Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I'm streaming!

Now THIS interesting. I am to write my stream of consciousness….which is apparently code word for “spaghetti brain.” That’s what I call it anyway. It refers to that book that Men are Like Waffles and Women are like Spaghetti.  See the book listing here  And it is true that women can seamlessly transition from one topic to the next without using turn signals, while we leave our men still sitting at the stop light waiting for the light to turn green.  

Regardless, I am to write my chain or strings of thought without too much processing and no editing.  The theory is that this is good for those critical times when you need to relay information but don't have time to real writing.  And it's also a good way to get something out of your head and onto paper.  But serious writer's do not consider this writing, no matter how fun it may be.  I am permitted to correct spelling and grievous errors in grammar.  But I am to leave the thoughts as they are.

Today I am up at the ungodly hour of 0500 or 5 am for those  who don’t read military. No particular reason other than I woke up and didn’t get back to sleep. If I lay away more than 30 minutes I get impatient. I commonly refer to these hours before 7 am as “before God gets up”. As a child, I thought the sun would not rise until God got up. Yes I know my theology was a little warped but I was 7. Cut me some slack. 

I started thinking of my list of chores to complete before my sister arrives tomorrow evening. So I got up, made my husband a breakfast burrito of egg and sausage for which he is quite grateful. Although I did notice him glancing at the clock when I awoke him to tell him I had made breakfast for him. I know well enough that he was weighing the choice of a hot breakfast or sleeping another 20 minutes. His love for eggs and sausage wrapped in a warm wheat tortilla won out.  Meanwhile, I’m inhaling a Diet Pepsi that happened to be sitting in my fridge, nice and cold. Don’t know how it got there, but it’s not there now.

I have three baskets of laundry to put away and 2 more downstairs in the machines. And I have to get those blasted invitations printed today. You know, how these print them yourself invitations seem like such a good deal? I’m just not quite certain of that anymore. By the time you buy the invitations – they aren’t too badly priced. But then ink…which is outrageously priced! It cannot cost this much to manufacture ink! They have been putting it in ball point pens for 50 or more years! Then there is the 200 hundred times you have to print and reprint because nothing in the box gives you orientation or margins so you have to start guessing and printing…which uses up another cartridge of ink. THEN you get to assemble the puppies…print, slip the sleeve over them, wrap the ribbon around them and attach the bow and the little pearl BEFORE you can even insert the invitation into the envelope. Which you still have to address and take to the post office. Now I’m questioning “is it ever appropriate to include that the bride and groom are registered at these stores?” So if you are single and hope to get married, put this in your little hope chest…BUY printed invitations. You can even do it online. Even if it looks like it will run a $100 or so, DO it. It will cost you less in time and frustration! By the time I felt it was all aligned and even, I was ready to CHEW those invitations!

I laugh at myself just a bit through all this, because I have been losing weight. If you don’t know me well then I will share that I can afford easily to lose about 40 more lbs. The thing is, I’m just not trying that hard. So then I started to worry when I realized I had dropped 10 lbs since Jan 5th when I last saw the doctor. Mr. Rosey tells me that I don’t realize how much food I am turning away. I turn down offers of ice cream or frozen yogurt because I simply just don’t want it.  Cakes and cookies – not so much.  I am actually leaving food on my plate which is BIG achievement regarding my food issues. But with all that, don’t think I’m this wonderful diet following nutrition fascist. Just ask the bag of Robin Egg candy I inhaled yesterday. Oh that’s right, you cannot because I ate most of them and hid the rest. Am I the only one who believes that if you hide the cookies or candies that you will somehow forget that it is there? Meanwhile, I have to repurchase more Robin Eggs for the kid’s Easter Basket. 

Which reminds me I need to be hunting for the best price on Ham as that has been the request for the dinner. I would prefer to have grilled pork steak, but tossing ham in the slow cooker works as well. Back to the losing weight, the reason I  was concerned about the weight was the fact that I had not been trying very hard and still lost the 10 lbs. Then when you put the ever hulking threat of more cancer, even losing weight becomes something to investigate rather than celebrate. But just in the last 48 hours I was taking my meds and stopped to look at them. One of my meds is commonly prescribed to assist people in weight loss as well as the prescribed use of the drug. Mr. Rosey says that is an “off label use” of the medication.  Like Benendryl is an anti-histamine, but many take it as a sleep aid.  And that explains my frequent bouts of nausea and lack of appetite.

I need to remember to make appointments for a check up this month and another eye exam. For the first time in my life, I find that I’m needing reading glasses to thread a stinkin’ needle. Sewing pearls on the veil is blinding my eyes. That’s me, the mother of the groom… and the bride…walking down the aisle blind as a bat.

Now Mr. Rosey needs a wash cloth and towel, which are still downstairs in the laundry room. Can you answer this? WHY do men routinely step into the shower without grabbing a towel or washcoth? I have tried to convince him to use my netted scrubby dohickies. But noooo....thats gross he claims. You reuse the same wad of netting on all your body parts over and over. I tried to convince him that its NETTING...there is nothing there for germs to attach to but won't hear of it. So he requires wash clothes to complete his business. Yet he continuously… *OK.  Maybe not continuously*… jumps in there without grabbing one and it’s not a problem today because I am already awake. But next time I am still sleeping and he yells from the bathroom....Rosey honey?! I forgot the washcloth and can you grab a towel too?  I may well strangle him with the towel! That's not the only thing....I can tell you how many times he climbs a ladder and then yells...Rosey hon?! Can you bring me a light bulb? Now tell me. Who climbs a ladder to change the light bulb but neglects to take a one up the ladder with him? Men. That's who. They seem to have some kind of blood flow issue between the thought and the doing. 

So I will cut short my spaghetti brain and retrieve his towel and his washcloth for him. Until something else impacts my brain that I must share with you, tootles and so long.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I am WOMAN, Hear me MOW!

This morning I mowed.  Now that may not sound like ground breaking news to you but let me tell you this…it was a something of a triumph for me.

I suspect that every person who undergoes a cancer treatment desires more than anything else to feel normal.  To do a normal thing just like your neighbor is doing.  These are things you might not think about as a whole, healthy person. After a bilateral mastectomy, you have to figure out how to get out of the stinking bed without screaming.  Your chest muscles have received the ultimate insult.  Cut on, peeled and torn open, then everything is stitched shut.  Got a mental picture of that?  NOW try to raise your poor self out of that bed.  Figure out how to raise food to your mouth without pain, and comb your hair?  All this takes determination, exercise and endurance.  You are rewarded with the ability to wash your hair, and take care of your own toileting needs.  Trust me, those two things ALONE make you feel like a million bucks!  You keep doing the exercises and keep attempting to do just a little more than you did last week.

