical staff as his daughter with full disclosure privileges. That spoke volumes to me, and it made me even more devoted to him in the end.

At the end of his life I had the privilege of staying close to him, and looking out for him. I had the ability to stick up for him, and help keep him comfortable when agonizing pain engulfed him. I held his hand, a straw up to his lips, and stroked his head to calm him down until the pain meds kicked in. I’m so very happy to have been able to do those things.

I was able to share the truth about what the Bible says about our human condition, and it’s remedy in Jesus. We had deep and meaningful talks all of our lives, but none so important as at the end.

He fought like a bear with stage four bone cancer for four years because he wanted to make sure his wife, Betty would be okay without him. He was also worried about his biological daughter and myself as well. He didn’t quite know how we would get along in this life, and felt he needed to stick around to watch over us.

Bless him, Lord.

A tough man, but oh how tender with animals and children he was. He grew up feeling worthless, and yet was vain about his looks. And he was a good looking man. Twinkling blue eyes that had women after him in droves, and made his daughters laugh.

Bobby D was a man’s man, but he was jelly in the hands of a child or dog. He joked around about everything, but boy, you better not get him mad, and you know, he never got mad at us kids. He gave us room, liberty to learn life skills and make mistakes, and he was  a shoulder to cry on. He held a very special and sacred spot in my life, and I will miss him terribly.

The photo below shows him just about 3 months before he died. He had helped pack up the moving van, he and his wife, for my mom when she was headed to New Mexico. See, we all stayed close. We were family, and never mind the titles.

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I won’t forget how frail and dependent he became at the very end, but neither will I forget the thread of steal in his veins until the end. I will choose to remember a man built like a bull, with a tender embrace and twinkling blue eyes that were proof he was often amused. He was the man who became my father, long after he and my mother broke up for the final time.

I hope I was a good daughter, and I hope he could tell how profoundly I loved him.

I will honor his memory by talking nonsense to my dogs, and sweetly telling them, as he did, that I will put rocks up their nose holes so they will die, all the while petting them and using a soothing tone. His dogs adored him, and actually lived longer than the average dog. I think he took excellent care of them, but also he genuinely loved them and was attentive and kind to them. That the big, strong man was tender with things helpless and looking to him for protection should be an example of what kind of a person he truly was. He talked baby talk to his dogs, and all dogs, but he was a brave man until the end.

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Book Review · Reading

The Masterpiece Review

Francine Rivers has never disappointed me, and her newest novel is no exception. Mrs. Rivers has created strong characters and woven a skillful story with a strong gospel  message of redemption. She explores the big questions in our culture, like how damaged is too damaged for a person to be saved and made whole? How does grace draw a person to Christ? When is a hard heart too hard for God to deal with? For me to deal with? Is a child with abandonment and attachment issues a lost cause? Is a violent person in need of grace and love, or punishment? Or is it both?

If we’re honest, these are questions we all have. Especially if you’re like me and live with these kinds of realities in daily life.

The Masterpiece was a glorious work by a gifted author. I enjoyed it, was reminded of a few truths, and was nudged and inspired to do a couple of things differently. That’s quite a bit from a novel, don’t you think?

Francine is a strong believer who writes fiction artfully and tells truth while doing it. She writes edgy sometimes, going where other Christian writers don’t, but I like her stories all the more for it. They are meaty and deal with hard things. And often they are stories of redemption. Who couldn’t use a little more of that?

I ate this book up and got attached to Roman. I’d love to start it all over again, and maybe I will this summer when I have more time. If you’re one of my local friends and would like to read The Masterpiece, let me know and you can borrow my beautiful hard copy. There’s a powerful note from Francine Rivers at the end of the story and discussion questions as well.

*I was given a free copy of this book by the publisher in order to write an unbiased written review.

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Read 1st chapter (PDF)

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers returns to her romance roots with this unexpected and redemptive love story, a probing tale that reminds us that mercy can shape even the most broken among us into an imperfect yet stunning masterpiece.

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want—money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist—an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship—and both their lives—forever.

