Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Caution tape indicating a cautionary tale of water leakage, a faulty pipe, 
and an unsuccessful attempt to discover said leak.

Today the plumbers came to replace the water pipe for our house. They laid copper pipes from the intake valve at the curb to the uptake valve inside our house (terminology mine). First they fired up a ground-cutting machine and dug a trench about 12 inches deep across the lawn. Then they added a piece that came into our house through the crawl space. After that, they cut our water supply completely, disconnected the old plastic pipe,  connected the new copper one, and then reconnected us to the supply pipe coming in from the street.

The gentleman who was running the operation rang the doorbell about 10:00 this morning to inform us that they were about to begin. He also told us that he had found and killed a baby copperhead snake in the hole where the intake valve is located. He told us that copperheads "come out at this time of year." Really? Now I have to worry about stepping on a copperhead when I go out to walk Maya on the front lawn? Really??? I apologize to all the Buddhists, vegans, and other animal lovers out there - but I'm glad they killed it. I do not like snakes - at all.

Anyway, the leak has been repaired. The snake is gone. The trench has been filled. Tomorrow the inspector will come to make sure it has been properly repaired, and the plumbers will fill the hole and leave with a significant chunk of our savings account.

I am grateful for the home in which we live, the lawn out front, the trees, the people who are able to fix this type of problem, and the money to pay for repairs.

Three weeks ago, I made the decision to move Daniel's bed to another spot in his bedroom. He had been asking for a change for a while. He had also been complaining that he thought he was allergic to his bedroom. What? I attributed his odd assessment to normal teenage complaining - who is allergic to their bedroom? Apparently, he was. When I moved the bed, there was a horrible stain on the carpet. When I vacuumed along the baseboard, the front end of the vacuum cleaner disappeared under the baseboard. What the what???

Those are my fingers pulling back the carpet in Daniel's bedroom to reveal significant woodrot.

Two friends of ours, a married couple that does excellent home repair work, came over, 
ripped up part of the carpet, broke into the wall, and this is what they discovered.
Sorry the image is so blurry...

So I took a few deep breaths, apologized to Daniel for ignoring his pleas for relief from THE MOLD AND MILDEW THAT WERE TAKING OVER HIS BEDROOM, and invited our two friends to do whatever it took to fix the problem.

This is what that same spot in Daniel's room looks like today - fresh drywall, fresh paint, new carpet, and new furniture. After all, he was still sleeping in the single bed we bought for him when he was two. He outgrew it years ago, poor kid, plus we felt really guilty about the allergy thing.

I am grateful that we were able to find the problem and fix it before his bed fell through the floor and landed on the kitchen counter below. I am grateful that we know people who could fix the problem. I am grateful that we had the money to fix the problem. I am grateful for this house - leaks, holes, mold, old carpet, cracked countertops, and all. And most of all, I am grateful for my son, in whom I am well- pleased.

On Tuesday afternoon, I drove to Unique Boutique, a shop that specializes in post-surgical bras, silicone breast forms, wigs, and other items for women who have been diagnosed with breast kanswer. Since my surgery in April, I have been living the short-haired and flat-chested life. And I LOVE IT! No bras. No locs. No problem. I can walk, jog, jump up and down on the rebounder, do my jumping jacks, downward facing dog, and everything else I want to do without any painful jiggling. Yay!

But I decided to go get fitted for the breast prostheses just in case some day down the line I might want a bra and some falsies. The woman who fitted me was wonderful - funny, knowledgeable, patient, and kind. She said she had fitted a woman the day before whose pre-kanswer bra size was 50M. I didn't even know "M" existed as a bra size. I would imagine that a single one of her breasts was bigger than my head! What an image!!! When I walked out of the shop, I was wearing a bra with a full B cup. My falsies were bigger than my "realsies" had been.