And though it takes time, you do start to pick up pieces.  It begins with folding laundry, and doing dishes.  They are things you have known how to do for several decades at least.  But between chemo, then surgery and radiaton?  You have not done it for a year.  And even a few things you have done were a major undertaking.  Each step to normalcy is a giant step.  Soon you find you are able to mop and vacuum, dust, do all the laundry and scrub the bathroom.  About this time you question “WHY did I work so hard to regain THESE skills.”  And it occurs to you that it might have been beneficial to remain “too weak to push the vacuum”  at least when anyone was watching.  That ship sailed and the other members of the family are much too eager to celebrate your achievement…by allowing you to mop and vacuum every room in the house.  But I digress.  The object of recovery is to regain the strength to conduct your normal activity of daily living. 

So March has come around and since it has been the warmest March in my recollection, everything is in bloom.  Even the dandelions.  Yes and the grass has now surpassed the height of my Pomeranian.  Poor dear has had to learn how to leap grass clumps in a single bound.  It is time to mow.  Last year, a neighborhood boy mowed my lawn while I recovered from radiation burns.  He is such a sweetheart.

Mr. Rosey has a neurological disorder in his arms for which he receives IV therapy every 4 weeks.  His ability to mow, relies on how long ago his therapy was and how well it “took” this time.  I always enjoyed mowing …although it was on a riding mower.  We considered all the requirements we would need in a push mower.  I have to make concessions for the fact that I do have seriously altered chest muscles.  It was hard for me to pull the starter cord before my surgeries.  So the first need…an electric or key start mower.  Second need…a power drive to help me push.  Off to the hardware store and after plunking down THREE HUNDRED and fifty dollars, we took home this massive black machine, guaranteed to chew through the toughest weeds.

This thing was so advanced that Hubs and I looked like newborn fools, standing around the driveway, staring at the machine in wonder. Have I mentioned that this is the FIRST brand new mower we have EVER had in 32.5 years of marriage?  Always the standard, walk and push, used, reconditioned mowers for us.  But this time, our special needs outweighed the desire to be frugal.  I asked, “how do you start this thing?”  “There’s a key” hubs told me.  

This new gizmo, was so space age that we went diving for the manuals.  We added the oil in the oil dohickey.  We added gas to the gas tank…the only change in that was THE PRICE OF GAS!  (Do you recall the cute little squeal that R2D2 makes on the Starwing fighter when he got singed by a laser blast?  You got that?  That’s the sound my husband makes every time he pulls up to a gas station.)  We had to buy a 2 gallon gas can because neither of us can lift our old 5 gallon one.  $7.50 of gas, and baby we are cooking with…well... gas!  

We turned the key and nothing.  Oh.  We are supposed to push the red thingy three times, two seconds apart –such a complicated mower.  And he turns the key again.  A couple chugs and then nothing.  This went on for 15 minutes, by which time we were both sweating like farm hogs, feeling snarky and as stupid as an Ozark hillbilly in the city.  Who buys a mower smarter than they are?  Out of frustration, the man turned the key and let the starter squeal.  To our astonishment, his fit of frustration made the thing start!  Apparently the starter is SUPPOSED to squeal as it starts up the engine.  We had been letting go of the key too soon.  He took a couple swipes around the back yard to give our Pom, Leia some room to play and take care of business.  But he was toast after that.  His IV treatments were this same weekend and his med head was pounding like tympani drums.  When I saw he was as pasty as pancake batter, I ordered him to quit.  He obeyed.

Bright and early this morning, I located my mowing shoes from the back of the closet, tossed on my capris and chose a soft cotton bra to soak up the sweat I knew I would shed.  A ratty shirt and off I was off to the outside.  And... then back in to grab the sunscreen to spritz the side of my neck that had been radiated.  And a cotton sunhat to protect my neck and chest from sun rays.  Although at 8 am those rays were still a little on the weak side.  But precaution vs. regret, I followed the post radiation rules.  I turned the key, let it squeal and it roared to life.  Then every sleeping person on my block rose up and cursed me.  I supposed with all this power, a lot of noise is required.

Initially I had thought to mow the back yard, but we have this annoying triad of cherry trees.  After the third time I felt the swipe of trees branches across the face, I was ready to rise up and proclaim “Yes Father, it was I who chopped down the cherry trees.”  I don’t know why we keep them…they produce the most sour, eyeball puckering cherries we have ever had the misfortune to bite into.

I decided to leave the back yard for the man when he feels better and I pushed the heavy, black monster to the front.  I may have to name the thing, “Shaq”.  I fired it up again and began to plot my pathway down to the street, and turn.  Along the street and turn.  Back to the house and turn.  The orchestrated dance of lawnmowing.  Oh the beauty, the power, and the sweat.  Thank you Lord for whoever thought to put the power assist on a mower!  I had worked up a sweat, but with each push, each unwelcome burn of my under used muscles there came a sense of empowerment.  I may not be fast.  It may not be the prettiest cut, but I am MOWING the yard.  Just like a normal person.

Honestly I only got one side of the yard done.  I quit when the muscles started to shake like jello, and the burn in my buttocks and thighs reminded me I had not done this in 2 years!  If I wanted to follow through on my plan to mow an hour each morning, I had to pace myself.

So I came in, slipped off the grass stained tennis shoes, got a bottle of water and sat down to regale all who would listen that I. Mowed. Some. Grass.  Thank you very much!  J

Assignment 15 - Write a post involving a recipe or a process, but try to infuse the post with your personality or thoughts.  Don’t over think this one.  Brushing your teeth, cooking macaroni and cheese, and grocery shopping are all seemingly mundane processes, but they are intriguing when we see them from your perspective.  Word to the wise, steer clear of the “and then I” syndrome. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Precious Friends

I had such a good day last week.  It started with Physical Therapy with the blessed Ginny.  There might not be as much joy in that experience.  It hurts a little and leaves me sore.  But on the scale of unpleasant things, it doesn't really register.  Radiation...THAT registers really high on the scale of unpleasantness.   But we did accomplish some goals in the session.  I hope it will be enough to continue with the plan for reconstruction.

