May 30

Why You Shouldn’t Trust Everything You See and Hear

 

I was in sunny Colorado (hence the glow on our faces!) visiting Gigi, my friend of 40 years, when all the hoopla broke over “Laurel or Yanny.”  After we finally stopped talking and playing Boggle long enough to listen, I was shocked Gigi heard “Yanny,” as I would have bet my firstborn that the word was “Laurel” (sorry, Danielle). If you’ve been living under a rock, here’s the recording http://time.com/5278817/yanny-or-laurel-audio-clip-debate/  

I’m the kind of skeptical person who likes to depend on my own five senses, but debates like this one (and the white/gold or blue/black dress uproar in 2015 https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/28/business/a-simple-question-about-a-dress-and-the-world-weighs-in.html) remind me that we can’t always trust what we see or hear as the final word. In fact most of this world is invisible to us, and yet crucial for life and many medical treatments.

The only portion of the electromagnet spectrum that the human eye can detect is visible light, but we sure depend on the rest of those electromagnetic waves to get us through the day. Very long radio waves allow us not only to listen to the radio, but also watch TV, utilize the microwave, and call or text on our cell phones. And at the other end of the spectrum, short X-rays give us useful information about our health, and even shorter gamma rays make possible specialized radiation treatment for brain tumors.

And much of the world is inaudible, too. We all know the human ear only can hear a portion of sounds—those in the 2-20 kilohertz range. Dogs can hear much higher frequencies (up to 60KHz,) as can cats, who always pretend they can’t. But did you know most people can expect age-related hearing loss called “presbycusis?” That new vocabulary word explains why my seven-years-older-than-I-am-husband can’t ever seem to hear me.

And although Ralph’s hearing is not as acute as mine, he always has had a superior sense of smell. But his keen nose is nothing compared to a dog’s super-smelling abilities—about 300 million nasal sensors, six times more than a human. Canines already are used by law enforcement agencies to search for bombs and illegal drugs, but medical researchers are studying whether man’s best friend can “sniff” out cancer, too.

A 2016 CNN report described a dog named Lucy, who was kicked out of guide dog school because she was too distracted by odors. So her owners decided to take advantage of her sniffing prowess and train her to find malignancies instead. Apparently she can detect cancer’s unique odors and was reported to correctly sniff out cancer 95-percent of the time over a seven-year period. Clinical trials are continuing. 

Other dogs have been described to accurately identify melanoma by sniffing moles and prostate cancer by taking a whiff of urine. (We already have CAT scans, why not DOG sniffs?)

Researchers also are checking to see if the volatile organic compounds found in our breath can be used to detect breast and lung cancer at early stages. Imagine taking a breathalyzer notto see if you’re too impaired to drive, but to find out if you have a malignant tumor.

And if you really want to blow your mind about the invisibility of our world, check out all the scientists who say what we can see is only a fraction of the whole universe.

I’ve read differing percentages, but most say the stars, planets and galaxies that can be seen make up only 2- to 4-percent of the universe. The remaining 96- to 98- percent can’t be seen, detected or even comprehended by astronomers!

I would never be confused with a quantum physicist, but I have known for decades that what is visible in this world is notthe sum of reality. I believe Plato knew it centuries ago when he asserted “the visible is a shadow cast by the invisible.” And the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. echoed the Greek philosopher’s view in the 20thcentury when he wrote: “Everything we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.”

Romans 1:20 “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

This world is a shadow of the eternal power and divine nature of God. No matter how this world actually evolved, it started with a Creator and it will end one day with Him, too.

Don’t fix your eyes on what is seen. Don’t fix them on pathology reports or CT scans or blood work or insurance bills or statistics or anything else you can see. No matter what this life brings, fix your eyes on what is unseen. Then you will find peace…whatever you face.

Adapted from Peace in the Face of Cancer, copyright 2017 by Lynn Eib.

If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO4uIyz_d90

 

 

May 23

“A mermaid has no tears, and that makes her suffer all the more.”–Hans Christian Andersen

 

One of the side effects of my chemo is that my right tear duct was irreparably scarred thereby making that eye “water” all the time. Because of this annoying condition, which often prompts total strangers to ask me if I’m OK when they see me “crying” in public places, I’m probably more fascinated with tears than the average person.

If you ever tasted a tear trickling down your face, then you know they are salty. But tears are much more

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than salty water. They’re actually a complex combination of proteins, enzymes, lipids, metabolites, and electrolytes. (I’m not sure what all those are either, but I know it’s more than just NaCl!)

