the nurse was right: The Saturday Gratitude Journal

the nurse was right: The Saturday Gratitude Journal

Her name was Amanda and her daughter is studying to be an Exceptional Children’s teacher.  And my nurse, Amanda and I agreed on many of the same things–she, like me, doesn’t drink soft drinks–sweet tea is her drink of choice, especially Chick-fil-A tea, just like me.

But what we agreed on most was this, I am a blessed woman.   Yep, that’s what she said. She asked in surprise as she read my health chart, ‘No surgeries, ever?!  You are a blessed woman!’

I replied loud, ‘I know!’

And then she said, ‘You have a good doctor, a good surgeon.  He is a good Christian man, a man of faith and he will pray with you before your surgery.  And he did.  A most humble and thankful prayer.  One I will not forget.

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Photo courtesy of Jill Miller Woodie 

 

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I struggled to tell others at first.  It was difficult to even say the words, “I have cancer. Cancer.”  And on that Tuesday as my doctor explained my diagnosis and treatment plan I listened, carefully soaking in his every word so I could relay it back to my family.  My mind accepted the news.  It was my heart that took a little longer.

But as I shared the news with others in the following days I began to understand more of God’s grace and the power of prayer. And as much as it is hard, these storms, there is beauty in the suffering.  So many women and other cancer survivors have reached out to me in the last few weeks.  Many I didn’t know their story.  Until now.  Stories of individual’s battles and healing of different types of cancers–Stories only God can write.

“I am praying for you, 4 years ago I also had breast cancer, stage 1.  I can truly say I know what you are going through.  And God was with me every step of the way and I know He will be with you.  If I can be of any help in any way please let me know.  Praying.” 

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And on this Saturday afternoon I sit here and write–one day after my surgery and I am doing well, extremely well and I think of each of you who continues to lift my name in prayer.  Each of you who believes we serve an amazing God who carries us through the valleys.

My heart is overwhelmed, my heart is full.  Because of my family. Because of each of you.  Because of God’s faithfulness.  Because of His promise to never leave our side–His mercy.  His love.

This week as with any week I have much to be thankful for…..

For answered prayers,  as my daughter said, To God be the Glory! 

For nurses named Kim, Amanda, Sabrina and so many others I can’t recall their names

For Dr. Stephen Rosser, God has given you a gift and you have touched my life with your faith and tender care

For Iredell Memorial Hospital 

For friends who lovingly pray–I could feel every one of your prayers. For your messages, offerings of help–please know I love you all

For the gift of grape jelly, a cure-all for anything. Sarah–your grandmother was so right

For my church, who when one hurts, we all hurt. Blessed to be a part of the family of Hilltop Baptist Church. 

And for a young boy named Jacob Brown and his family.  For sharing your story, your fight against cancer.  Your faith and trust in God through your storm inspires and encourages so many.  Praying strong for all of you. 

Tomorrow’s my Daddy’s birthday.  He would have been 79 and tomorrow he celebrates his 5th birthday in heaven.  I can’t explain how much my heart hurts on some days–missing him.  And I know the rest of my family feels the same.  He was truly a gift because you see he wasn’t born out of my Grandmother’s womb, he grew out of her heart and I am thankful God chose him for our family.

Daddy

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.  Psalm 23:1 (KJV)

 

 

…hard thanks: The Saturday Gratitude Journal

…hard thanks: The Saturday Gratitude Journal

I am counted among the numbers now.

According to the U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics, in 2018 an estimated number of 63,960 women will be diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer.  (breastcancer.org).

I once heard Pam Tebow, mother of Tim Tebow speak to an audience of women about the importance of giving thanks.  She told the story of how she was walking near a construction site and a piece of debris fell on her head. Her next memory was waking up in a hospital.  And she said of this experience, ‘this was not something I had planned and it was difficult but according to God’s word we are to give Him thanks–in everything.  So I am thankful He allowed this piece of construction debris to hit me on my head.’

In every thing give thanks.

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My cancer diagnosis–on a scale of 0 to 4, I am at a zero, the beginning stages.  And in next few days I will have out-patient surgery, a lumpectomy to remove the area followed by six weeks of daily radiation treatments–30 minutes per day, five days a week. If all goes well with the surgery on Friday, I will be back at work on Monday. And my follow-up treatments can be scheduled around my work on most days. And unlike chemotherapy, there are fewer and less severe side effects to radiation treatments.

In every thing give thanks.

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And this year I will hit a milestone birthday–never had any type of surgery, no medications so to speak.  Three overnight stays in the hospital, two of those–I brought my beautiful babies home.  The other was a one-night stay while I was in high school.  A. Long. Time. Ago. So to say God has blessed me with good health thus far is an understatement and a huge blessing.