But then the day got much better.  I joined a beloved friend for an afternoon of chat and decorating cookies.  She makes the prettiest cut out cookies that I have personally seen.  It may not be up to Martha Stewart standards, but like I said...prettiest around.  They look like they came from the Bakery shop in the square.  I have attempted it numerous times and flopped.  So I went to watch her and find out what I was doing wrong.  Turns out I was doing a few things that did not help me create pretty cookies.  For starters, take a seat.  I had been standing a steel work table, which made completing the next step less likely.  Number two?  Take your time.  See, I tend to get tired of standing and impatient with how long it is taking me and I start shaking the sprinkle bottles.  Soon there is flying sugar all about and not so pretty cookies.  I learned to set the cookie on a paper plate and use the plate maneuver my cookie around.  Holding the knife to pull the icing forward works better than pushing it around.  When Mrs. Rosey's friend told me to work it like cake icing, I understood immediately.  Then I watched her put the sprinkles into these cute little ramekins.  Who knew it was better to grab a pinch from the bowl and drop it where you want, rather than shake the heck out a bottle?

We sat these decorated cookies aside so the icing will harden.  That allows them to be stacked in a pretty box to present to a wonderful neighbor boy who mows your lawn out of the goodness of his heart.  Oh.  That's right.  The cookies we decorated were for Rosey's friend to give away.  But I walked away feeling confident that I COULD do this as well.

Do you like how my photos form an exclamation point?  Oddly I thought that decorating cookies would be stressful.  But we sat, a breeze blowing in the window and ceiling fan spinning overhead.  We applied our efforts to the naked cookies, and chatted about life and loves.  Stresses and deadlines just melted away as two friends reconnected and enjoyed an afternoon together.  The only thing to make it perfect would have been a cup of tea.  And I totally forgot to suggest it!

God bless our special friends and all the special joys they bring to our lives.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Five Minute Friday: LOUD

Five Minute's challenge. Today we are supposed to go over to The Gypsy Mama's blog and write about whatever prompt she has... her 'Five Minute Friday'. You write for 5 minutes, 'no editing, no over-thinking, no back-tracking'. And this terrifies me. But I'll push forward... Today's word is 'Loud'... Go.

I was so proud to be there.  A couple weeks ago, my husband and I attended the county caucus to vote on delegates for the district and state caucus assemblies.  My own son wanted to be a delegate so we intended to be there and add two more votes to his count.

The caucus was not as scary as I expected.  Turns out the people of Callaway County are just respectful and polite.  They were nothing like the people we saw on news broadcasts.  So the business of electing delegates began.  One of his friends was going to nominate him for this honor.  The chairman asked that everyone tell who they will nominate and give a short two minute declaration why they would be a good choice.  Mr. Rosey and I had decided not to elect because it was our first visit and we were afraid.  *In other words, we chickened out.*  I don't know exactly who nominated my son, but I remember thinking they are not doing it right.

First of all, they should elect him because I'm his momma and I said so!  But also because he is a "good boy" with a heart of gold.  He used to love History as a home school student and imagine my surprise that after he graduated out of high school, he kept on studying History.  This man child of mine, can quote speeches and spout out Presidential quotes as if I read them to him in the crib!  He came to the conclusion that our political society was an Old boy's club, stuck to traditions of the past.  He has decided our government needs fresh blood and he was stepping forward to learn from the grassroots level.  I was once his teacher but now he schools me.

Then came the moment for his own speech detailing why he was a good candidate to represent the people of our county.  He stood so tall and spoke clearly and loudly enough for everyone to hear him.  He did none of the I  No MY son stood and said I am a good candidate.  I was educated at home by the best mom in the world *OK, maybe he didn't say the best mom...but I know he meant to say it*.  I was brought up in a conservative Christian values home.  I believe that...and he went on to emphatically announce his beliefs and why they made him a good candidate.  He was determined, he was concise and he was firm.  He ended his speech loudly proclaiming why our sitting president should be removed from his office.  He was the only one to receive an applause!

From across the room I heard a woman ask "WHO is that?  Who said that!"  Let me tell you my darlin', this momma was beaming.  I physically, yes I did, I physically forced myself to stay seated in my seat.  Because with all my heart, I wanted to jump up and with my fist in the air loudly proclaim..."THAT'S my BABY!!"

Thursday, March 22, 2012

You Will

Often you are caught unaware. It might be in the mall, it might be at church, it might be in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. You see someone and you have a sudden understanding. Your eyes meet and there is an awareness. And there you are. Confronted with someone else’s pain. And it starts all over again.

I was standing in a crowd of people, when I looked up to see a beautiful young woman standing in front of me. Tears sat not far behind her eyes and her lips trembled. Immediately I put my hand on her arm and asked "what is wrong hon?"

“Tina, I have a lump.” And in that instant, all the chatter muffled, the busyness of others faded away. In that instant, it was only she... and me.

“Will you feel my lump and tell me if it felt like yours?”

Less than two years ago I walked in to a Women’s Health clinic for a routine mammogram. On my 31st wedding anniversary of all things. I walked out with the breast cancer diagnosis.

Totally unexpected, unprepared and truthfully devastated.

I had lost my father to colon cancer. We lost my mother’s sisters to breast and ovarian cancers. My mother was dying from liver failure brought on by HER cancer treatment. In my family, people got cancer... and they died of it.

I had felt as if someone had sucked the air from my lungs and replaced it with lead. I had tried so hard to hold it together when the mammogram became an ultrasound and the ultrasound became a biopsy. The radiologist told me “I am certain this is breast cancer. It may be in your lymph system. I will call with results Thurs. before noon.” I made it out to the lobby where my anxious husband sat alone. I saw him and all my self-control vanished. I let the tears fall as he rushed to meet me in the middle. Holding me in his arms, he made the statement, no longer a question, “they found something didn't they.” I nodded into his shoulder. In those few seconds, our future was changed. It was uncertain.

I had what is called a Lobular cancer. Lobular cancer is the second most common form of breast cancers. It grows in the milk producing glands of the breast. Lobular cancer does not lump up generally. It is flat and spreads, so it is much harder to feel. All these years of self-breast exams, I was afraid each time I would find a lump. I would have the one cancer that doesn't lump.