I came home, made dinner, hung out with Kristiana and Steve for a while, and did a few errands around the house in the early evening hours. Before I changed into my pajamas, I called a brief family meeting at which time I introduced the family to my new friends... No one had noticed! NO ONE HAD NOTICED!

I am grateful because their lack of noticing confirmed my decision to not have reconstruction and not wear the prostheses. I am grateful that I am so comfortable in this new body of mine. I am grateful that my family loves me and doesn't pay much attention to the changes I have gone through physically. I am grateful for medical insurance that covers these things. I am grateful to be alive and doing so well these days.

(Don't get me wrong - I most certainly wish I were more noticeable around here. After we laughed at the size of my fake breasts that night, Kristiana commented, "This happens to you a lot, doesn't it?" She was right - in years gone by, I've had my eyebrows threaded, colored my hair, cut my hair, had facial makeovers, and otherwise made significant changes to my appearance - and most of the time, those changes go unnoticed. What does a girl have to do to be seen around here???)

What else am I grateful for on this Thankful Thursday?

I am grateful for the freedom I have to be sad, to be worried, to be upset sometimes - coupled with the freedom to feel better, to be grateful, and to have a renewed sense of joy.

I am grateful for the friends who call and write and pour out their hearts to me. I am grateful to be counted trustworthy and dependable enough to be asked to walk alongside them in their times of sorrow and distress. I am grateful for the friends I can call on who will listen to me, laugh with me, cry with me, and walk this life journey with me.

I am grateful for the hard-working, insightful, supportive chiropractor who is doing all he can to keep me from having a recurrence of kanswer and to restore Daniel's spine to top working order.

I am grateful for the bountiful peppery arugula, crisp romaine, red seedless grapes, organic apples, kombucha, green tea, blue corn chips and salsa, guacamole, whole grain bread, ripe bananas, and pesto vegannaise I have enjoyed in the past week or so.

I am grateful for the ability and opportunity to go for quiet walks on the cool mornings we've had this week.

I am grateful for my daughter's smooth entrance into her final semester of community college. It has been nearly five years since she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and at that time, we had a hard time imagining that she would even complete high school. She not only finished high school with distinction, but she has also proven herself to be an excellent college student with an average of more than 3.8. She is applying to one of the state schools here in North Carolina and plans to start in January. 

I am grateful for grace, mercy, peace, joy, prayer, laughter, handmade journals, friendship, pets, babies, watercolor paint, rubber stamps, ink pads, emery boards, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, and loose change.

I am grateful that there is so much more for which I can give thanks. 
Thanks be to God. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

One of "those days" when life sucks...

Is it just me or is there a lot of bad stuff happening in the world right now?

Fires out west threatening to water supply and power grid of northern California.
Chemical warfare in Syria.
Ongoing wars elsewhere.
Our nation considering getting involved in yet another war.
Human trafficking.
Measles outbreaks.
Rampant unemployment.
Young people killing out of boredom.
Repealing of voting rights here in the South.
Food poisoning for a friend's mother.
Complications after another friend's breast surgery.



A friend of mine fell down a flight of stairs over a week ago and has been hospitalized ever since.
Another friend of mine has been out of work since January.
And another for more than eighteen months.
Someone I love is watching her beloved dog, a family member for more than a decade, come to the end of his days on earth.

The pipe that supplies water to our house is leaking in our front yard, creating standing puddles of muddy water. We discovered that leak just a few days after discovering a leak behind the wall of my son's bedroom - a leak that has been happening since the house was built in 1988. We had to replace drywall, floorboards, carpeting, and pieces of a pipe that had been pierced by two nails.
My son's back is bothering him. Again. 

The list of woes, ailments, pain, fears, and other forms of anguish is long and could be longer still.

I have spent too much time in the past few days trying to pump myself up:
all is well.
it's gonna be alright.
this too shall pass.
don't worry; be happy.

I have told myself to journal about it.
pray about it.
read the Bible; find comforting verses.
count my many blessings.
read other people's accounts of joy and peace.
do something kind for somebody else.
all of those things have helped... some.

