Category Archives: cancer volume 2

on noticing the care-givers

I just wanted him to notice me. It had been an hour since he returned home from his meeting at the church. I spent most of that hour in bed, nursing a pulled muscle in my back. Nursing a heart-hurt as well. Seems as if there have been a few of these kinds of aches lately. Internal, soul-pains with no immediate cure but for the passage of time and the tenderness of God. And so I waited for him to make that trek down the hall to our back bedroom … to notice me. To ask a few questions. To join me in my misery.

Ever tried that one before? Using your pitiful estate to procure collective pity? I can’t be the only one out there wielding this emotional manipulation. We all (especially us women) have an arsenal full of management techniques we’re willing to implement in order to secure the attention of others. Unfortunately, mine wasn’t working. My husband is an “S” on the Myer-Briggs Personality Test, meaning that he gains information through his senses. If he can’t taste it, touch it, feel it, hear it, or see it, it doesn’t exist in his cognitive awareness. So, while I’m back in the bedroom nursing my wounds, he’s not thinking about checking up on me; he’s simply noticing the partially shut door, indicating to him that I’m resting and wanting to be left alone.

What I’m wanting is for him to intuitively know my need without me having to tell him—that’s part of my being an “N” on the Myer’s Brigg, an opposite of being an “S.” But really, this isn’t a post about personality types. Mostly, it’s just about my needing to be noticed, and when he didn’t acquiesce to my silently kept expectations, I added a few frustrations to the wounds I was already self-medicating with self-pity.

Why isn’t he coming back here? What’s more important than my pain? He’s usually so attentive to my needs? Why isn’t he taking the time to notice me?

An hour into my self-soothing, I received my answer. Not through him, but rather through the faint sound of silverware clinking together in the kitchen sink.

He can’t notice you, Elaine. He’s too busy noticing the messy kitchen—those after-dinner dishes that never got washed. He is taking care of you, just through different means. By the way, who’s noticing him? When was the last time someone paused long enough to stop his/her personal self-centeredness to ask Billy, “How are you? How are you handling your pain … your wife’s pain?”

Noticing him. The guilt from not having made many meals in that kitchen for nearly a year is bad enough, but to intuitively feel the pain regarding his pain on this one (again the “N” at work in me) added to my heart ache.

I can’t tell you the last time that someone ministered to my husband along these lines. I don’t know if it’s a guy thing or a preacher thing (maybe even a human nature thing), but it’s not right. As the primary bread-winner and care-giver to a sick wife, my husband carries a heavy load. I couldn’t ask for a better help-mate as we have navigated and continue to navigate these uncertain times. But few have been those who have noticed him … have taken the time to ask the hard questions, wait for the answers, and then act upon the pain that is obviously masked by his need to be strong for all of us. Who’s noticing him?

Few.

Why is it that few people take the time to notice the care-givers of sick patients? The friends, spouses, children, extended family members who are caring for the infirmed? Is there a threshold for concern … as if there’s only enough room in our hearts to offer compassion, send comfort to the sick? Is taking on the care-giver simply too much burden added to an already heavy-laden list of those needing care? When did we stop noticing the corporate nature of care-giving? If it “takes a village” to raise a child, then why would it be any different with those who are suffering? Suffering need, needs a village of concerned inhabitants to tend to the sick, care-givers included. They should not be overlooked. Instead, they should be noticed. Be consulted. Be loved, even as the patient is loved.

As the wife of a husband who has valiantly endeavored to “love me as Christ loves the church,” I am sometimes saddened by the response of the “church at large” to love on my man. He needs to be noticed. And I can honestly tell you that he isn’t wielding any weapons in his emotional arsenal to procure attention. He’s just not the type. He’s a humble man with a beautiful heart willing to bend low to wash the feet of a stranger, despite his own feet being sorely in need of a thorough cleansing of communal love.