I can’t begin to write the ways in which God has prepared me for this.  How I can look back over the past few months of yesterdays and see how He provided for today and the days to come.

And this week as with any week I have so much to be thankful for…..

My grand baby boy Wyatt celebrating his first birthday. 

Praying friends 

My daughter and son-in-law celebrating birthdays

Coconut Fudge Ice Cream

Pink ribbons 

My family

Birds at the feeder

Sweet tea with crushed ice

My church family

My cancer diagnosis 

Before the month of January ended my baby brother was rushed to the hospital and he fought hard to live.  And after he was released from the hospital he was placed on a strict diet, daily insulin shots, and other medication. Today, seven months later his diet is not as strict and he is completely off insulin.  When I explained to him about my cancer diagnosis, I told him I had nothing to complain about or feel pity for myself.  And what he said next humbled me to the core–‘if you think about it, no matter what, none of us have reason to complain.’

In every thing give thanks.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You see because of you I was stronger. Braver. Less afraid.

You see because of you I was stronger. Braver. Less afraid.

You don’t know this and you may not even know me. And I may not know your name. But I want to thank you.

You see because of you I was stronger. Braver. Less afraid. Because of you.

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The morning darkness was still lit by the stars of Abraham’s promise. And before walking out the door I clasp the lock on my brave necklace—the butterfly necklace a friend gave me. I hope they allow me to keep it on.  

I count the trucks on the interstate. Some parked along the exits. A rest for the weary. Some with their wheels warm to the road. Not many cars traveling on this early morn.

And God is here.

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I find my entrance at the place that never sleeps. The volunteer receptionist—an older lady and she smiles at me. Her voice is a calm and I take my place in the waiting room and within minutes it begins to fill and I see them walk in. She’s wearing her pajama bottoms, her arms tightly wrapped around a red blanket. And her friend with her camouflage shirt adorned with the large pink ribbon.  I don’t ask their story. I have no need—the friend’s shirt speaks loud….I am here. I am right here by your side. I am fighting with you—for you. I won’t leave you. And they take their seats. Together, they wait.

And God is here.

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A few minutes pass and the doors swing open and the nurse in the blue scrubs calls my name. We exchange morning hellos and I notice how shiny the floors are and how the hallway goes on forever. We go into what looks like the emergency room and she explains she will take my vitals and I will stay there until another nurse comes for me. She’s a sweet lady. Our birthdays are six days apart—hers the 6th and mine the 12th. December babies.

Another nurse enters the area and with her is an elderly gentleman. She takes him behind the adjoining curtain and he tells her his bride of 53 years—she’s right outside the room.  

My nurse finishes my vitals and assures me I won’t have to wait much longer and before she leaves she softly says to me, ‘don’t worry.’  

And the man next to me —well, he’s still talking.  

‘Are you saved?, He ask to his nurse. And she said, ‘oh, yes sir I am.’ 

‘I quit church and join the Marines where they cussed some,’ he said. ‘My Mama wasn’t happy. But God let me live. I praise God for my salvation.’

And God is here.

It’s almost 7am and my other nurse arrives. Wearing a smock, black adorned with a million pink ribbons it seems. Her black hair pulled partially back into a ponytail. I learn she and her boyfriend ride motorcycles.  She promises the procedure won’t take long.

We walk down the shiny hallway again and there’s a young man mopping the floor. He’s the reason for the shine. And I say good morning.

Another room—this time smaller. And the nurse, she and my doctor explains the procedure steps. ‘You can keep your necklace on,’ she said.  I can’t help believe she knew it was part of my needed brave.

And as I laid there with my body perfectly still I watched as this tube carried my tissue and blood into the machine with the large button lit bright red, labeled biopsy and I thought about you.  Women who have been here before me.

My pain came and I prayed not only for myself but for Hannah, the young teacher with two small children whose fighting her own battle with breast cancer. On this morning her story—her pain helped with my pain.

To the dear friends and loved ones who has went through the same procedure, some more than once. On this morning your stories—your strength gave me strength.

To Elaine and Ann and so many other women who fought their battles hard and won the victory crossing over holding onto Jesus’ hands–on this morning your stories– your fight gave me fight–your faith deepened my faith.

And to Kathryn and Sharon and Teresa and Anne and Diane and Caroline and Sylvia and all of the women who fought hard and today your bodies hold battle scars as survivors—on this morning your  stories—your brave gave me brave.

And to every woman who is clinging to blankets going through chemo and mastectomies and lumpectomies and the families and friends and loved ones who wear pink ribbons and pink hats and pink shirts in support. Names I will never know. On this morning your stories—your courage gave me courage.

And God is here.

