Friday, November 26, 2010

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

Happy belated Thanksgiving!  

I hope you thoroughly enjoyed the gift of time with your family and friends yesterday.   Every year we make the journey to my in-laws' home.  We're lucky -- they live about 10 miles from us.  They treat all of us to a traditional meal 
made with lots of love.  

And boy, did I enjoy this year more than last.  And I'm not talking about the meal.
Last Thanksgiving, I was recovering from surgery and was having a hard time just standing up.  My family surprised me by coming over the day after Thanksgiving and decorating our house for Christmas.  Half of them did the inside, the other half did the outside.  They were like little elves sent from heaven.  I know there aren’t elves in heaven, but work with me here.
Given that I could hardly lift a stocking, I can remember crying while my Mom was placing our stockings on the mantle.   And, if I recall, I had just bought my first wig that week and hated it once I tried it on again at home.  I looked like a very bad country western singer from the 70s.  But really, the tears were more from being so very touched by their kindness.  But it was a very bad wig.
So this year, I broke out Christmas even before Thanksgiving arrived.  I cranked up the Christmas music on KOST-FM.  They start playing it a week before Thanksgiving, you know.  Some of you may hate that, but I adore it.   Nothing touches my soul like Christmas music.  Oh Holy Night is my favorite.  Doesn’t matter who sings it.  My heart melts every time I hear it.
So I thought I would photograph some of my decorations and share them with you.  I mixed things up a bit this year and had to photograph it anyway.  If you don’t know this tip yet, you might want to use it.  Photograph each part of your home that you decorate and put the photos in a box labeled “dining room”, for instance.  That way, next year, you follow the photos and are done in record time.  Another hint:  I also take a photo of my house before I break out the decorations, so I can put it all back together again in record time.  Do I have OCD?  I think I may.
So, these are just a few of my favorite things... 

Christmas greets us at the front door.

An old platter with "snow", reproduction mercury glass ornaments and a sweet wreath that came atop a gift last year.  

I love to add touches of greenery and berries to most every corner of our house.  I love this frame my girlfriend gave me.  It reads, "A Family Built on Faith."

I added this little peace ornament to our tree to remind me 
of God's peace I felt this year.

And my most favorite addition this year.  An old Pepsi crate filled with a nativity scene and a card that reads, "For Unto Us, a Child is Born."  

I realize that Christmas isn't about the decorations.  
And it's not about the gifts.  
It's about the gift.  
Jesus' birth.  

As you decorate your home this year, remember to celebrate His birth.  Maybe knock a Santa out of his usual position on a side table and place a nativity scene there instead.  

I have another nativity scene that I didn't photograph.  But it's gorgeous.  I bought it this year at Costco for $79.  The best $79 I ever spent.  I placed it on a wooden sideboard that's in our family room.  I added a few glass candle votives and light them at night after turning off all the lights except for those on the Christmas tree.   

I try and imagine what is what like when Jesus was born.  To be there beside Joseph and Mary.  To watch Him sleep.  To see the North star shining above Him.

And then I recall the words from Oh Holy Night:

"Oh holy night.  The stars are brightly shining.  
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth."

May you and your family celebrate the night of our dear Savior's birth. 
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hold the Mayo...