I don’t tell you this to elicit a response in our direction. I tell you this in hopes that you might consider a care-giver who is within arm’s reach of your ministry today. Someone who needs noticing, who needs a few minutes of your time and your tending. Someone who would benefit from a phone call, a note, a lunch date all offered in the name of God’s love because you understand that loving “the most excellent way” (see 1 Corinthians 13) means putting others’ needs above your own. It’s such a simple thing … noticing the pain of others. It doesn’t take much to abate the human need to be noticed. It simply requires your willingness to re-direct your attention away from self and to channeling that attention in the direction of others.

Perhaps, today, you could give your attention to the care-giver of someone who is sick; in doing so, you give to the patient as well. Don’t wait to be asked. Just do. Do it today; do it because our God has done the same for us.

He noticed us. He notices us still. We must give our hearts–our energies and our efforts–to the same. As always…

Peace for the journey,
~elaine
PS: The winner of Michael O’Brien’s CD is #13, Stephanie! I’ll have this in the mail to you be week’s end.

when "less" receives a helping hand…

when "less" receives a helping hand…

I’ve been feeling “less” today.
A lot less.
I think it has something to do with the seemingly “more” going on around me… in others’ lives. Maybe even in your life. I didn’t think anyone could talk me out of my feelings. They were pretty strong, fairly steadfast in their obedience to keep watch over my heart. But then I called her… told her I needed to talk to another survivor. And she talked me out of my lesser estate.
She reminded me about our enemy and his wicked intentions. His schemes. His craftiness. His willingness to tailor-make a trap for me. And then she said this…
The next time the enemy comes knocking with his lies, you rip open your shirt… you show him your scars, and you remind him of the price that’s been paid for your faith’s cultivation. There’s a story in your scars, Elaine. Write it before the Lord.
Her words stunned me, lifted me; challenged me and released me to the greater work of my faith. My heart is lighter now than it has been all day. A few well-spoken words from a sister survivor has made all the difference. She understands about faith’s scarring; she carries a few of her own. We’ve known a similar pain. We’ve walked a comparable path, and we serve the very same Lord.
And tonight, my heart is profoundly grateful.
For friends who know Jesus.
For friends who understand scars.
For friends who speak the truth.
For friends who answer their phones, despite what the Caller ID indicates.
Thank you for picking up the phone, friend. You didn’t have to, but in doing so, you’ve been God’s strength and love to me.
May we all, each one of us, add such strengthening and love to a friend in need this week. Never underestimate the power of a few well-spoken words on behalf of the King and his kingdom. He intends for his words to release their witness through his children.
Keep to it. As always…
Peace for the journey,
~elaine

 

PS: I plan on taking a bit of a blogging break this week, but I’ll be around to visit you as I can. Shalom.