We all have three different kinds of tears: normal tears that continuously keep our eyes lubricated; irritant tears that wash away foreign substances; and emotional tears we cry for reasons like sadness and pain. Scientists who study tears can look at these tiny drops of water and tell the difference between the first two types and the third kind, because emotional tears have much more protein and less oil.

Every tear has three layers, each of which has a different purpose. The inner layer coats the cornea; the middle layer, which is almost all water, provides moisture and oxygen to the cornea; and the outer layer is an oily film that seals the tears on our eyes and slows evaporation.

Two different glands create the layers. A small gland produces the inner and outer layers and a large gland under the upper eyelid produces the middle layer

Some tear researchers theorize that emotional tears carry hormones from the brain, which release calming endorphins and flush toxins out of the bloodstream returning our bodies to a reduced-stress state. (Others surmise that women tend to live longer than men because on average they cry twice as much as men.)

Isn’t it amazing how much intricacy went into the creation of tiny tears by our Creator!

My husband has joked that the only Bible verse tattoo he would ever get is John 11:35. He doesn’t like needles and that verse is the Bible’s shortest: “Jesus wept.”

Jesus was standing at the grave of his friend Lazarus surrounded by Lazarus’s weeping sisters and other wailing friends and He, too, began to cry.

He could have announced: “Everything’s going to be okay!” After all, Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus back to life. He could have said: “Don’t worry, be happy!

” After all, He knew that in moments their sorrow would be turned to joy.

But He didn’t. Instead, He wept.

I certainly don’t assume to definitely know all the reasons why Jesus wept, but I think He wanted those present to know He felt their sadness, too, and I believe He wanted those of us reading this account one day to know He thinks it’s all right to cry.

Many of us (especially men!) need to tell ourselves that truth: that weeping is not a sign of weakness or shame; that tears are indeed a gift from God to express our deepest feelings.

Can you imagine all the tears you’ve ever cried in your life? The ones when kids made fun of you on the playground and when you skinned your knee in the backyard. Don’t forget the ones when your pet died and when your first love broke your heart. Think about the tears you shed when you had your first car accident and when you didn’t have enough money to pay the bills.

Remember the tears when you heard the diagnosis and those you shed when someone who was treated with you “lost” the battle? Don’t forget those you let slip in the shower so you could wash them away before anyone could see.

But someone did see. The same One who created the complexity of tears, saw—and remembers—every one of yours.

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8 NLT 

I imagine some of us must have some pretty big bottles to store all our tears! But why does God keep and record these little salty drops?

I love the explanation given by author Joni Eareckson Tada, who has been confined to a wheelchair since a 1967 diving accident left her paralyzed from the neck down.

Every tear you’ve cried will be redeemed. God will give you indescribable glory for your grief, not with a general wave of the hand, but in a considered and specific way. Each tear has been listed; each will be recompensed.

“I’ve cried a few times over not having the use of my hands. I think it’s ironic that on the day in heaven when I finally get back use of my hands so I can dry my own tears. . . . I won’t have to: ‘He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes.’ (Revelation 21:4).”[i]

I look forward to that day when God will wipe away the tears from my watery right eye and show me how He has turned all my sadness into greatness for His kingdom. And until that time, I’m glad I’m not a mermaid so I my tears can soften my suffering.

Adapted from Peace in the Face of Cancer, copyright 2017 by Lynn Eib

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[i]Joni Eareckson Tada, “A List of Tears” in More Precious Than Silver(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), April 24. Thanks to Joni for encouraging me and other readers of this devotional to consider the many reasons we’ve shed tears over the years.

If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGsPUOeuAto

May 16

“You never really understand a person until you…climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

 

This To Kill a Mockingbird snippet of advice comes from Harper Lee’s fictional character Atticus Finch, a white attorney defending a black man falsely accused of rape in a racist 1930s southern community. Finch is adamant that his own children learn to treat everyone with compassion, regardless of their outward differences and admonishes them to try to see life from another’s perspective.  Image result for atticus finch free photos

Families and friends facing serious illness have differences that are much more than skin deep—very diverse personalities and coping styles, which often are misunderstood or unappreciated.

From my observations ministering to cancer patients and their families for more than 25 years, I can tell you that folks normally cope with cancer the same way they coped with life before cancer. The talkers keep chatting and the quiet ones stay mum. The feelers continue to emote and the thinkers keep on rationalizing. The people-oriented surround themselves with folks to spur them on and the task-oriented gather facts to try and problem-solve.