Uncategorized

The Business of Good Bye

I’ve spent most of the month of January across the mountains from our desert ranch in the rainy forest-land of the south Puget Sound area of my beloved Washington state. Normally I’d be thrilled to be able to spend so much time here with my friends. However I’ve been here for the specific purpose of saying good bye and ushering out two loved ones to their eternal homes with Jesus. I have spent mornings tucked up in Bob’s easy- chair for morning devotions and prayer, but life is anything but easy right now.

Though he wasn’t my biological father, he has been my dad. Since I was 7. He taught me to fish with my bare hands, gut and clean a trout, pack it in leaves and mud and bake it on hot coals for nourishment. He made me learn to drive a pick-up truck in the mountains in the snow. He was my champion in turbulent times. Sitting in the hospital with him, holding his hand as he goes through the laborious and painful process of dying from cancer is my privilege, though one I would rather not have.I’ve watched him slowly melt away from still-strong as an ox to frail and feeble. I have spent the past week spooning soft foods into his mouth and lifting the straw to his parched lips for cool sips of water. I have held his hand and spoke of heaven more times than I can relate. Lately I’ve had to remind him where he is, and worse yet, why.

I have also said good bye to a sweet friend of well over 20 years. Much too young, and again, because of brutal cancer. Such a wicked, consuming disease to prey on beautiful souls. Not too long ago this thoughtful, careful planner put together a stack of self-addressed and pre-stamped envelopes for my youngest son. She wanted him to send her his artwork to help cheer her up during more treatments. It was a lovely thing to do for both of them. And me. I only wish those treatments that used up her poor body had actually been effective. So does her family, who lost her father less than two weeks before her.

2018 has started out downright mean. But I know God’s character and that He’s good. And that gets me through, and both of them agreed with that.

My marriage has been healed somehow, in all of this grief- I don’t even know how. Friendships from decades ago have been re-newed face-to-face, and as if they had never been put on hold. God is nice that way, and if we look for Him in the darkness, He’s always there with a ray of light to hold onto until we can be lifted out again in the sunshine. But even in the deepest and darkest pit there is always the Son shining the way for us believers who know the way.

He’s good. That’s all I can say.

God is good and we’re okay.

Book Review · jews, nazis, holocaust · Uncategorized · war

The Last Girl

The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State

by Nadia Murad

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Nadia grew up in a small Iraqi village called Kocho with her large family. In 2014, she was 21 years old and aspired to be a beautician She was innocent and protected, like all of her family, as well as the entire village. They were Yazidi, a small minority religious group without written text, but oral traditions and worship sites. They lived hard, poorly, and quietly, hurting no one. They were massacred, raped, and pillaged for not converting to the radical muslim faith practiced (loosely) by the militants demanding their property, and their very lives.

ISIS militants attacked the village after a siege in which they lied to the villagers, tricking them into thinking if they gave in willingly, they would be allowed to run to a nearby mountain to safety. Instead, the men were all shot Nazi-style into mass graves, the older women too. Adolescent boys were brainwashed and turned into militant soldiers after the trauma they experienced. The younger women and girls were sold as sex slaves to other militants. Beaten, raped repeatedly, humiliated, starved, and treated worse than we can imagine, Nadia, only one of thousands of girls, escaped. She has since dedicated her life to telling her story to bring ISIS to justice, and to help prevent other women and children from enduring the torture she lived through.

What a harrowing journey you will take with Nadia and her family in this book, but really, I have said before, and say again, such tales take courage to be told, and shouldn’t we then, at ease in our safe lives, be willing to listen? Hopefully of course, we will seek out some way to be helpful if we are touched enough to respond. So often we sit in leisure, and this is how the genocide of the Yazidis in Iraq happened. As always, history shows that it is the complacency of ordinary people turning their eyes away that help evil to stir itself and devour the innocent.

I found this memoir hard to read, but equally hard to put down. It was well-written, and clear. Informative but deeply intimate and personal. I think this story is worth reading, and re-telling, until there are no more women and girls like Nadia.

  • I received this book from the publisher for free and agreed to an unbiased written review

Watch a YouTube interview

Read an excerpt 

 

A bit of Q & A w/ Nadia from the above website:
Why do you feel so strongly that it’s critical to fight ISIS not only on the battlefield, but in the courtroom?
 