And just when I start to feel a little better, I start to feel guilty for not being willing to feel bad. I tell myself things like: "You get to read and journal and watch television to temporarily escape your bad feelings. You get to talk to friends and pour your heart out in prayer and that helps too. Think about all the people who don't have the resources you have. Think about all the people who don't have friends or a partner or the inclination to journal or even a home in which to watch television. How dare you immediately seek a reprieve from your discomfort?"

I'm glad these difficult days are few and far between. Even as I type that, I hear that critical voice say: "See how blessed you are that this doesn't happen a lot?" That voice speaks the truth. But today is one of those emotionally volatile, fear-inducing, sorrow-producing days.  I'm constantly on the verge of tears, so I'm gonna let them flow. I'm gonna let the emotions surge. I'm gonna make myself another cup of tea and sip it while I journal and pray. I'm gonna let somebody else worry about dinner tonight.

Is anybody else having one of "those days" today? One of those weeks? Months? Years?
I'll pray for you while I'm praying for myself and the rest of the world.
I like the way someone whose writing I love (Jena or Karen, I can't remember which) put it -
"Prayer is someone saying your name with reverence."
Or something even more beautiful and profound than that.

Today I will say names with reverence.
I will imagine the faces of people I love and offer up reverential prayers.
I will say my own name and look at my own face with reverence.
Cuz there is a lot of bad stuff happening in the world right now.
And I'm having a tough time holding it together today.
Plus we all could use some reverence, prayer, and gentleness when our names are spoken.

I hope to meet you back here tomorrow with a list of things I'm grateful for.
After all, it will be Thankful Thursday.

* Please send me an email ( if you want me to pray for something specific.
Or if you want to share something you are grateful for.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back in the high (school) life again...

Anybody remember that Steve Winwood song? Here are some of the lyrics.

We'll have ourselves a time
And we'll dance till the morning sun
And we'll let the good times come in
And we won't stop till we're done
We'll be back in the high life again
All the doors I closed one time
Will open up again
We'll be back in the high life again
All the eyes that watched us once
Will smile and take us in
And we'll drink and dance with one hand free
And have the world so easily
And oh we'll be a sight to see
Back in the high life again
High life
High life
In the high life again
We'll be back in the high life again
All the doors I closed one time
Will open up again
We'll be back in the high life again
All the eyes that watched us once
Will smile and take us in
And we'll drink and dance with one hand free
And have the world so easily
And oh we'll be a sight to see
Back in the high life again

Read more: Steve Winwood - Back In The High Life Again Lyrics | MetroLyrics


This morning, Daniel and I are beginning another year of homeschooling. He's a junior in high school this year. In fact, as I write this post, I am sitting next to him at our homeschooling desk. He's watching the first class video of the year. (No, friends, I do not make up every lesson for him. I do the Spanish and some of the writing lessons. I still read to him often. But most of the actual lessons are online.)

When I think about the fact that he chooses to stay at home every year instead of heading off to traditional school, I am amazed. That he chooses me. That he chooses our home. That he chooses our family dynamics. I am enormously grateful. 

And I'm also terrified! Junior year??? Starting to make college decisions. Reaching out to college tennis coaches. Getting ready for college, for living in a dorm, for playing on a college tennis team, studying, writing, reading, speaking Spanish, journaling, preparing for the PSAT and SAT... there's a lot of work to do this year. 

But there is also a lot to enjoy and celebrate.  He's a junior in high school; he made it this far with grace, sarcasm, faith, boredom, courage, humor, impatience, avoidance, questions, and laughter. In other words, he's a extraordinary, ordinary kid. He's a tender-hearted young man. He's a loyal friend. He's a loving, attentive son and brother. He's a generous and funny kid. He's mine. He's ours. Most important of all, he is God's. 