The nurse was right. The procedure didn’t take long. And my doctor, he’s done this before. More times than he cares to count or remember, I’m sure. His face is humble as he explains the biopsy results will be back in a week and once he receives them we will meet and talk. And before he leaves the room he scolds the nurse for riding a motorcycle in a pleasant, but very meaningful way and she smiles. 

And God is here.

Fifteen minutes or so pass and I am released. Well to drive. I made my way back to the car, the night skies now day blue. The car door shuts and in that moment the walls I had built around my heart over the last three weeks broke. And my tears flowed for every woman who has ever had to hear these words…..there is a chance you may have breast cancer.

And God is here. He’s always here.  

 

A week of thanks: the Saturday Gratitude Journal—School.Starts.Monday

A week of thanks: the Saturday Gratitude Journal—School.Starts.Monday

School starts Monday.  That’s worth repeating.  School. Starts. Monday.

There’s a lot that can be said about the beginning of a new school year.  Churches providing meals for staff meetings and the offering of prayers for the upcoming school year.  School supplies collected. Excitement. Tears. First last days for high school seniors.  First last days for the teacher who is retiring soon.  And I think one of the hardest, the first days of many first days.  First day of kindergarten.  First day of middle school. First day of high school.  First day of being the new kid in school.  And first day of a new teacher, principal.

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And parents it’s hard. I know.  And I remember how difficult the part of ‘preparing’ my children for the beginning of a new school was, but what I often overlooked was this—others were readying themselves for my children too.

Our teachers—preparing their rooms with new bulletin boards with encouraging notes and colorful photos.  Lesson plans upon lesson plans to ensure every single student in the classroom have the opportunity to learn in a safe, clean, and fun environment, attending countless summer workshops increasing their knowledge and then sharing in the coming year. Club advisors. Committees and more committees. These are our teachers.

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Our principals and administrators—hiring and mentoring new teachers, many preparing to take on new leadership at different schools, attendance at summer workshops and professional development, and the list goes on.

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Our athletic coaches—and like many school staff there are no summers off for our school’s athletic coaches.  Summer sports camps for our youth. Summer camps and workouts for prospective players and current athletes.  And the never-ending maintenance and upkeep of the sports fields.

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Our bus drivers, bus garage staff, school maintenance staff and cafeteria staff—Meetings and training, repairs, installations of new equipment, every single bus inspected, cleaned, and shined.

Our custodial staff—and this week I have watched as the custodial staff along with many staff members at one of our local high schools have cleaned and walls and doors and stair railings now have a fresh coat of paint.  Every light fixture has been disassembled and rid of any visible dead bugs.  The buildings and sidewalks—pressure washed.  And landscaping, bushes trimmed, grass mowed, weeds pulled.

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And some may say, well, this is their job—but for the majority, it is their passion.

This week I am thankful for…….

Teachers

Principals and administrators

Athletic coaches

School counselors, school social workers, school nurses and all student services staff

Custodians

Cafeteria staff

Bus Drivers

Teacher Assistants

Media specialists

School administrative staff

School receptionists

School data managers

School finance managers

And so many others who work with our children

School starts Monday. Alarms will sound earlier, buses will be on the roads, there will be Mamas and Daddies shedding tears as their little ones walk away, some so excited they forget to tell their parents good-bye, Friday night football and other sporting events, homework, and the car lines will go on forever.

And in the noise and busyness of all the new school year brings, never forget to remember—our schools are filled with individuals who truly care about our children. Every. Single.Day.

                 Pray without ceasing

                 1 Thessalonians 5:17  

 

 

 

 

a week of thanks: The Saturday Gratitude Journal

a week of thanks: The Saturday Gratitude Journal

He stood there so bold with his nose freshly kissed by the ocean sun.  Freckles shining bright and a smile that spread wider with every word he sang.  His song book in hand–lined with words and musical notes he has yet learn to read. Alone on the front choir pew and his Daddy close behind him.

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He looked out over the congregation and when it came time to sing the chorus, he belted out with his five-year old voice–loud.  Love lifted me!  He didn’t care who was watching or if anyone thought he was singing out of tune or singing too loud.  It was like he was at the feet of Jesus–looking up at Him and singing with his heart lifted high.  Straight to the throne.

The other choir members looked his way with joy and I glanced over at his Mama and tears were escaping from her heart and trickling down her cheek.

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And this past week, it’s been a hard week, a really hard week and I have so much to be thankful for…..

My grandsons 

My granddaughter

Freedom of worship

Caring teachers, coaches, and educators who give so much

Grapes on the vine turning deep purple

Rain on a summer evening

Old church hymns 

The privilege of prayer

And after the song ended this grandbaby boy of mine made his way back to our pew and sat between me and his Mama–both of us in awe of his bold and I whispered, ‘I didn’t know you knew that song.  Where did you learn it?’ And he said,  ‘At school. We sing it at school.’