It usually grows slowly, so by the time it shows up on mammograms its gotten quite large. I would recall that earlier in the summer I had asked my husband, “when did my right boob get bigger than the left one?” I noticed that it was fuller.  I did not know that it is a symptom of Lobular cancer. (Sudden extra weight or fullness, size, dimples or indentations can indicate Lobular breast cancer.) 

I would find out that my tumor was relatively small in size, but it had reached into three lymph nodes. “It’s good fortune that it decided to show up when you had a mammogram,” my oncologist would tell me. “It’s usually there for years before it actually shows up on film.” I trusted it wasn't good fortune, but God.

Being told you have cancer can be equated to being strapped into the bucket seat of a roller coaster.  The conductor throws the switch and there you go. You fly up and down, thrown from side to side, jerking from one pathway to another. You want to hurl. Most of all you want to just get off. But it keeps going…and going...and going. It’s not cute. It’s not pretty.

Suddenly you are facing very important decisions with very little understanding. While there is a glut of cancer teaching out there, nearly all of it is strictly clinical. You learn about types and stages. You learn about treatments and drugs. You learn about surgeries. You learn pretty quickly that so much of this roller coaster ride is beyond your control. Even what you eat will be considered carefully…will that taste good or metallic? Will it stay down or come back up? Your normal diet flies out the window as you contemplate what you have the energy to prepare, or if you have the stamina to chew. My own “whole foods” diet gave way to fast food and packaged convenience foods because that’s all I had the ability to cope with. Except bananas…Banana was the only flavor I could taste beyond the metallic taste that accompanies chemo. Friends and loved ones kept me supplied with banana pops, banana ice cream, and banana bread. You will learn to count minutes and days, dealing with the right now because tomorrow is too scary and too far away. You search for more information about what happens next and you will hit walls.

You Will

You will lose some friends. You will gain others. You will have some friends that you really wish you COULD lose. You will be stunned by the generosity of one and grateful for the support of many. You will find support in places you least expect it. You will be delighted by the efforts to encourage you. You will confront God. Why me, why now? You will accept that crappy things happen in a fallen world and you just hit the jackpot. You will learn that God loves you just because you are, you. It was never about how good you were, about how long you prayed, how many classes you taught or how much money you gave. You accept that HE loves you just because He LOVES you. You will accept grace.

You will learn to cope with having cancer. You will cope with the way everyone else copes with your cancer. You will hold your children, your mother, your sisters, while they sob in fear of what you just told them. They will make you promise that you will fight, and you will promise to do your best. You will be brave for them, when inside you want to crumble. You will grieve the loss of your health. Three words changed everything…

You. Have. Cancer. 

You will have anger and denial, sorrow and acceptance. You will be anxious to get on with it. Let’s get the chemo started. Let’s get the wigs and the scarves. You might even celebrate your hair’s “coming out party.” You certainly celebrate the reprieve from shaving or plucking those stray chin hairs. You anticipate each step because it’s one more step toward being over. You will learn there is no wrong way "to do cancer."

You will come to love your oncologist (and if you don’t, find another oncologist). You will let doctors implant things into your body. You will let them pump chemicals into your blood and then more drugs to offset the side effects of the chemicals. You will learn to look at your bare scalp and deal with its nakedness. You will learn a naked scalp gets cold. You will quickly figure out the difference between muscle pain and bone pain. You will learn about ‘Roid ‘Rage. You will find yourself busting a gut in the middle of Kohls Department Store, because someone thought placing pink ribbon products right next to “quick hair dry towels” was a good marketing strategy. You will find humor in the most bizarre places. You will laugh.

You will.

You will agree to let the doctors mutilate your body and remove the parts that are familiar, the parts that are yours. You won’t care because they betrayed you. (Lobular cancer is notorious for reoccurring in the opposite side.) You will learn “doctor speak”, which is what they say when they really mean something else. Like “a longer period of recovery” really means “the most painful surgery of your life.” You will experience that pain, and the burn of it will permeate everything. For a while pain will change your reality. You will learn to sleep on your back and not move. All. night. long. You will juggle drains and tubes. You will figure out how to dress but move your arms as little as possible. You will swallow your humiliation and accept help from your spouse when you discover you cannot even toilet yourself properly. You will learn to look at your scars without regret. You will find (in time) that you don’t require a bra because ONE...You no longer have nipples so headlights are no longer a concern. And TWO...You don’t need the support. The new girls are high and tight. You will feel desperate to be pretty again. And you will.

Yes, you will.

I don’t blame survivors who avoid talking about their experience. It’s hard to know how much to share to someone newly diagnosed. As in all traumas, the retelling requires a reliving. You will feel the anger, the fear and uncertainty all over again. You will feel the effects of chemo again, the trauma of shedding your hair. You will remember how you felt about your bald head, and how you cried when you realized you had lost all your eyelashes. You have to remember the pain of surgery and the shock of realization that your body is no longer familiar.

I often found myself in positions to comfort or minister to other cancer warriors. But it is hard to talk about these things. It’s hard to speak them aloud. Now, nearly two years later I am at a point I am ready to start writing. I am ready to share the experience, to tell the story. But in the midst of the roller coaster ride, in the raw anguish of it; it’s hard to think about it much less write it all out.

In the midst of it, it just sucks.

The roller coaster may never come to an end. But it will slow down and even out a bit. I decided many months ago, with fierce determination I would never be content to call myself a “survivor”.

No. I. am. a. Pink. Warrior. 

I will fight for everyone who must ride this roller coaster. I am a Pink Warrior, prepared to encourage.

I am a Pink Warrior for those who are desperate for reassurance. I am a Pink Warrior for the women who have to ride alone. I am a Pink Warrior for those who need someone to speak in truth and practicality.

  I am a Pink Warrior.

I stood there in the crowded room, unaware of everyone around me. Her eyes were fastened on mine as she watched my face for any flicker or concern as I groped around this girl’s breast. She certainly had a lump and my heart sunk as I recognized its characteristics. What should I do? She will ask me.

You will get an appointment with a breast specialist asap.  You will have a mammogram. You will have it biopsied if they find it suspicious.

Her tears dripped as she looked at her toddling child and told me, “I don’t know if I can do this, Tina.” I wrapped my arms around her and assured her that she will.

She will because her friends will support her. She will because... I will... ride the roller coaster along with her.

2 Samuel 22 : 1 - 22
“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me.

“I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. “In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God.

From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth.

The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them.  The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of breath from his nostrils.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; HE RESCUED ME BECAUSE HE DELIGHTED IN ME.