I hope and pray that on many a morning, we will "drink (tea!) and dance with one hand free, and have the world so easily." When we are wandering through museums, international markets, and the zoo, we will probably be quite a sight to see - one tall, handsome young man with his doting, goofy mom. When this year is over and I look back towards this cool August morning, I want to recall the lyrics I've posted here and the many ways in which we "have ourselves a time, let the goods times come in and won't stop until we're done."

Here we go, buddy. We're back in the high (school) life again.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sitting where they sat...

Yesterday, two friends of mine underwent surgery. Neither of them had to stay in the hospital overnight. In fact, one of them underwent back surgery in a special surgery center that wasn't even part of a hospital. Both of them are doing fine today. Thanks be to God.

Yesterday morning, I drove to the hospital, found the surgical waiting room, and sat for less than an hour before being ushered into the recovery room of a dear girlfriend of mine. I sat and chatted with her for a few minutes before the nurse helped her get dressed, and I drove her home. Easy peasy. All is well.

But while I sat in the surgical waiting room, I looked around at the other people also waiting. I wondered how many of them would receive bad news from a surgeon - kanswer, an amputation, an organ failure. I wondered how many of them would leave the hospital with the worst news of all - that a loved one had died in surgery. I wondered how many of them didn't have health insurance and were wondering how they would pay for the procedures being carried out on their loved ones. Most of all, I prayed for every family represented, every patient in every OR, and every doctor working to restore health to the sick and dignity to the dying.

My mind rolled back four months and one day - when my husband, Kristiana, my mother, Karen, and Gibbs sat in that same room waiting for news about the two surgeries I was undergoing on the morning of April 19th. I wondered about what they must have been thinking as the hours rolled by, as the family members and friends of other patients came and went, as they held onto hope for my full recovery.

I don't remember much of that day. I don't remember being wheeled from the surgical preparation room into the operating room. I don't remember being wheeled from the OR to the recovery room or to the room where I stayed overnight following the operation.

There are vague memories of friends visiting, nurses checking my vital statistics, and even the food I ate. There are blurred images of bandages being changed, drains being emptied, ice packs on my chest, and leg compression garments inflating and deflating for 24 hours.

Yesterday morning, while sitting in the waiting room where my dearly beloved ones sat, I was reminded of how blessed I am to have so many friends and family members who sat vigil with me and for me during my battle with kanswer. Many of them, many of you continue to pray for me, to check in with me, and send me reminders of just how loved I am.

Sitting where they sat, I was reminded of how skilled my doctors are, how compassionate, how hard-working and how dedicated they are to the health and well-being of their patients.

Sitting where they sat, I was reminded of the rich blessing of having access to medical facilities, medical personnel, medical insurance, and medications that have been effective against this dreadful disease.

Sitting where they sat, I was reminded of how far I have come, how strong and flexible I am again, how much I am able to do that I couldn't do in the early days following surgery - including sipping a green tea latte at the airport in Tampa.

Sitting where they sat, I gave thanks to God for the inestimable gifts of life, love, joy, hope, health, and health care.

Friday, August 16, 2013

I don't often ask you to go spend money...

But tonight I will make an exception.

Please spend the $10 (or whatever it costs in your hometown) to see the movie, "The Butler." I saw it today with my mother and my daughter. It is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. It is the story of an African-American man who serves as a butler in the White House under seven presidents.

I am grateful for his service, for his life, and for his story.
His service, his life, his story make me appreciate my own life and story more.

Don't wait until it hits Netflix or Blockbuster. This is a movie that should be seen in the company of other people. People who know you and people who don't know you. People who look like you and people who don't look like you. People who live like you do, and people who don't live like you.

This is a movie that may change your perspective on 20th century history in this country and deepen your understanding of just how amazing it is that there is currently an African-American man in the White House - and he is not a butler. No matter what your political persuasion, this movie will cause you to rethink the Presidency, the White House, and the people who live and work there.