And there is this undeserved love.

All the way to the cross.  Love lifted.

With His arms wide open. Love lifted.

With His dying love, we are lifted.

And with His living, we are lifted. Never to be the same.

But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (KJV) 

 

 

 

 

 

A week of thanks: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

A week of thanks: the Saturday Gratitude Journal

She walked into the waiting room, her body reeked of tired and her uniform of morning food stains.  She sat down beside the gentleman who was waiting—waiting for his wife to come through the door and tell her husband the latest medical updates, her new prescriptions.

‘Where do you work at?’ he ask as she sat with her arms clinched tightly around her purse in her lap–not that she was afraid he might take it from her.  It’s just what we women do sometimes.  We all know women hold these secret treasures in their purses–things we need or can’t do without you know.

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“I work at McDonald’s,” she said.  “Thirty-four years I have worked there. And I work at the supermarket a few hours a week.  I’m trying to get caught back up from when I was out for my surgery.’

And the conversation went on about puppies and children and things pleasant.

Thirty-four years she has served others.  With Happy Meals, french fries, Big Macs, large sweet teas, bagging groceries.  And I wonder just how many times someone has offered her a word of kindness, a gentle thank you.

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And this week I am thankful for….

Hearing this lady’s story and her service.  And for everyone who serves day in and day out. All too often, we take you for granted and for that, I am truly sorry.  

Pink clouds 

Seeing parents with their children shopping for school supplies

The beauty of a walk in the woods

Forgiveness

New beginnings

Remembering my Daddy’s voice on the phone when he said bye.  I could always hear his smile.  

The power to change with God’s help

Our military and their families 

Farmers

Purple flowers

Memories intertwined with songs

Unanswered prayers

Yes, another week has past and the month of August is ticking away.  And God has blessed, more than we deserve. And in the coming days I am going to diligently try to say thank you more–to God–first and foremost; and to those who daily serve others and myself.

I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. Psalm 9:1 (KJV) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week of Thanks: The Saturday Gratitude Journal at Topsail Island

Week of Thanks: The Saturday Gratitude Journal at Topsail Island

“Granna, there’s not going to be any seashells left in the ocean,” he said in his soft concerned voice.

The shoreline has been filled with an abundance of shells this week and this grand baby boy of mine, all of five years old–he is a noticer and a quiet thinker.   I explain to him there are still millions of seashells left in the ocean.  And he believes in something he can not see. And we sit in silence as the wind blows against his fresh freckles which stretch across his nose watching the ocean and the shells come to shore.

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Another year.  Another blessed week of enjoying time together.  My kids and their famlies and my grandbabies.

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On Thursday at approximately 10 in the evening, 103 baby sea turtles hatched and made their way to their new ocean home.  These babies were three days overdue on their birth date. I visited their nest for several nights once I heard they had reached their 60 day birth cycle and it was expected they would hatch any day.

And I was terribly disappointed I missed their journey to the sea but what I am extremely grateful for is what I witnessed the days prior to their birth. The care and compassion of some kind-hearted souls who every night, they would wait. In fellowship. In laughter. In conversation. For the same cause. Working together.  The Topsail Sea Turtle Patrol.  They would get to the nest around dusk and wait until nightfall, clear the runway and patiently answer questions for us onlookers who were curious enough to stop on our evening strolls on the beach.

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And this week I have so much to be thankful for.  So many moments.  So much grace.

Laughter of my three grandchildren

A porch that overlooks the ocean

Waking up to the sounds of waves greeting the shore

Seashells

Early morning sunrises

Baby Sea Turtles

Hearing my almost one-year old grandbaby boy Wyatt yell, Da-dy and watching my son come running.  Both wearing the same smiles. 

Safe travels

The cashier at the gas station as the sun illuminated her smile. “Thank you to the Good Lord for the sunshine,” she said with a loud shout.  “Please Lord, bless us with it all day.” 

Time spent with family

Quiet moments with God 

It seems as though the week of vacation–time speeds up.  And I lost a day this week somehow thinking it was Wednesday all day and it was actually Thursday.  Bummer to say the least when I found out we only had one full day left.

But shouldn’t it be that way though? Not been disappointed, so to speak because of the lack of time.  But grateful for the time we have remaining when spending moments with family, even if the time is for a week, a day, or a few short minutes. Time should never be a thought, only a thankfulness, when surrounded by those you love.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms.  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is His also. The sea is His, and He made it: and His hands formed the dry land.

Psalm 95:2-5