Dedicated to Becky Edwards and Amy Dent - a couple of the world's best cheerleaders
And to the women of WOW.  Your support gave me courage.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Writing in Your Voice Assignment - Gettysburg 1863

Today’s Challenge:  Read these eyewitness accounts of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and then craft a post about them.  The sky’s the limit.  Be creative, be you.  Check out yesterday’s posts and today’s posts about voice.

Esther lifted her skirt and tried to keep up with Mrs. Thomas Lawson.  Esther was a free slave, but Mizz Lawson was good and kind.  She had been born on the property, but her momma died in childbirth.  Mr. Lawson brought the baby to the Missus and she had found a wet nurse.  Esther was raised to be a companion to the Lawson children and now that she was 12 years old, she was Ms. Lawson’s personal maid– in– training.  It was an honor to be a “house maid”.

As they stepped gingerly across the field, Esther felt deep sadness that the missus was reduced to walking into the town.  They were cutting across the fields Gettysburg for the shortest walk into town.  The missus was not the only one in dire and depressed circumstances.  Nearly all of the Gettysburg women had buried a husband, a son or a father.  Even as a slave, Esther had seen her share of burials.  Bullets did not discriminate.  Four months earlier, men both black and white had died on the very fields she now traipsed across.  She tried to step gently, it seemed a sacrilege to walk on the grounds where men had died.  The same grounds Mr. Lawson gave up his life fighting them Rebels..

Mrs. Myrna Lawson stepped softly across the clumps of dirt and grass.  She winched as she noted the brown stains that still showed on the ground.  Men had died on this field.  The thought made her pause as tears welled in her eyes.  Tom died on this field.  Myrna blinked away the tears and thought of her momma.  Momma taught her that “Southern women do not express emotion publically, particularly in the face of adversity.”  Well momma, she thought, I have had my share of adversity lately.

The Tom Lawson’s were not of the Southern Lawson’s that owned the antebellum mansion on the edge of town.  Tom was the “poor relation” and the Gettysburg Lawson’s did not have much charity for the poor.  “The poor,” Myrna scoffed.  “Our definitions of poor are so vastly different.”  Tom had wooed and wed her in the time of 4 weeks.  After the wedding, he proudly brought her to their home.  The beautiful stone cottage sat on a forty acre lot, with a deep well, and fertile fields.  After seven years and three children, Tom raised the roof and built a second story.  They were happy.  They felt wealthy.

Until 6 months ago.  Confederate raiders had ridden onto the property.  Tom was away, fighting on the union side yet those hooligans had treated her and the slaves like dirt under their feet.  They eyed the women, beat the men, and trampled the new corn and wheat under the hooves of their horses.  The men pushed over buildings and set fire to the slave homes around the property.  Everything was gone.  The men who had not left to fight, worked feverishly to rebuild mud huts for their quarters.  She thought it was over, but just three days later a score of men galloped up and demanded the women be brought to them.  The house gentlemen’s man Rufus, had helped te women down the narrow ladder into the coffin room under the dining table.  When he closed the hatch, Myrna said a prayer that she could get the women to safety and get back before the elderly man could be tortured or killed.  Silently she led the women through the underground tunnel to reach the safety of Marsh.  She left them with the people of  THE “railroad” and tracked back.  She arrived just in time to see that the men had evil intentions directed toward the elderly women and children still there.  Little Esther was one of them.  Their lust was damped soon enough, when they caught side of her long Kentucky rifle aimed at their private regions.  Not one of them was willing to bet she had never fired a rifle in her life.

Myrna snorted, shook the memory from her mind and looked up.  She was surprised to see that in the time her reminiscing, they had reached the Gettysburg railway station.  President Lincoln was here to dedicate the cemetery where her Thomas lay.  Ironic that the men who died were laid to rest, without consideration of who was confederate and who was union.  They just buried the dead.   She glanced down at Esther and cautioned her to stay at her side.   Esther’s eyes reached from ear to ear trying to capture all the sights before her.  Grabbing Esther’s hand, she took a place near the caboose of the long sooty train.  A large portly man was standing on the quickly constructed platform, trying to speak over the crowd.  It wasn’t working well.  Esther pulled at her arm.  “Is that the President?” Esther asked.  “What’s he sayin?” Myrna knelt down and pulled Esther down next to her.

“I have never seen the likeness of our President.  But I am certain that this man is not he.”  Myrna whispered. 

“What’s he sayin? Missus, what’s he sayin?”  Myrna blew away the strand of hair that had come out of its bun to play with her nose.  “Hush Esther,” she cautioned.  “I will explain what the men mean so you can understand.”

Rumors were circulating that the President was taking ill and might not speak.  Disappointed groans rolled through the crowd assembled there.  The echoes of the crowd were still ebbing away when the portly man called out in a loud voice, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States”.  Looking at Esther, she whispered “that tall man is Lincoln.” 

A long sigh escaped little Esther’s rosey lips.  “Ohhhhhhh,”  she whispered back.  “He’s the one who freed all the slaves.”  Tom had given each slave their “freedom papers” upon arriving at their farm.  He welcomed them to choose to stay or go.  Only one in 14 years had walked away the farm.

The tall, dark man wobbled slightly and grabbed the railing along the back.  His fist gripped the bunting spread across the compartment.  His eyes scanned the crowd.  They grew as silent as the graves they came to dedicate.  Lincoln’s eyes landed on Esther, and he gave her a small smile with a slight wave.  He looked up, cleared his throat, the adam’s apple working its way out of the stiff collar.  He swept the tall black hat from his head, leaving several wet tendrils pointing upward and onward.  His sonorous voice bounced around the sides of the train and station, enveloping them in the mesmerizing sound.

Four score and seven years ago,”  he halted.

“Hows many is that Ms Lawson?”  Esther asked her.  Oh dear, Myrna realized Esther could read and write but these were words they had not studied.  “Eighty seven,” she answered.

The President continued, ‘our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation,  Whispering to Esther she began to translate his words and the whole speech to Esther.  “Our ancestors came and made America.”

Conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. President Lincoln smiled softly again at Esther. 