It's a good movie. Please go see it. Please.
So good. So very good.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Traveling Mercies

Over the past three weeks, we have done a fair amount of traveling as a family. Two weeks ago yesterday, Steve and Daniel left for a tennis tournament in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They were gone for a week. On the same day, Kristiana and I went to Asheville, North Carolina, for two days. Last weekend, I went to Florida to spend two days with my brother and his wife. In between and following those trips, we have gone to the supermarket, the mall, the barber shop, church, parties, tennis practice, driver's education, community college, the vet's office, the homes of friends - among other places - and come back home.

Steve and Daniel arrived in Kalamazoo at 1:30 am two weeks ago this morning, several hours later than they expected. (Who can possibly be surprised that their flight out of Chicago was delayed? Given the option to do otherwise, you should avoid O'Hare Airport whenever possible.) The traveling mercy they experienced that night/wee hour of the morning was that the car rental agent in Kalamazoo had remained at the airport two and a half hours beyond closing time awaiting the arrival of their flight.

There were several traveling mercies experienced during our time in Asheville. Kristiana and I stayed at a hotel that provided shuttle service into downtown Asheville. The young man who drove us back and forth into the city center provided us with wonderful insights on restaurants we should frequent. He talked to us about the merits of vegetarian food. He was a delightful and kind-hearted young man. On the morning of our visit to the University of North Carolina Asheville campus, one of the hotel guests shared an elevator ride with us. She asked what we were going to be doing that day. We told her that Kristiana was going to have an interview at the college. The following morning, she asked how the interview had gone and whether or not Kristiana had been accepted. We were deeply moved by her thoughtfulness in remembering what we had told her. The admissions officer Kristiana spoke to said wonderful things about her chances to be accepted based on her grade point average. We discovered the darling little downtown area of Hendersonville, North Carolina, and sipped soda out of old fashioned glass bottles before making our way back to Charlotte.

On my return trip from Florida, the flight from Tampa to Jacksonville was delayed by more than an hour. That meant that my connection in Jacksonville would be less than twenty minutes. The USAirways ticket agent changed my seat on the outgoing flight so that I would be in the front row of the airplane, allowing for a quick exit. There were two other passengers hoping to catch the same flight back to Charlotte, so all three of us were in the front of the tiny aircraft. But just in case we missed the connection, the agent also issued each of us vouchers that would allow us to board the next flight back to Charlotte.

Upon arriving in JAX, I deplaned and began to run towards the connecting flight. Suddenly - Ouch! I injured my left achilles. I slowed to an unsteady wimpy, lopsided jog. When I arrived at the gate, they were boarding my group number. Huffing and puffing, I scooted down the jetway and collapsed into my seat. A minute or two later, the other two Tampa passengers walked past me towards their seats. We all made it. (The other two CLT-bound passengers were men. Yes, I'm proud that I beat them to the plane, even though I was limping. To be fair, they had to wait for their gate-checked roll behind bags to be returned. I had only a school sized backpack and cloth shoulder bag, so I didn't have to wait for any luggage.)

While in the car with Kristiana two weeks ago, in airport terminals in Charlotte, Jacksonville, and Tampa, on the runways, in the air, and in the car, one phrase kept coming back to mind: "traveling mercies."

I thought about a few of the many trips I have taken in my lifetime.
The big ones - Spain, Italy, San Francisco, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and other distant ports of call.
Smaller ones - like Asheville, New York City, Charleston, Savannah, Hilton Head, and the supermarket.
Car rides. Flights. Train trips. And many long walks through our beautiful neighborhood.
There were the happy trips. Back and forth to the hospital and birthing center where my children were born. Back and forth to the hospital where Karen, Moneesha, and Heather's children were born.
There were the sad trips too. The hospital where my father died. To Portland to visit Leza before she died of complications from colon kanswer. The hospital, surgeon's office, and oncologist's office where I underwent kanswer treatment.