And guess what? That’s okay…because we need each other.

We need an arsenal of abilities and strengths to fight cancer or any other trial and each person in your inner circle of loved ones brings something different to the table. You will be far better equipped if you can appreciate your differences instead of allowing them to annoy or even divide you.

 

My husband of nearly 45 years and I are pretty much exact opposites in personality. I’m a task-oriented
extrovert and my mate is a people-oriented introvert. He’s easy-going and I have to plan to be spontaneous. If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs type indicator, I’m an ESTJ and he’s an INFP. Even if you’re not familiar with the traits those 10 letters stand for, you can clearly see none of them matches up![1]

 

If you have ever taken the Gary Smalley Personality Types Inventory, I’m a lion-beaver and he’s a golden retriever-otter. A lion’s rallying cry is “Let’s get it done!” while an otter delightfully squeals “Don’t worry, it will all work out!” [2]  Image result for lion beaver otter golden retriever

And what I’ve learned from all this alphabet soup and animal labels is that sometimes my hubby needs to tighten up and sometimes I need to lighten up. And I’ve especially learned that at times I need someone like him who is very different than I am to help me hear from God.

Our Creator designed us to need each other and to be able to offer one another our talents, our gifts, our insights, and our special brand of encouragement. Please don’t let those differences become a wedge in your relationships. One of the primary ways Satan has to discourage families and friends facing serious illness is to get us at odds with one another. Don’t let that deceiver win.

Whether you are the patient or the caregiver, go ahead and consider the world from someone else’s point of view.  Take a deep breath, climb into his or her skin and walk around a little. You want and need people with personalities different from yours to help you find peace in the face of illness.

Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!…Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Romans 12:16, 18 NLT

Don’t tear down another person with your words. Instead, keep the peace, and be considerate. Be truly humble toward everyone… Titus 3:2 The Voice Bible

Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT

Adapted from Peace in the Face of Cancer, copyright Lynn Eib 2017.

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[1]For more info about the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator personality inventory, go tohttp://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/

[2]To take the free animal personality test, go to http://www.smalley.cc/free-personality-test/

If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jg1Rm0Ig5o&vl=fr

May 09

The Most Beautiful Sight on My Riverboat Cruise

 

My husband and I recently returned from a breathtaking cruise of the Rhine River from Amsterdam, Netherlands through Germany and France to Basel, Switzerland.  We basked in the beauty of more than 7 million tulips blooming at Keukenhof Gardens, marveled at the 13th-century Gothic architecture of the Cologne Cathedral, 

 spotted 30+ medieval castles along the spectacular 80-mile river gorge,

and delighted in the brush strokes of such artistic giants as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh,

while intermittently feasting on French pastries and warm German “apfelstrudel”with vanilla sauce. (#happyhusbandesserts)

But during our three days in Amsterdam and our week down the Rhine River, the most beautiful sight–which literally brought tears to my eyes– was not a wonder of nature nor a human masterpiece. It was the memory of a person.

Corrie Ten Boom.

If you’re already familiar with the Dutch woman known mainly from The Hiding Place book and movie, I don’t really have to explain why it was such a thrill to stand on the same floors she walked more than 70 years ago.  Tears filled my eyes as I stared into the actual hiding place where Jews and members of the Dutch resistance were safely tucked away from the Nazis (left photo).  Let me share a little of that story from the website for the Ten Boom Museum shown below:

During the Second World War, the Ten Boom home (above the family jewelry business) became a refuge, a hiding place, for fugitives and those hunted by the Nazis. By protecting these people, Casper and his daughters, Betsie and Corrie, risked their lives. This non-violent resistance against the Nazi-oppressors was the Ten Boom’s way of living out their Christian faith. 

During 1943 and into 1944, there were usually 5-6 people illegally living in the Ten Boom home: some of whom were Jews and others members of the Dutch underground. Additional refugees would stay with the Ten Booms for a few hours or a few days until another ‘safe house’ could be located for them.

Through these activities, the Ten Boom Family and their many friends and co-workers of ‘the BeJe group’ saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews and other refugees.

On February 28, 1944, the Ten Boom Family was betrayed and the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service) of the Nazis raided their home. That day, more than 30 people were arrested, among whom were father Casper and Betsie and Corrie, his two daughters that were living at home. Corrie’s brother Willem, sister Nollie and nephew Peter were at the house that day and were also taken to prison.