It’s not enough for ISIS to be destroyed militarily. In order for the world to see who they are, they need to be held accountable in international courts on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. This is the only way Yazidis will possibly be able to move on with our lives, mourn our dead, and try to rebuild what we lost. It is also the only possible way to prevent a future genocide. What else are international courts for if not to stop another Holocaust, Rwanda, or Sinjar? A trial tells the militants that the world in the twenty-first century is built in a way that values life and humanity above mere power and fear, and that not only are we capable of protecting the most vulnerable, but that we will, no matter what.

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Uncategorized

Through Another’s Eyes

Sometimes, (or often) for me, we take what we have for granted until we see someone else admiring it. Nothings brings our blessedness into focus quite like seeing it through someone else’s eyes.

When I am feeling particularly overwhelmed, or tired, I will take a look at the photos on my phone or my Instagram account and get a reminder of how beautiful my life is. Being a very visual person, I take pictures of everything. Everything I see that is beautiful, interesting or of value. These photos serve as a fantastic reminder of all that is beautiful and valuable in my own life.

Those snapshots of daily life represent the love and beauty I’ve attempted to impart to my children. Like little treasures I’ve tried to leave lying around for them to find and appreciate. Whether or not they ever do, at least I know I have made an effort to bring something I value to them. What else can a mother do? Aside from loving them, protecting them, training and teaching. I was bent on showing them how creative God is and how amazing an abundant and productive life can be; lived close to nature and books was something I felt I needed to share with them. I wanted them to be deep and wide souls, not shallow little cultural graves of self- interest and small-mindedness with too much entertainment. So, they were raised on a ranch surrounded by what their mother deemed important. Right or wrong, I tried to capture what I loved and hand it to my babies. Mostly because I was a poor example in many other ways, coming into marriage and motherhood with few practical tools.

Recently I went ahead and printed out about 100 of these photos to make into a photo book to keep handy for myself, the children and our grand daughter. Nothing but good could possibly come from having a tangible and constant reminder of the lovely things in our daily life at my fingertips.

Life gets hard sometimes. It’s in the dark times, the valleys, that we need a reminder of what is good and true and beautiful. Being purposeful to jog my own memory is one way I combat destructive feelings. Sometimes if I’m pretty deep in a pit, I don’t have the presence of mind to start sorting through photos until it has gotten pretty dark inside.

Having a photo book that I can leave out on the coffee table or my desk as a reminder, an object right there I can pick up in my hands, seems like a holy weapon to cast truth and light on the darkness. Much like God’s word. I need that foremost, obviously.

I believe and have been told gratitude is the first step to happiness. Looking over at the non-staged, real life, every day images captured by the camera on my cell phone have the medicinal effect of curing my ingratitude.

Also I like the fact that I’m preserving memories. I have, like you I’m sure, people I love struggling with cancer. Taking pictures is a way to keep something of these people close.

We all comfort and pep-talk ourselves in different ways. This is one of my methods, aside from daily reading the Bible and prayer. What are your ways?

christianity · Uncategorized

New, Old & Whatever

It’s almost a New Year. Time for a new notebook, a new Bible reading plan, and a time for setting a few goals. Like lose 30 lbs. I’ve recycled that goal for a few years now. I don’t often accomplish all of my goals anymore, but I have always loved to make them. I like a new start. A blank page. Usually because I feel the last one is sullied. It’s time for a new story.

I know many people mock New Year’s resolutions, but, whatever. I’m often feeling in need of a fresh start and a little turn of direction by the time the present year is ending and getting stale.

This past year has had it’s share of burdens and not quite enough joy to balance that out. There has been the conflict of relationships we all know so well. The loss of friends for one reason or another, has left me feeling pretty lonely. The slow crumbling of my marriage this year has been at first distressing, then depressing, and now just mind-numbing. I’m really preoccupied with other things right now anyway. Like the seemingly constant battle with keeping the faith and a positive attitude for loved ones and known-ones with cancer. It seems to be overrunning the human race lately. At least in my circle. I’m traveling today, crossing the snowy mountains to support someone I love very much in that battle. Cancer is mean. Nasty.  I hate it. I love so many people who have to deal with it, I can’t bury my head on that one, unlike the marriage thing.

I’ll be glad to see 2017 go. “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out” sort of glad. It was a demoralizing year.