Myrna continued, “They came to escape captivity and instead believe that all people are the same”.  Esther’s adoring eyes never wavered.
“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”
She leaned again toward Esther.  “That means we are now fighting to see if the idea is real or not.”
We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
Her lips close to Esther’s ear, she whispered. “We are honoring the men that died here tryin to defend their people.  We’re setting aside this graveyard as a special place outta respect for the dead."
“But, in a larger sense, WE can not dedicate, WE can not consecrate, WE can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”
“The men who died here honor it more than we ever can.”
The President continued.  “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
“No one is gonna pay attention to what we talk about today, but they will remember them that fought and died.”
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion”
“Those of us still alive are the ones who have to complete the work our men died for.  It’s our job and we have to work harder at it.”
“—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
With tears streaming down her face, Myrna completed the translation to the young child, who was the very essence of why her Tom died.  “That we will make certain that they’re dyin’ was worth it. God as our witness, all of us…are free and that we will stay that way.  We will do it for our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren and beyond them even.”
“Amen,” Esther whispered.

Esther stayed with Ms. Lawson until she passed on.  Thomas Jr. deeded Esther the farm and the land it sat on, stating it was what his mother would have wanted. Esther married a good man at the church near the creek.  Their children were strong and healthy. 

This day, Esther rests her shriveled, knarly hand upon the head of the newborn in her arms.  She smiles.  It’s been a long eighty years, but just as President Lincoln had spoken in her very presence, her great great grandchild was born free.

Friday, March 16, 2012

New Friends

I have been introduced to a new concept in the blog world called "Linking Up."  It seems to be way for bloggers to share their pages with a new group of people.

So I'm introducing you to Amy.  She is a woman after my own heart.  I have yet to read more about her, but this page I'm showing caught me.  She hoards books.  I was just telling myself the other day that I needed to purge my bookshelves.  The problem is, the books I want to purge are books that Mr. Rosey bought and tells me he's going to read.  Ahem.  That's probably not a prudent choice.  

I hope you enjoy Amy as much as I did.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Poetry Pains

Today I am told the old rules of poetry are no more.  No more rhyme, reason or rhythm.  Poetry is what flows out of my heart.  There is no such thing as bad poetry.  I would love to confront my seventh grade English teacher with that bit of news.  Poetry is not my genre.  I don't sit down to read it, and I certainly don't try to seriously write it.  My assignment today is to dive off the cliff of comfort and attempt something new.  Poetry.

So I sat down with trepidation and put pen to paper (figuratively) and began to...

Hard and firm they lay on the ground, They wait
Impatient they sit, and continue to stay, They wait
Far in the distance new sound gives rise, They wait
Amazement fills, new sights surround, They wait

Hard and firm they lay on the ground, They watch
Pain so deep, it numbs their being,   They  watch
How can this be right in all of creation,  They watch
Sadly, they cover the best of man, They watch

Hard and firm they lay on the ground,  They tremble
Rolled with a force to great  to withstand,  They tremble
Glory steps forth and lifts its head,  they tremble
Renewing life for those who,  they tremble

Hard and firm they lay on the ground, They shake
Silent and still they strain to hear, They shake
Confused they are with the silence, They shake
Hopeless and dread fill them full,  They shake

Hard and firm they lay on the ground, They sing
No longer content to wait idly by, They sing
The force builds within, they cannot withstand, They sing
Sound no longer restrained by the silence of man, They sing
 The rocks cry out in glorious praise, They sing

Okay, there I proved the rule wrong.  There IS bad poetry.  It was a good effort I guess.  An effort that took the greatest part of two hours, I add.  But you know its bad when you read your own work and groan.  So, I regroup and start again...

The Maestro

The void lay beyond, silent and cold
Empty, dark, and still.
To talk, to walk, to share, to command,
The hunger drives him.

Lifting his hand, the sun burst forth,
Bright, hot, and alive.
A maestro conducting songs of the ages,
The hunger consumes him.

Lifting the wand, they come into sight,
Planets, sky, and the land.
Delighted with the works of his heart ,
The hunger pushes him.

Again, he lifts his hand to create,
Beauty, form, and soul.
Stunned by his creation he stops to consider,
The hunger fills him.

Sacrifices this creation will need,
Bloody, beaten, and torn.
Seeing the fullness of His Holy plan,
The hunger chokes him.

The son steps forth and lifts up his hand
Joyful, giving and pure.
Together they create the wonder of man,
Hunger for Him will drive them.

Although I am not convinced this is exactly GOOD poetry, this is the one I submitted to my peers for review.  As I worked on copying into the format, a ditty started springing through my brain.  THIS took less than three minutes to complete.

‎*Tina runs screaming through the fields, challenged by the test. She doesn't like the poetry, won't be as good as the rest. She decides to give it her all, determined now to fly. All morning it took her repeated attempts, but tells herself to try. She stumbles, she falters, falls flat on her bum. Fearing its bad she feels truly glum. No poem is bad said the teacher confound it. But Tina knows in her heart, she has surely just found it.* bwa ha ha 

Oh well.  Learning and stretching help me know I'm alive and growing as a person.  What new thing have you tried today?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Father Who Weeps

December 1986 had started with such promise and joy.  After a number of fertility treatments, scheduled sex and dozens of supplements, finally the test read positive.  I had to take a second one because never before had a test read positive.  I was so excited for my sailor husband to come home .   I was 6 weeks pregnant and had the tests to prove it.  He had been gone for a month and I couldn’t wait to tell him.  How I rejoiced, God had given us the desire of our heart.

He came home a day early and surprised me coming in the door.  I had such an overwhelming emotional response that I burst into tears and threw myself into his arms.  He was alarmed until I blurted out, “We’re pregnant!”  He held me and we sobbed together.

Five hours later, a pain ripped across my belly and something warm spilled onto my legs.  Confused, I went to the rest room to discover copious amounts of bright red blood running down my legs.  A spontaneous abortion, the doctors called it.  A miscarriage, the nurse called it.  The death of our child, we called it.  Unable to ease my physical and emotional pain, my husband held me tight and sang, “There’s no way, I could make it without you.  There’s no way, that I’d even try.  If I had to survive without you in my life, I know I wouldn't last a day, Oh babe, there’s just no way.”   The sobs grew longer before they silenced.  I  was cold inside.  God had taken away the desire of my heart.