The great news is that at this moment, I can happily, proudly, gratefully say that on each journey, whether I laughed or cried, checked a bag or carried only a backpack,
whether I drove or flew, walked or was carried in the cars or in the arms of others,
on every trip, traveling mercies have been abundant.
Delicious food. Healthy food. Hot coffee. Ice water.
Friendly co-travelers. Well-written guidebooks. Photos taken.
Hotel rooms. Guest rooms. Launa's garden level apartment.
Frequent flights paid for with frequent flier miles.
And a free business class upgrade on a flight to Madrid once.
Comfortable shoes. Warm sweaters. Travel vest. Money belt.
Hands to hold. Shoulders to lean on.
Stories told. Stories heard. Journal entries written.
I have traveled much. I have traveled well.
I have suffered. I have conquered.
I have been blessed. I have been loved.
And I have indeed lived to tell about it all.

On this Thursday night as every night of every week, I am thankful.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Celebrating life and health

I spent this past weekend down in Largo, Florida, with my brother, Darryl, his wife, Noemi, and their family and friends. We danced. We ate. We drank. We danced some more. We laughed. We yelled. We told stories. We stayed up late. We got up early.

Noemi just turned 60 - which you could never tell by looking at her. To honor her 60 years of life and health, she celebrated by throwing a party/fundraiser in preparation for the 60 Mile Walk for the Susan G. Komen Fund for Breast Cancer Research. The DJ was awesome. The food was delicious. The company spectacular.

We celebrated life, health, friendship, love, family, and Noemi herself.
An awesome time was had by all.

 Did I mention that we danced? We did "the bump."
 (Thanks, Robin and Noemi for posting these photos on Facebook.)

Don't they have a fantastic backyard? 

 Yes, I sat above the wing on a propeller-powered airplane. 
Yes, I remain absolutely enamored with and fascinated by airplane travel. 

Photos of photos my brother had up in his house... 
hence, the blurry shots.
That's me in the front row, all the way to the right.
Family reunion from sometime back in the early 1970s. 
And these aren't even all my cousins!
Either Mount Olive, North Carolina or Chester, Pennsylvania.

That's me - in my dad's lap - and Darryl. 

The four of us outside of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY.
Circa 1970.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Valley of Transfiguration

According to the liturgical calendar, today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. If you aren't familiar with that story, it is the Gospel account of Jesus taking Peter, James, and John up to a mountain where he was transfigured before their eyes. "His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light." Moses and Elijah appeared with him, and spoke to him. The three men who were with Jesus were understandably terrified by what they saw. Peter offered to build three shelters, one for each of the three men who were glowing in the dark. In the end, Moses and Elijah disappeared and Jesus descended the mountain with the three men after making them promise not to tell anyone what they had seen until after his death.

I've read that story many times before. I've tried to imagine what it must have been like to stand there and see Jesus in that glorious light. He who named himself "the way, the truth, and the life" showed himself to also be the light of the world. What an honor. What a fright. What a revelation. I can understand Peter's desire to pitch a tent and stay there a while.

Often on my life journey, I have heard sermons and talks about "mountaintop experiences." During my childhood, I went to Sunshine Acres, a Christian camp located in the Catskill Mountains in New York. Even though I didn't like going to camp - spiders, dust bunnies, and mosquitoes kept me anxious almost all the time - I loved chapel services, buying candy at "The Dugout," campfires, and swimming. Every summer (yes, my parents sent me there every summer for years!) on the final night of camp, there would be some variation on the "mountaintop experience" talk. We were told that we needed to get ready to go back down the mountain into real, regular life. Jesus would be with us every step of the way. And we could always stay in touch with each other and our counselors.