2018 doesn’t scare me. There’s enough promise of good to excite a little anticipation for 2018. I feel we might be on friendlier terms than 2017, which wasn’t particularly good to me. Except that I did find out I have another half -sister, and the bonus of an uncle and two aunts. These are siblings of my father, a man I never got to know. 2017 did bring me those relationships, as well as pictures of my dad, which I have never had before. What a relief to have even one, but I have several now. He was beautiful. So, there’s that.

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So, I leave 2017 in the dust, grateful for a few things, and shaking off  quite a bit more.

A new attitude, and new resolve. I know I’ll need it, as my people still have cancer, and my kids still have their struggles, my neighbors still have troubles, my marriage is still on it’s last leg, but my God is still present. I know that I will face hard things this year, like you will. We all do. But I hope I’m going in to face it all strengthened, with more wisdom, resolve, and a little stronger faith to get me through. Hopefully something nice will happen. Maybe some lovely surprise, some beautiful inspiration. We all need hope. Something to look forward to can keep you going when it’s all looking pretty bleak.

Christians aren’t supposed to have those kind of troubles, right? I wish.

We still live in this nut-job world, and struggle with sin, lies we believe that tear us down, diseases, and emotional upheaval common to all people. I just pray as I’m wading knee-deep in the muck with all the rest of the shmucks I can do a little good for someone else.

Relieving another person’s burden surprisingly lightens one’s own. With Jesus everything is the opposite of what makes sense. Helping someone helps me? Yep. About the time I feel I’m drowning in misery and self-pity, if I can just reach out a hand to someone else I’ll save myself. Not by dragging them down here with me, but somehow it lifts us both up out of the ditch. Super natural. That’s one of my favorite things about Jesus. He’s always doing the unexplainable in the unsuspecting. So, I’m definitely on the look out for what He’s going to be up to in 2018.

I leave 2017 with a broken over right before Christmas dinner needs to be prepared, a broken dishwasher, two broken pellet stoves and a cold house, and a few broken relationships. Bring on 2018, I think I’ll kick it’s butt. After all, I’ve been watching YouTube videos on make-up and skin care for older women. I have all I need to know, right?

What about you? Glad to see the back of 2017 or sad to see it leave?

 

Book Review · christianity · Uncategorized · war

Fire Road

The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness, and Peace

Who doesn’t remember or has at least seen this iconic photo of Kim Phuc (pronounced fook) Phan Thi running naked down a dirt road in Trang Bang, peeled skin hanging off her arm? Her clothing and skin literally disintegrated off by napalm.

She was so much in the media over the years, and even used in communist propaganda that her true story isn’t as well known as her photo and the propaganda fueled by it. She despised this photo growing up because she felt robbed of an education due to it’s existence. In the end though, God used it to make a way for better things than higher education.

It turns out this astounding woman, left for dead 3 days in a morgue after this shot was taken and she was rushed to a hospital, has survived not only napalm burns over 1/3 of her body, but a hopeless life in communist Vietnam, then Cuba before she was freed by defection. But it still took years for her to find freedom and wholeness for her soul. Living daily with agonizing pain, told she would never bear children, and abused and handled by communist “minders” forcing her to tell media lies for the government, she considered suicide. Seeking strength in a false religion helped her not one bit. If anyone ever tried to work out their salvation and get some relief, it was Kim in CaoDai. (pronounced cow die)

This story was engrossing, and beautifully told. Kim had to learn to forgive to find true freedom. Remarkably, out of war, came a message of peace. The thing really brought home in Kim’s story is that God really does use all things for good. Including being left for dead in the morgue when she was a child.This was one of the bitterest wounds she carried well into her adult years. When you read Kim’s story you go on a faith journey with her, and it’s an intense ride.  So much more happened than what that one picture portrays. At the end of the journey you see the way to peace and how much power the love of Jesus really does have in our lives if we embrace Him.

In this book, Kim gets to tell her own story through her own words. God’s faithfulness shines through the haze of rubble and smoke, crosses the borders of various countries, and  eases the pain of scars bore on the physical body but more so on the human soul.

This is a book you don’t want to miss. We all have struggles and our own “Fire Road” to walk, if we take a leaf from Kim’s book we can walk with more wisdom and grace.