Although the Sicherheitsdienst arrested many visitors, they could not find who they were really after. Safely hidden behind a false wall in Corrie’s bedroom (entrance was through a removable bottom shelf) were two Jewish men, two Jewish women and two members of the Dutch underground. Although the house remained under guard by the Sicherheitsdienst, members of a local police resistance group were able, by cunnings means, to liberate the refugees from the ‘hiding place’ 47 hours later. The four Jews were taken to new ‘safe house’, and three survived the war. One of the underground workers was killed during the war years, but the other survived.  (The photo shows how narrow the hiding place was and wall stencils illustrate how six people stood inside for two days.)

Ten days after his arrest, father Casper died in Scheveningen Prison. Betsie and Corrie also spent some time in that same prison. From there, they were transported to camp Vucht and then to the notorious Ravensbrück Concentration Camp in Germany.

Life at Ravensbrück was almost unbearable, but Betsie and Corrie spent their time sharing Jesus’ love with their fellow prisoners. Many women became Christians in that terrible place becauce of Betsie and Corrie’s witness to them. Betsie died at Ravensbrück (age 59) but Corrie miraculously survived.

Corrie ten BoomAfter her release from Ravensbrück Concentration Camp (age 53) Corrie travelled all around the world to tell everyone that “there no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still” and that “God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies.” In more than 30 years, Corrie visited over 60 countries to testify to God’s love an to encourage people with the message that “Jesus is Victor.” On April 15th, 1983, on her 91st birthday, this remarkable woman died in Orange, California.

I cannot wait to meet this amazing woman in Heaven one day. I pray her story encourages you to believe that God’s love can reach into your or your loved one’s deep pit and to trust Him to be your safe hiding place.

You are my hiding place and my shield. I wait for your word. Psalm 119:114

For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. Psalm 32:7

He has hidden me in the shadow of His hand. Isaiah 49:2

(To read more about the Corrie Ten Boom Museum, go to https://www.corrietenboom.com/en/home. Her author page on Amazon.com lists her many books.)

(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzqpkMJxyss)

 

 

May 02

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it”–Gibran

 

I love to play FreeCell Solitaire on my laptop. I tell myself that I play to keep my mind keen as I age and that all the strategizing sharpens my mental skills. But I think the real reason I’m continually drawn to this card game is because I can control it.  Image result

Every single game of FreeCell is winnable and if I find my strategy isn’t working or I don’t have any more legal moves, I simply hit CRTL-Z.  I “undo” my past turns and make other choices until once again I emerge a winner (current win streak is 779).

You know what CTRL stands for, right? CONTROL! Yep, that’s why I love the game. I’m in control and if the game gets out-of-control and I might lose, I simply take control a new way and make everything turn out the way I always wanted it to. It’s the perfect game for a perfectionist like me who loves to be in control and who hates to lose!

 Don’t you wish life had a CTRL-Z button? You could hit it and go back and change a behavior that put you or your loved one at-risk for your particular diagnosis. Or you could tap it and head to the doctor sooner for medical tests. Or you could strike those two keys and find a way to stop the very first cells from dividing so rapidly and becoming cancerous.  Or at the very least you could type that command and undo all the treatment side effects. Somehow, some way, you could control a situation until everything turned out just the way you wanted.

Mary, a member of my morning cancer support group, vividly recalls the out-of-control feeling brought on by her diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer, just 19 months after she was widowed. Mary Lou Myers Frazer's Profile Photo, Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling

“My husband was gone; I retired Feb. 3 and got diagnosed Feb. 27,” she says. “It was the one-two punch. The shock just hit me and I was ready to die.”

Not only did Mary feel out-of-control, but the cancer looked out-of-control, as it already had spread to her liver and bones.

However, within a few months of starting chemo and radiation, scans showed the disease was responding. The liver spots disappeared, the bone lesions stabilized and the lung tumor shrunk by half. As I write this, she has been a survivor for more than six years.

“I could just squeal, I’m so happy,” she exclaims. “I’m so grateful to God every day.”

Despite her good quality of life, Mary still lives under the shadow of an incurable cancer as she wonders what the future holds for her.

“I have my moments when it’s hard,” she acknowledges. “But my peace comes from knowing God has a plan and He’s way smarter than I am. If I don’t understand it now, I will later.

“We all pray that we get our own way and we think we know what’s best, but He is the one who does,” Mary says. “I know that’s easy to say, but it’s not always so easy to do.