When I got older, I worked there for three summers - as a junior counselor, then a counselor, and finally as the camp laundress. (Yes, I later subjected myself to the spiders, mosquitoes, and dust bunnies! It was better than staying in the sweltering heat of Brooklyn, New York.) I gave a version of that talk myself at the end of every session: "Listen, girls, I know it's tough to go home after such a great time here. But you will be fine. You will continue to learn from all that has happened up here. Christ will go with you and before you on the way. And I will pray for you too." I would make sure to send each of the girls a postcard two or three days before the end of the session so that it would be waiting for them when they got home. I wanted them to have physical proof that I was thinking about them and praying for them as they made their way back down the mountain from the joy of camp into the valley of life in New York City and out on Long Island.

Mountaintop moments, transfiguration moments are wonderful, aren't they?

But here's the thing. There are also valleys of transfiguration. There are moments when it feels like Christ asks us, asks me to descend into a valley with him, and in those valleys, he becomes light in the darkness and I am comforted by Christ's presence through prayer, through the love of family and friends, and through letters and postcards sent from others to light my way. I am grateful for those times when Christ's light of love, mercy, grace, and peace disperses the darkness.

Sometimes, though, it feels more like Christ is seated with me in the darkness and silence without lighting the way out of the valley. Sometimes fear overwhelms me. Sometimes doubts arise. Sometimes I curse the darkness and scream out, "Why me? Why me?" Sometimes I feel motivated to do what Peter suggested - built a shelter in the dark and just stay there. It feels like the darkness was going to persist, so we may as well set up camp and get ready for a long-term stay in the valley.

I certainly had moments like that during my kanswer treatments. Chemo sucked. I felt like I had been knocked onto the train tracks by a cross-town bus and then run over by the oncoming express train. My husband and chidren sat with me, talked to me, rubbed my head and my legs, and told me they loved me. Family and friends dropped by with flowers, hats, balloons, invitations to lunch, hot meals and cake, and gifts. My mailbox was filled to overflowing at times with cards and gifts. Christ was close by, I knew that, but there were many days when I still felt all alone, deep in the darkest place on earth on the night of the new moon. Utter and outer darkness. I felt certain that I would never emerge from the dungeon of sickness into health again.

Little by little, transfiguration began to happen.
Chemo ended. Surgery happened. Healing continued.
Laughter bubbled more regularly.
My hair started to grow.
The light of life shone through the darkness of illness.
My spirits rose.
And I began to emerge from the valley.

Today I received the final phone call from Camillia, the Aetna case manager, who has walked with me through my kanswer treatment. I'm doing well enough for her to sign off and set me free to continue the healing journey on my own. What a gift she has been to me over the past nine months. I will miss her. I wish her nothing but the very best in her life and work.

Today I spent four hours in prayer and planning for homeschooling my son through his junior year in high school. It is quite sobering to think that two years from now, my baby boy will be heading off to college and my nest will be blissfully empty. It is also sobering and gratifying to think that I am ready to get back into this work of being a homeschooling mother after emerging from the valley of the shadow of death.

Today I also spent some time caressing the scars on my chest. I rubbed the hysterectomy scars on my abdomen. And I played with the continuously amazing baby-soft hair growing on my head. No matter how great I feel these days, no matter how strong, no matter how "normal," these scars and this short hair will serve as yet another daily reminder of the road I have traversed since last October 31st.

The valley of shadows, of fears, and of endless questions.
The valley of transfiguraton, reconfiguration, and transformation.

My favorite part in the Gospel account of the transfiguration happens after Peter makes the suggestion to pitch three tents: "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid." When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

I can relate to their terror. When I heard my bad news, the news about me entering into the canyon of kanswer, I fell on my face terrified. I did that every day between October 31st and ... I still do that sometimes, in all honesty. Sure enough, Christ has been faithful to remind me: "Get up, Gail. Don't be afraid. I'm right here with you. I will sit next to you during chemo. I will stand at your bedside during surgery. I will strengthen you for physical therapy. I will sit vigil while you sleep and walk before you every step of the way out of the darkness into the light of all that is yet to come." And every single time that I wipe my tears and look up, after the light fades and friends head home, when the phone is silent and the mailbox is empty, I see no one except Jesus.

Thanks be to God.