Twelve days later, my husband bundled me into the car.  It was Christmas Eve and he wanted me to get out of the house, viewing Christmas lights.   Just a few miles down the road, the engine light flashed on and smoke began pouring in through the vents.  “Get out of the car!  Get out of the car!”  My husband yelled.  I couldn’t get the door open! He grabbed the handle and wretched it open as the hood of our car billowed in flames.  I ran to the door of the home we coasted in front of.  “Help us, our car has caught fire.”  An older man, ran out of the house in his boxer shorts, grabbed a hose and ran toward my husband.  Together they beat the flames out with an old woolen blanket and doused flames with water.  He apologized for his state of dress and offered to drive us back home.  We weren’t feeling it when he called out a Merry Christmas and drove away.

Two weeks later, my husband decided I needed to visit my family in Missouri.  It did my heart much good to spend time with my family.  But time marched on and it was time to drive back to Mayport Florida.  We were over halfway home when a general sense of unease came over me.  The closer we got, the more anxious I felt.  Something’is wrong, I told my husband.  He patted my leg and told me I was fretting over nothing.  Images started flashing through my mind, and I felt sick for the rest of the drive.  I just knew our home had been broken into.

That moment of opening the door told us I had not been fretting for nothing.  The home was in shambles.  Appliances were missing, electronics gone.  They had taken jewelry with no intrinsic value that was priceless to me.  They took drugs from the medicine cabinet.  They rummaged through our undergarments and tossed every drawer’s contents into the floor.  Even cleaning supplies were gone.  We were a young couple barely making it.  We did not have renter’s insurance.  The police shook their heads and told us there was little to go on.  Not much chance of recovering that, they told us.  But my bigger loss was that the sanctuary of my home had been violated.  I felt unsafe.  I was no longer comfortable in my shelter.  Two months later, we moved into Base Housing behind Marines who stood at the gates.  The marines made me feel safe.

It was to God that I turned my rage and fears.  Shaking in my shoes, I told him “If this is how you treat your children, I DON’T want to be your kid anymore!”  I had lost my trust in the Mercy of the Father. He promised never to give me more than I could handle.  But there I was broken.  He promised all things worked together for my good.  There was nothing good in this.   I found living in that void was nearly as debilitating as the actual losses were.   

At the time, through my pain I could not see God.  I felt totally rejected, ignored and discounted.  I did not feel I mattered to God.  Even worse, I felt He had singled me out to oppress.  That he had looked and seen that I was happy.  And his reaction was “Oh no, I can’t have her happy.  She must pay for that.”

Six years later, I was working a job that I liked.  We had moved back to Missouri when my husband developed a medical condition that interfered with military service.  We owned a modest little home.  We had insurance.  We had a five year old son, who was the darling of our hearts.  My husband had a job that provided good benefits and security.  But I was miserable.  I lived in fear of what would happen next.

God drew me back in a very real, supernatural way that would detract from what I want to share.  But he did bring me back to full fellowship with him.  In one of our quiet times together, I told him I knew that in the valley there is no light.  But I sure wish I could have seen Him while I was going through those wretched six weeks of pain and disappointment.  As I remembered back, God pointed out those things I had overlooked.

  • My husband came home a day early and surprised me.   Five hours later...He held me tight and sang to me.  Now I saw that God brought him home a day early so I would not suffer alone through the experience.  But I did not see God at the time.
  • I ran to the door of the home we coasted in front of…He offered to drive us back home.  He called out a Merry Christmas and drove away.  Looking back now I saw that God coasted that car to a house where a compassionate soul lived.  One who would minister to us in our need.  But I did not see God at the time.
  • The closer we got, the more anxious I felt.  Something is wrong, I told my husband.  Months later, we moved into base housing.  But I did not see God at the time.

Then Father God told me something important for me to remember.

Not everything happens because He orchestrated it.

There is another force at work.  God could have stopped some of it, I suppose.  He could not violate our free will.  I also would not have grown through this experience.  I would not have grown the compassion that I have for hurting people.  I found that in my darkest of hours, God wept with me in my distress and pain.  This is not what he wants for me so he will try to teach something through it.  I learned that in the valley, I cannot always identify that hand of God.  You need the next mountain top to raise above and look back to see where He was.  Like the watcher in a maze, God knows where I am in that valley.  

Even when I do not.

Assignment #7   

  • Write about a point in your life when you have experienced the “bird’s eye view”. It can be a time you were flying, or a time when you looked back on your life and have seen how the pieces fit together. You have already proven your creativity, so I know you aren’t lacking in that department.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On a lighter note...

It took me by surprise.

The sky had begun to lighten.  The sun now yawned and stretched her fingers to the sky.

Somewhere in the corners of my sleeping mind, I heard it.  Gradually an awareness seeped in and I peeked one eye open.  Morning's gentle light danced through the windows and I smiled.  Then I clearly heard.  I flipped back the blankets and popped out of the bed.  Padding over to the door, I pulled it wide and stepped out into the dawn.  Standing on the porch wrapped in the cozy blanket,  I was momentarily sheltered from the chill of the early hour.  I lifted my face to the sun and I heard.

I had not noticed its arrival earlier in the week.  Through long winter months, its absence saddened my heart.  The mornings long and cheerless had stretched on.

But this morning was different.  This morning, it was here heralding the arrival with joyous abandon.  In the trees, on the lawn, sharing at the feeder and in the warmth of the sun, the birds sang their joy.

Morning's song had returned.

My Father's Gift

Write about something that is unique to your story.  It could be a physical feature or a life experience.  You could write about something that happened when you were growing up that impacted your life forever.  You could write about your daily struggle to get your toddler to potty train and how you are at your wit’s end…or maybe that’s just me.  Also, don’t just re-work some post from the past.  Write a new one…if there’s any place to be vulnerable, it’s here.  We’d love to have you share your work on our Facebook page and don’t forget to link up with Write It Girl.

I sat at the kitchen table, my heart squeezed in anguish.  The truth was too horrible to comprehend, at least for me it was.  I knew I grew up in somewhat of a sheltered home.  Yes, it frustrated me.  For the most part it protected me.  Never in my 16 years, did I believe what I had just heard was possible.  My mind spun despite the happy chatter of my three sisters, all younger than I.  They had yet to see any ugliness in society.  We grew up on a small farm.  We did not have access to television.  Despite our pleading to have a tv like everyone we knew, my parents did not cave.  

"There is really nothing of value on television. It is a time waster and it is seductive in nature. Television teaches what need not to be taught." That was mom and dad's combined rejection. Mom concerned about how we spent our time, and dad concerned about what we might learn. "Read a book," they would tell us. And we did, all four of us devoured books that dad brought home from the library, faster than we could eat dinner. So truthfully, we had not been exposed to the ugliness of life that was possible. But this day? This day I learned something I could not wrap my mind around.