“I find myself asking God: ‘Could I just have a little control? I want your will, but could I have just a little of mine?’” she adds with a laugh.

I really appreciate Mary’s honesty and the fact she recognizes the humor in desiring God’s will, but on her own terms.

If like Mary and me, your anxiety comes not from just thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it, I have some good advice for us from Proverbs 3:5-6:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes.”

Or as the Message Bible paraphrases it:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.

Quit searching for life’s CRTL-Z button and stop pretending you can be in charge of it all.

Go ahead and give up the control-stick and declare with the psalmist “my future is in Your hands.” (Psalm 31:15)

But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. Romans 8:6

Adapted from Peace in the Face of Cancer, copyright 2017 by Lynn Eib
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(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVMU-viTHIw )

I couldn’t decide which song to use, so here’s another one! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6Eiv1r5UnE )

 

Apr 25

Do you need a vacation from illness?

 

Ever feel like you need a vacation from cancer, dementia, ALS, heart disease or whatever health trial you’re facing?

You probably do—at least a mental one and maybe a physical one as well.

Believe it or not the chemo room at Dr. Marc Hirsh’s office, where I worked as a patient advocate for nearly 20 years, became a mini-vacation from cancer for patients when we threw elaborate parties for two days near Halloween. 

One year it was a Sesame Street theme and I obliged as Miss Piggy (For the record, I “porked up” with eight pairs of rolled up socks under my skirt and down my blouse!)

Another year we dressed  up as  the Wizard of Oz with the good and bad witches giving chemo. I covered my whole yellow-clad body with a long piece of yellow shelf paper outlined in brick shapes.  “Follow the yellow brick road!” I announced in my best Munchkin voice as I led patients back to the chemo room.

You’ve probably heard of the non-profit organization Make-a-Wish which grants wishes for children facing a life-threatening illness—often a trip to Disney World or a chance to meet a famous athlete or movie star.  But did you know there are groups which offer free wishes for adults with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses?

When I worked as an advocate I helped several people get free dream wishes. A young mom went to Disney with her husband and 4-year-old. Another family got a free week’s vacation at a beautiful Delaware beach home and a mother of four, who had just finished treatment got a much-needed holiday in Myrtle Beach.

If you Google “adult cancer patient wishes” a slew of them come up. The rules are different for each wish—some are only available to certain ages or specific kinds of cancer, while others include any life-threatening illness. Some are based on financial need—like if you can’t afford a vacation yourself.

There are dream wishes for everything from fly-fishing excursions to free house cleaning. Normally you can only have one wish granted, so choose wisely before applying. Ask a nurse/patient navigator or a hospital social worker to help you with the paperwork because usually you can’t nominate yourself. If you don’t have the energy to apply, but need a dream vacation, ask a trusted friend or family member to take the lead and make it happen. I’m sure someone would be thrilled to have a specific way to lighten your load.

My friend Barb Titanish and her wonderful organization H.O.P.E., which ministers to hundreds of cancer Hopelinepatients and their families is actually in the process of creating a retreat in southcentral Pennsylvania where folks can have a vacation from cancer. Plans call for the 49-acre donated site to have a fully staffed main house with four to six family suites, catered dining facilities, a fishing pond, greenhouse, hair salon, serenity garden, and playground including a handicapped accessible treehouse. Folks can come for the day or the week.

“Whether you are just diagnosed or starting a new treatment or at the end of life, you need to give yourself a break,” says Barb.  (You can follow the project’s progress at www.hopeforcancerfamilies.org)

You also can create a mini-vacation from your illness right in your own home or town. Declare every first Friday of the month to be “Cancer-Free Friday” where you only watch funny movies and no one is allowed to mention the “C” word. Or ask a friend to plan an outing for the day—a scenic ride and a picnic, a mani-pedi and a tea room, or an afternoon hitting golf balls and eating BBQ. Ask yourself what would help your mind/your body/your spirit to take a vacation from illness. Pray about it and ask God how you or someone you know can make it happen. People cannot read your mind so let those who have asked to help you know what you really need.

You deserve a break today…and I’m not thinking McDonald’s.

I am sick at heart.
How long, O Lord, until you restore me? Psalm 6:3

When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. Psalm 84:6

Adapted from Peace in the Face of Cancer, copyright 2017 by Lynn Eib
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(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9zEgRsorZ4 )

Apr 18

Who’s taking care of YOU?