kneeling

Sometimes a heart gets so filled to overflow, it’s hard to know what to do with it all. I’ve had that problem all afternoon; not a bad problem to have. Better to be filled than be depleted.
Let me explain.
I began my morning at the cancer center, not for treatment but for a massage. In addition, I talked to my doctor about the persistent tingling in my fingers, especially my right thumb which has now developed blood blisters. As I’ve mentioned before, chemotherapy is not without side-effects. After my consultation, I was on my way out of the center when I noticed her—a sister cancer patient I’ve sat next to on a few occasions. I hadn’t seen her in a while. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments have taken their toll on this precious woman. The physical effects on her fragile frame took me by surprise. I had to stifle my shock.
Alongside her sat her husband. The effects of his wife’s chemo was also evident in his stoutly frame. Tears welled up in his eyes as I knelt next to his wife with words of comfort. He tried not to display his pain, but something released in him in those few moments, and I was undone with the suffering. It was palpable. Tenderly, I expressed to him my acknowledgment for the hard work he was doing alongside his wife and thanked him for his perseverance. I looked them both squarely in the eyes and said, “You can do this; by God’s grace you can do this.” I hugged them both, wished them a “Merry Christmas” and made my way out to my van.
I choked on my tears while driving home. Cancer has multiple victims; not just the ones who are carrying it in their flesh. Caregivers suffer as well, sometimes at a deeper, less communicable level. Their outlets for pain are limited, but it is, nonetheless, very real and tender and true. Sometimes they deserve a closer look from those who sit on the outside of the inner, cancer circle. Sometimes they need our knees, our hugs, our prayers, our compassion… every bit as much as the patient does. They need to know that they are not alone as they walk this road of companionship with their loved one.
I know this one, because I’ve witnessed the need in my own companion… my husband for the journey. Some of you know him as Preacher Billy. Some of you call him friend. Some of you simply realize that there has to be a better half to my household, and in this season, I’m willing to concede the honor to him! I don’t know what I did to deserve such a man like mine, but I believe it has everything to do with grace and God and his Son’s death to self so that I might fully participate in the divine nature. Tonight, I stand amazed at the beauty of such a gift; not just for me but for all of us who know the unmerited, unconditional love of another.
Maybe not through a spouse, but through a child. A friend. A parent. A relative. A neighbor. A co-worker. Regardless of their connection to you, you have known their love in lavish measure as they have cared for you, some days in spite of you. You’ve never had to ask for their love. It simply arrived on time, in time, and filled with enough time to service your needs.
On paper, such love doesn’t compute. Selfless loving makes little sense to a world’s mentality that says “What’s in it for me?” Never once does unconditional love focus on self; instead, this kind of love puts others ahead of self, content to bring up the rear with little fanfare or notice. Caregivers often fall into this role, believing that their come-alongside participation was a role they were destined to play, without condition.
I imagine all of us could think of someone who fits this role in our own lives. If not for us, then for someone we love. This is a good time of year to remember them; to stop in our tracks long enough to kneel down before them and ask a few questions. Wipe a few tears. Offer some encouragement. Acknowledge some of the pain. It’s such a seemingly little thing to do—pausing to notice suffering. But for the one on the receiving end of your concern, it means a great deal. In many ways, your acknowledgment validates their courageous decision to participate in a loved one’s pain.
I don’t know what my kneeling accomplished today; it does, indeed, seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of my friend’s pain. But I know what it means to me to have my suffering acknowledged. And I’ve watched my husband benefit from the same consideration. It means everything to us, and I don’t want to go through the rest of my days skirting around the issue of human pain. I want to be invested accordingly, as the Lord determines in the days to come.
I want to be a kneeler. I want holes in my jeans and dirt on my knees because of my willingness to bend and to bow and to say, “You can do this; by God’s grace you can do this.” Sometimes it’s the best gift we can give to one another.
Our knees, followed by God’s word of grace.
Would you bow on behalf of another today? Would you be willing to notice the pain of those who are suffering in the flesh and those caregivers who most closely suffer with them? Perhaps God is prompting your heart in this very moment to move into action. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Do it now, and tell them, even as you remind yourself…
“You can do this; by God’s grace you can do this.”
You can do this, my friends, and because of God’s grace to you, the suffering souls of this world have now become your charge and keep. They need your love. Kneel now; kneel often. Kneel low, and kneel always in the strong and mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ. You give to the King when you kneel to his grace. As always…
Peace for the journey,
~elaine
with thankful hearts…

with thankful hearts…

A little earlier today, a knock arrived at our front door. The postman came bearing a gift…
Last week, our former congregation at Pine Forest UMC (headed up by the Friendship SS class and my fiery “ancients”) came together for a chicken dinner… a fundraiser for my family. Today, we are all stunned with the provision from God’s hands because of that fund raiser. Truly, we never imagined such bounty belonging to us, but that’s the way grace works–immeasurably more than we can ask for or even imagine.
Well, we’ve been asking God now for three months, even imagining a little bit, and today we hold something “unexpected.” Today we hold love in tangible measure, and we are humbled with the holding. We are exceedingly grateful for the body of Christ that loved us for six years and that continues to love us beyond reason in order to bring hope to our household this Thanksgiving. You’ve done that for us, good friends, and you’ve done it well.
We miss you; we love you, and we’ll always be mindful of the wonderful ministry years we shared together. You add to heaven’s glory, and one day soon, we will sit at the banqueting table together with the Lord. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a chicken leg or two to fill our plates!
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. As always…
Peace for the journey,
~elaine
her finest hour…

her finest hour…

 
 