Yesterday I went down to Cedars for my routine cat scan, blood work and doctor appointment.  I also had to have an ultrasound for my recent kidney surgery.  It was a very long day.  So long that I didn't look forward to ending my day with my favorite exams - the lovely pelvic and rectal exams.   As I was waiting for my doctor to come in and examine me, I had mentioned to someone that I think Dr. Karlan should consider the fact that I’ve been here all day, underwent all these procedures, and that I shouldn’t have to go undergo two more exams. I was kind of kidding, but kind of not.  As Dr. Karlan walked in, she greeted me with a big smile and, “Happy Thanksgiving!  No exams today.  You’ve been through enough.”  A little birdie had told her what I had said.  She threw in a Christmas gift too - foregoing a December exam because I’m doing so well.  
With all that good news, I should have popped the champagne cork when I got home.  Such good news needs to be celebrated.  But my personality isn’t to summon all my friends and do so.  Instead, I sit before God and thank Him with tears streaming down my face.
When I got home last night, I read through some emails.   My nurse had sent me Sunday's L.A. Times article about Cedar’s recent ovarian cancer walk.  In it, it mentioned that a woman had organized the annual event in honor of her mom who was also diagnosed with my stage of cancer.  Only the mom wasn’t at the event.  I think you can figure out why.  And all of a sudden, my joy from such a great day turned to tears again, but this time, for a different reason.
When I was diagnosed last year, I felt I received an expiration date on myself.  I felt like a jar of mayonnaise.  And I get that we all are walking around with expiration dates -- some just not as faded and hard to read as others.  
But what I need to remember is that God will give me my expiration date.  Not medicine.  I know several cancer survivors who should not be here today.  I should not have seen one at my bible study this week. I should not have had lunch with one last week. And I should not have received an encouraging card from another last month.  All of their oncologists are probably scratching their heads and wondering why they beat the odds they were given.  But they’re here.  Because it’s God’s will for them to be here.  He will determine our expiration date.
My daughter’s sweet teacher (also a cancer survivor) gave me a verse of scripture before my last surgery.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”  -- Psalm 20:7.
She added, “Substitute doctors, hospitals, chemo, whatever, in place of chariots and horses.”
So true.
So from bad, comes good -- right?  After shedding some tears and then remembering that my life is in God’s hands, I was flooded with perspective.  As I walked into my family room and could hardly find the surface of my coffee table because of dirty soccer socks, shin guards, a lap top, school papers, water bottles (you get the messy picture), my old ways fell away.  
I would have barked at my kids for being kids.  For not cleaning up the mess they left behind.  Instead, I walked into the kitchen to find them making dinner for themselves.  Milk, cheese, bread, cereal, you name it, it was everywhere.  And it wasn’t pretty.  It was gorgeous.  I just stood there and stared at them with tears in my eyes.  Taking it all in.  
Messy counter, and all.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

If I had a Rose Bush...

OK, so who likes to recover from surgery?  Yeah, not me.  So not me.
It’s not so much the healing of the body I don’t like, it’s the healing of the spirit.
I find I get down -- a lot -- while waiting to recover.  Because while recovering, there are so many limitations.  “Don’t drive.  Don’t lift anything.  Don’t do your usual things.”   That equates to, “Don’t be.”  Well, that’s no fun.
So instead, that leaves me to watch my Mom do 20 loads of laundry in a day and watch my Dad spend more time in his car with my kids than on my couch with a cup of coffee.   Pain is not a sore abdomen, but rather, pain is feeling useless.
And the funny thing is -- I know this feeling very well.  It was something I experienced long before I ever had my first surgery.
For years, I had a heart that wanted to serve, to help others.  But I didn’t know where.  So I never did.  And my heart ached.  It felt hollow.  It was like one of those chocolate Easter bunnies.   You bite off that thick, long chocolate ear only to find there’s nothing inside of it.  That was me.
Looking back, I always felt a natural high when I was able to surprise a hurting friend with a jar full of garden flowers on her front porch -- a favorite past-time of mine.  I love making a friend feel better.  And if I analyze that, I think it’s because giving of oneself to another enables us to feel closer to Jesus.   If He had a mason jar, some ribbon and a few roses, He would have placed them on his friends’ doorsteps too.  It’s sharing love, it’s sharing kindness.  It’s sharing Jesus.
So how do you share Jesus?  
Just last week I read an article about a Mom whose daughter wanted to go on a missions trip, but the family couldn’t afford to send her.  So the Mom had an idea of hosting a garden tour and giving her daughter the money she raised from inviting friends and neighbors over to take a peek at her garden.   She raised enough money to fulfill her daughter's dream.  The following year, the daughter wanted to return, but needed to raise the money again.  So the Mom hosted another garden tour and was able to pay for her trip once more.  The third year, her daughter wanted to return, but this time, she had enough money to send herself.  So the Mom said to God, “Now what am I to do?”  
The Mom prayed about it and felt led to begin her first annual garden faire.  She asked all of her Christian girlfriends to act as docents, her husband parked all of the incoming cars and she made little wooden signs bearing beautiful scriptures to sprinkle throughout her garden.  She was basically sharing her faith through her beautiful 14-acre garden.  
After I read that article, I said to my Mom, “Well, if I had a 14-acre garden, I’d do the same thing.”
And then I caught myself as the words were coming out of my mouth.  “If I had a 14-acre garden.....”
That’s when I realized, you don’t need a 14-acre garden to share your faith.  All you need is a rose bush.  If we all waited until we had 140 rose bushes on 14 acres of land, we’d be waiting and wasting so many opportunities of sharing God’s love with others.   
What do you have to share?  Do you have a rose bush?  Do you have a paintbrush?  Do you have a spoon?  Do you have a hand?

All it takes is one of something to reach many...and to no longer feel useless.