 

Do you know what to do if you’re on an airplane and there’s a sudden loss of cabin pressure? Scream? Pray? Scream prayers? All good suggestions, but if you had paid attention to the flight attendant before takeoff, you would know to “secure your own oxygen mask first before you help others.” Related image

If you are a caregiver—either as a volunteer or professionally—for someone facing a serious illness, my guess is that you probably could do a better job of taking care of yourself. Putting on your own oxygen mask first, if you will. And if you’re the patient and not the caregiver, my guess is that you probably could do a better job of understanding what caregivers do and feel.

Thankfully, I’ve never been on a plane which experienced a sudden loss in cabin pressure, but hearing a diagnosis of cancer or some other life-threatening illness certainly has a way of making you feel faint. And the weeks, months or even years of caregiving which follow can leave anyone weary.

So I chatted with my friend Cynthia about the crucial but exhausting role of caregiver because: 1.) She’s been doing it for a really long time and 2.) She’s written a really helpful book on the subject called Cancer Journey: A Caregiver’s View from the Passenger Seat.

Cynthia says her role as caregiver to husband Jim has endured much shifting throughout his 15-year journey with non-small cell lung cancer. Cynthia Zahm Siegfried's Profile Photo, Image may contain: Jim Siegfried and Cynthia Zahm Siegfried, people smiling, eyeglasses

“I had a hard time initially getting him to be honest and express his needs…,” she explains. “He would try to make light of his symptoms or…minimize them when we talked to the doctor.

“I finally convinced him that wasn’t helping him or me,” she adds.

Because Cynthia has been a caregiver for so long—through nine lung cancer recurrences, one go-round with prostate cancer, multiple surgeries and countless treatments—I asked her how she finds the physical and emotional energy she needs to care for Jim.

“Find a support group and it’s better to be in one just for caregivers if you can,” she says. “Then you can really express yourself instead of both trying to protect each other.

“That first year (after diagnosis) I didn’t really do a good job of taking care of myself.” Cynthia admits.

But in the intervening years, she says she has tried to play tennis or do Pilates/yoga a couple times a week. She also joined a community singing group which always lifts her spirits, and together she and Jim find stress relief by watching comedies and reading humorous books.

I’ve been a caregiver for family members—either unwell physically or mentally—for most of the past three decades. I’ve had a relative with dementia living in our home for years and I’ve made bi-weekly seven-hour car trips for months to be with a relative undergoing chemo. I’ve been so physically fatigued I had to literally crawl up the second-floor stairs and I’ve been so emotionally exhausted I’ve spent hundreds of dollars so I could pour out my woes to a counselor.

Being a caregiver is incredibly hard. I get it.

Image result for love your neighbor as yourself

But I also know we make the job even more difficult when we fail to take good care of ourselves. Do you know what Jesus said the two most important commandments are? First, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” and second “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Don’t miss those last two words: “as yourself.” It doesn’t just say to “love your neighbor.” It says we need to love ourselves. In fact, we can’t really love other people if we don’t love ourselves.

It is not selfish of you to do something refreshing, rejuvenating or relaxing for yourself. You cannot “fill up” your loved one when you both are running on fumes. Somebody is going to stall and get rear-ended.

The most loving thing you may do for your loved one today is to be good to yourself. If you can’t leave your family member alone, this is the time to call in one of those offers of help that others have made.  Watch a funny movie, enjoy a massage, go fishing, get a pedicure, take a walk, hit a bucket of balls, or catch a nap. Do something to lift your spirits so afterward you can once again lift someone else’s.

Adapted from Peace in the Face of Cancer, copyright 2017 by Lynn Eib
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(If the music video doesn’t automatically load below, click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUEy8nZvpdM

Apr 11

Are you as contented as a 2-year-old?

A few years ago I was eating breakfast on the deck with my oldest grandchild, Bauer, 2½ at the time. Thanks
to my husband’s green thumb, the deck was bursting with beautiful blooms. As I stumbled around, chiding my foggy brain to wake up, little Bauer let out a small toddler sigh.

“It’s lovely out here,” he said with a sweet smile. “We have everything we need.”

Ah, contentment.

A bowl of multigrain Cheerios with milk, a Lightning McQueen sippy cup of O.J., the beauty of nature and a day with grandma—what more could you possibly need?

Maybe a clear PET scan? How about a drop in the tumor marker? No more medicine side-effects would be nice. An insurance company that didn’t balk at paying for what the doctor ordered would be really great.