My best friend at the time, was not raised in a Christian home. In fact, I look back and now know it was in fact a dysfunctional, deviant home she survived. I had been there multiple times, but was never comfortable there. Ella smoked, which in my tender eyes was the HEIGHT of sinfulness. Through my influence, she had dropped that nasty habit despite the fact her parents, did not object. No, I was not comfortable because of the creepy, crawly sensation I got from the way her parents looked at me. They made alarms go off in my gut.   I would personally sooth creams over the welts across Ella's back, chest and arms.  I personally filled ice bags for her to hold over split lips and black eyes.  In hind sight, Ella was a friend, but she really was a ministry.

That morning I arrived at school and went to the locker room to dress for PE.  There I found Ella, curled in a ball and sobbing.  (I have always been a companion crier.)  As soon as I heard her cries, I began to cry with her.  I sought to find out what had put her in this state.  She brokenly told her story.  Each sentence was a hammer to my heart and soon my tears were just as real and hurt as hers.

Ella was pregnant.  Sixteen years of age and pregnant.  She claimed to have a boyfriend but no one had ever heard of him or actually seen him.  Probably the entire freshmen class believed he existed only in her mind.  There I sat on a cold, musty locker room floor, locked in an embrace with her.  The proof indisputable, there had been a man in her life.  Finally, I asked her the first question a teenager asks another teenager when this subject is spoken.

"What are you going to do?"  I had inquired.
"Get an abortion."  she flatly answered.
"Oh no, Ella!  Don't do that.  We saw those pictures in health class.  You KNOW what they do to the babies!"  I gasped out, as horrified as I ever got.  But I was about to hear something that horrified me even more.

"I have tooo."  She cried out in a long wail.  "I told mom this morning.  She said I have til Friday to get an abortion or she will put me out on the street!"  She continued to sob out, enunciating each point to me.  "I don't have a job, I don't have anywhere to go!  I don't have any family around that will take me in.  There is NO where for me to go.  I HAVE no real choice."

And there it was.  My first exposure to ugliness.  The notion of a parent turning a child out into the street was a reality I had never been exposed to.  I wanted to tell her my parents would take her in.  But I had heard from mom on many occasions, "That girl is a bad influence.  You need to choose better friends".  I was pretty certain that my home wasn't an option either.

So there I sat in the dining room, replaying that scene over and over.  The anguish was so thick in my throat that it choked me to swallow dinner.  Dad asked me, if I was okay and I nodded, hoping my long hair hid the tears that dripped off my face.

Dinner was over and we had cleaned off the table.  Dad still sat there, drinking his tea when he asked me to sit with him.  "Oh nuts" I thought to myself.  "I am in big trouble".

I sat as directed, and dad told me to look at him.  The sobs I had been choking back, came bursting forth like water over Niagara Falls.  I think I scared dad, because he swooped me into his arms.  Soothing my hair and murmuring to me that whatever was wrong I could tell him.

When I had gotten a grip on my emotions well enough to hiccup through an explanation,  "Ella is pregnant" I managed to speak.  "Her mother is FORCING her to choose between an abortion or living on the street."  The words caused my voice to crack and wobble.

I'm not sure what the expression on dad's face was...perhaps relief?  But as we sat down, he continued to hold his arm around me.  "I'm so sorry darlin' that you have to deal with that news.  I'm so sorry that Ella is pregnant and a very real part of me wants to pinch the nose off her mother's face.  But we have to be the support that she needs right now.  Can you be her friend, knowing this awful thing?" He asked me. I nodded, because that is not really what was in my heart.

Dad sensed the storm inside was deeper still, and asked me "Honey, is there more to this?  It is horrible what is happening to Ella, but you seem to be taking it very personally."

My insides were shaking as my words jumbled forth. "Daddy, how could her mother do this?  How could she turn her own daughter out of the home?  Daddy, if I came home and told you something like that, would you throw ME out?  If I wasn’t married and got pregnant, would you turn off your love just like that?"

My father hissed as he sucked in his breath.  He called out "I know you are eavesdropping in the hallway! You girls come in here."  My sisters crept into the room and gave me the 'hairy eyeball' as I knew they felt I had gotten everyone into deep mud with my questions.  Oh horrors, what if daddy wanted to have the "sex talk?"  My sisters sat down and he made eye contact with each of us in that dingy dining room.  He raised my chin to force me meet his gaze.  It was not anger I saw there.

And daddy said the most important words of my life.

In the low growly voice we had come to identify if dad was feeling emotional, he said to us.

"I was there when you were born.  I bandaged skinned knees.  I hugged away your nightmares.  I braided your hair.  I have prayed over your beds.  I am your father.  No one will ever love you like I do.  So hear this and hear it well...I have NOT raised you to this moment to turn my back on you because of a mistake.  I would not; I COULD not throw you out over a mistake.  That's all Ella did.  She made a mistake, it is a costly one be that, but it's just a mistake.  Now hear this as well...I WOULD be disappointed in you, very, VERY disappointed.  I know how you have been raised and what you have been taught. But if you make an error in judgment, be it drugs, drinking, boys or babies, your mom and I will stand at your side.  We will love you through it.  We will love you in spite of it.  My final word is THERE IS NOTHING you are capable of doing that is makes me incapable of loving you.  Absolutely nothing."

I chose that as a defining moment in my history.  Those words, "There is nothing you are capable of doing that makes me incapable of loving you" altered my life.  My daddy gave me the gift of unconditional love.  It was an experience that got me through my rough teen years.  It helped me choose a husband.  It helped my husband heal from his childhood and trust in my love.  I passed it on to my child and constantly assured him that I have a mother's love for him.

Eventually I would see this experience with new understanding. I would see so much more ugliness in the world and in my own life.  But I would come to accept that my Heavenly Father says the same words to me every time I fail.  Every time I let him down and every time I don't feel very lovable.  

My heavenly father stands there with his arms open and says to me,
"Tina, there is nothing you are capable of doing that makes me incapable of loving you."

 Love is patient,(E) love is kind. Love does not envy,(F) is not boastful, is not conceited,(G) 5 does not act improperly, is not selfish,(H) is not provoked,
(I) and does not keep a record of wrongs.
1 Corinthians 13: 4 & 5 NIV