I thoroughly recommend this book for a thought provoking and faith building read.

Go to Tyndale Publishers for an excerpt and videos

*I was given a free copy of this memoir in exchange for an unbiased written review. all opinions are my own.*

country living · flocks and herds · writer, homemaking, homeschooling, farm, ranch, christian, Bible, lifestyle · Writing

November Writing & Blethering

So…I have often wanted to join the National Novel Writing Challenge, and this year I’m doing it! I have been out of town, and even had a procedure done that took up some time, and I’m still a little bit ahead of schedule which is amazing to me. I had been so intimidated and here I am doing this thing. I took some advice that turned out to be a real gem, and took the time to prepare in October. I researched and outlined and it has kept my head above water, so ya, I’m going to try to make this a habit. If you want to follow my progress look on the right hand sidebar at the bottom of the page and you will see a little badge with my word count.

My WIP (work in progress) is a biblical historical fiction. I have a devotional started too, so I’m feeling pretty productive, at least in my writing chair.

In other news I’m getting my goats and sheep bred for 2018 babies, and planning sheep milk carmels and cheeses next year. Oh my.

I have some milk in the freezer for winter soaps, and I’ll probably start those in a week or two. I’m trying to keep my schedule as clear as possible for some dear people that are battling cancer. I’d like to be able to visit more, and since both live across the mountains, it takes a little doing.

Speaking of…

I had a colonoscopy a couple days ago (Don’t be jealous). Colon cancer runs in my family, unusually often. I’m two years younger than the recommended age to start getting those horrible procedures done, and I already had six precancerous polyps removed. I was a little stunned. Somehow I figured to escape that. Sigh. Anyway, there was one large one that got sent to pathology and I’ll hear back on that in a week or two. I’m sure I took a breath and blinked once or twice over the doctor’s news, but then that was that. I have a novel to write.

I’m wanting to go to a writer’s conference next year. If you’re a local writer do you go to conferences? If so, which do you like best?

~___~

I’m also feeling like I need to add a Nigerian dwarf doe and a llama to my ranch. This urge may pass. It’s kind of like baby fever I guess, but maybe I should be satisfied with the goat kids and lambs coming next year. After all, animals are hard work.

What I’d really love is to travel on camel to various inns close to good European coffee houses where I could write novels that would make Hemingway jealous. And when I wasn’t writing I’d shop and get massages and pedicures.

Ya. That sounds like a good idea. Maybe I better learn to be a better writer first though.

🙂

Uncategorized

When God Lets You Know

Sometimes God let’s me know He’s aware of my condition He wants me to know that He cares, and He’s on my side.

 

I’ve kind of been going through the wars lately. I’ve been praying hard and recently told Him I really need Him to give me something to hold on to.

God really is very nice.

There’s a lovely elderly couple at our church who greet you at the front doors every Sunday morning. They have been there for decades and decades. They spill love out all over everyone and they are the kind of people that you know really love the Lord and are full of the Holy Spirit.

This morning my youngest son and I got to church a few minutes late. The darlings were still there at the door, and the gentleman immediately smiled at me and reached out his arms towards me and let me know he had been praying for me last night. He said the Lord had told him specifically to pray for me. He was very concerned and asked if I was okay. Bless him, Lord!

Oh! The sweetness of that. How precious that he obeyed the message from the Spirit. How precious to me that God wanted me to know.

He gave me enough to keep going.

Sometimes life is grand. Sometimes quite frankly it just bites. Thank goodness that we have a God who cares.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

Mathew 7:7

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Uncategorized

My Favorite Days

My favorite days are the peaceful days of fall when it’s sunny and warm outside without much of a breeze, if any at all.

Sitting in the sun barefoot and soaking in the D while getting the soul therapy of a quiet mind, just observing and being outside. With the animals of course. I love each group and they all offer their own brand of companionship.

The sheep are calming. The goats are enthralling. The chickens as well. The horses in their majesty are inspiring.

The key is being quiet and only sitting amongst them observing. It’s like a medicine.

If you don’t have your own or at least a friend or neighbor’s animals to be with, try being alone in the woods, at a pond or lake, or even in your own back yard watching birds and squirrels at feeders.

It’s cheaper than therapy with a counselor 😄