It’s difficult to have childlike contentment when we live in a grown-up world where in the U.S. alone every 30 seconds a new cancer diagnosis is made and every 65 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s. It’s never easy to find contentment while watching a loved one deal with a physical assault on his/her body—especially knowing we are helpless to stop it.

My dear friends Don and Jean, longtime members of the church my husband founded, know all too well how Image may contain: 2 people, including Jean Hessler Abbey, people smiling, people sitting and indoorit feels to have your world turn upside down and to frantically search for contentment again.

Both retired school teachers, Jean was diagnosed with inoperable, stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer at Christmas time 2013.

“I was shocked,” she recalls. “I thought I was too healthy to get cancer. I was doing all the ‘right’ things to be a healthy person—never smoking, eating right, exercising, weight control, regular checkups and all that.”

Since that shocking diagnosis, both Don and Jean have tried to live in the moment, but the admonition to “take one day at a time” is “the opposite of our teaching careers,” she says. “As teachers we always had to look ahead and plan for another day.”

“Learning to live one day at a time—and live it to the fullest—has been no easy task for me,” Don acknowledges. “My mind is always ‘planning’ the future, so I have had to change the way I think about tomorrow. I’m not there 100-percent, but I’m way better than I was.

“I think both of us in our own way just turned this whole thing over to God,” Don adds. “For me it’s putting total faith in His plan—knowing it’s a perfect plan—even if I don’t understand it all.”

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I’ve thought often about my grandson’s contented sentiment, especially mornings when I sit down with my to-do list ready to organize everything that I think needs to be done that day.  Sometimes I smile to myself and say “It’s a lovely day and I have everything I need.”

Perhaps that’s a sentiment with which you could start your day? The words of a toddler could be described as childish, but if like Don and Jean, you have faith in a loving God, they can become childlike trust.

Of one thing I am certain: my soul has become calm, quiet, and contented in You
Like a weaned child resting upon his mother, I am quiet.  Psalm 131:2 The Voice

 A soul that is calm, quiet and contented in God. 

What do you need today for your soul to be content? Ask your Heavenly Father and expect His answer.

 Know this: my God will also fill every need you have according to His glorious riches in Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King. Philippians 4:19 The Voice Bible

…for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13 NLT

(If the music video doesn’t automatically load, click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHe_qmo3gX4 )

 

 

 

 

Apr 04

“I refuse to be robbed of peace…”

 

Have you ever met someone and been amazed at the JOY and PEACE exuding from that person? Did simply being in their presence make you feel better about yourself and your world? I’d like to introduce you to one of those kind of people: my friend, Bola Montoya Taylor.

Bola was a Filipino jazz and gospel singer, best known for founding, along with her husband Ken, the Hallelujah Gospel Family choir in Japan, where the couple was serving as missionaries. It was the country’s first such choir and composed almost entirely of non-Christians, who had been introduced to black gospel in the American film “Sister Act” starring Whoopie Goldberg.

That initial group grew to 70 choirs with more than 1,000 members, all of whom no doubt were devastated when Bola posted a Facebook message in early September 2015 that her cancer had returned and no more treatments were available.

The news saddened me, too, as a mutual friend had earlier sent Bola one of my books and introduced us via Facebook. I hurriedly set up a time to Skype with Bola as I was writing my last book Peace in the Face of Cancer and wanted to interview and include her.

She was obviously tired, but her beautiful smile radiated joy and peace. We chatted about how it feels to know you are dying and leaving behind a husband and three children then ages, 18-23.

“I do not worry about myself because I know the future God has planned for me,” she calmly told me. “And the God who can take care of me can take care of my family, too.

“I refuse to be robbed of peace by something over which I absolutely have no control,” she added. “Allowing yourself to go down that rabbit hole of worry is just giving the enemy victory.”

We talked about her plans for the following week to marshal enough strength to perform one last time, on her 54th birthday, at the popular “Satin Doll” Tokyo jazz club. Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text

“I want my swan song to be for Jesus!” she said, tearing up for the first time in our lengthy conversation.

And what a swan song it was! Bola, dressed in vibrant teal and purple, was flanked by pianist-husband Ken and her jazz band snappily dressed in black and white. (You can see a short clip from the concert  below.) Perched on a stool with her life-sustaining, intravenous TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition) bag resting on the floor, she sang for 170 fans—only about 30 of whom were Christ-followers—crowded into a room built for 100. Another 1,500 watched a livestream online.

“Please know that Ken and I love you from the bottom of our hearts,” she said at the concert’s close. “You can have the peace and the joy and the rest that I’m enjoying right now (because) Jesus is REAL!”

The Japanese are not known for showing emotion, but many in the audience could be seen wiping away tears. Exactly four weeks later, Bola came to the end of her earthly life. One can only imagine the souls touched for eternity by her life

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Don’t worry; I’m not going to suggest that everyone facing a life-threatening illness needs to perform a “swan song” last concert—no offense, but I imagine some of your voices could be quite painful to the listening ears. 🙂

But I do hope you are thinking about how you want to be remembered. Image may contain: 1 person, standing

“I pray that I’ve lived well according to God’s plan,” Bola said. “I pray I also die well.”

Would you be willing to pray that prayer today? Pray that you live well according to God’s plan, however many weeks, months or years are remaining. And pray that when the time comes—as it will for all of us unless Jesus comes back first—that you die well.

I remember praying fairly soon after my diagnosis something like this: “Lord, I don’t want to have cancer and I hate having such an uncertain future, but I pray that as I go through this I will represent you well and others will see Jesus in me.”

I guarantee you that is a prayer God always wants answer for you.

Psalm 27:5 The Voice Bible:
His house is my shelter and secret retreat.
It is there I find peace in the midst of storm and turmoil.
Safety sits with me in the hiding place of God.
He will set me on a rock, high above the fray.

Psalm 85:8 The Voice Bible:
I will hear what the True God—the Eternal—will say,
for He will speak peace over His people,
peace over those who faithfully follow Him…

(If the music video doesn’t automatically load, please use this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHbDcYDl5hA )

And here’s Bola’s introduction to her birthday concert at the Satin Doll Jazz Club with her Japanese translator (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUYCaWt2ecE )

Mar 28

Happy Trails to You!

 

Did I ever tell you about the time I sang in church with Roy Rogers

It was the fall of 1969 during my senior year of high school and my family was newly attending a small church in Apple Valley, California. One Sunday morning the four of us traipsed into the little sanctuary toward a partially filled row. For some reason my eighth-grade brother, Jim, tried to squirm past me to get to the row first. Like a typical, annoyed older sister, I pushed him back and told him to sit on the end by Dad like he always did.

After we were seated, I silently snickered as I checked out the man on my left: very uncool cowboy boots; dorky bolo tie; gaudy gold wristwatch with big red gems and a bear head. Looks like a real hick.

I finally glanced at the man’s face and then whispered to my little brother, “Doesn’t this guy look like Roy Rogers if Roy Rogers was really old?”

My brother’s bony elbow jabbed my ribs as he loudly whispered back, “You, stupid, that is Roy Rogers!”

I gulped, scooted my chair closer to Roy, and when he offered to share his hymnal on the first song, took hold of it and sang my heart out with the King of Cowboys![1]

I hope you know the “Happy Trails” melody which signed off TV episodes of the Roy Rogers Show.[2] It’s a soothing, feel good song, which seems rather inappropriate for the unhappy trail of serious illness and other trials of life:  Happy trails to you, until we meet again. Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then. Who cares about the clouds when we’re together? Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.”

But listen to the song’s second verse:

“Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.”

Roy and Dale could have kept on making movies at that age...They look great!Roy and Dale, married for 50 years, had plenty of “blue” trails—three prior, short, failed marriages for Dale beginning at age 14; the death in childbirth of Roy’s first wife; toddler daughter Robin’s death from Down Syndrome complications; and the deaths of two of their four adopted/foster children—12-year-old daughter Debbie in a bus accident; and son Sandy, who choked to death while serving in the U.S. Army.

I can only imagine how many times Roy and Dale had to remind themselves of the rest of that verse:

“It’s the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here’s a happy one for you.”

So you’re on an extremely blue trail—how are you going to ride it?

 Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us
an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 1 Corinthians 4:16-18

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen;
it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 12:1

We ride our “blue trails” by faith and not by sight. And that’s how we find a new perspective as God sets us “high above.”


His house is my shelter and secret retreat.

It is there I find peace in the midst of storm and turmoil.
Safety sits with me in the hiding place of God.
He will set me on a rock, high above the fray. Psalm 27:5 The Voice Bible

Happy Trails to you, my friend, until we meet again.

 

[1] I laugh whenever I recall this incident because I’ve looked up Roy’s birthdate and know he turned 58 in November 1969—obviously “really old” to my 16-year-old eyes!

[2] You can listen to the original version online https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgw_yprN_-w or later versions by Van Halen and Randy Travis among others.

(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3TbAMExY_w)