I had lunch with the sisters last week. I’ve yet to tell you much about them… these three Southern women connected by birth and each of them hovering toward eighty years of age. I first met them on a Saturday before that Monday (August 23, 2010—a date now chronicled as a beginning diagnosis for my cancer). I was sitting with my family in the local Wendy’s; my mind wasn’t on the food. Instead, my mind wandered to other things… possibilities, my “down the road” and what that might look like for me.
 
Amelia cradled closely beneath the crook of my arm as she ate her chicken. I just stared and pondered while conversation milled about the table. One of the sisters noticed our bonding, and within a few minutes, made her way to our table.
 
“Excuse me, I’m sorry to interrupt, but have we met before?”
 
“No, ma’am, I don’t think so, but it seems to me that I might need to know you, and those other two sitting with you.”
 
Thus began the seeding of a friendship between the sisters and me. We haven’t had much occasion to get together since that Saturday. Life happened and change set in. Still and yet, they are good to remember me… call me, bake for me, send notes to me, and occasionally hang with me for lunch at Wendy’s. Last week, provided one such occasion, and the fellowship was rich.
 
I said something to each one of them during our gathering—an unrehearsed, unplanned kind of something. Words that spring forth from a deep well of emotion. Something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now, and something, I think, worthy of sharing with you in this moment.
 
Ladies, don’t be surprised if your best days of mothering lie up in front of you; your finest hour of parenting might yet be up ahead, not in those moments that lie behind you.
 
They looked at me, eager for an explanation. At eighty years of age, they probably hadn’t given much thought about their parenting in recent days. Grandkids and great-grandkids are mostly fodder for table talk. But parenting? After all these years? How can that be and what could that mean to these sisters whose children probably date me by a few years.
 
And then I told them.
 
About her.
 
And her finest hour.
 
My mom.
 
Never in my understanding regarding the life cycle did I imagine her having to care for me as she is doing. She is thirty years my senior. I should be the one caring for her. Instead, she has opened up her heart and her arms again to gently gather me to her breast and to remind me that I am her child, and that no matter the decades between us, I will always be the little girl who arrived into her arms on an Easter morning back in 1966.
 
Certainly, I could chronicle many of her “shining moments” over the past four decades as a parent. She is the steady anchor in our family tree. Sacrificial in nature, she’s never required the “stage,” which is a really good thing in our family since most of us are continually vying for the spotlight. I asked her once how she and my father wound up together, how they made it work between them. Her response?
 
Your dad needed an audience, and I was ready to listen.
 
Straight and to the point; never mincing words. Wise beyond her years. When mom speaks, I listen because I know her words are chosen carefully and root from a place of understanding that few others possess. I cherish her influence; I adore her heart; and for all of the ways that she has groomed me, shaped me, taught me, and loved me over the years, I can honestly say that this season in my life has allowed her the one thing that she has often been denied.
 
The stage. Her shining moment.
 
It has arrived, friends, and this time we’re all sitting back and watching her speak her lines, take her mark, and watch her as she navigates the spotlight with all the grace and dignity of a queen in her court. She would tell you it’s nothing, that she’s only doing what any mother would do, but I would tell you otherwise. I would tell you that she’s grand and regal and meant for a moment such as this; that this is her season; that I have never needed her more, and that I am willing to be the recipient of her rich love and guidance.
 
No strings attached; no agenda from my end. Just a little girl caught in a terrible spell of trouble needing the crook of her mother’s arm as she cradles my fragile frame and soothes me with words of truth, comfort, and peace. I think, perhaps, she may not realize this in all the fray and activity of my current chaos. I’m afraid she might downplay her role, and so I wanted to tell you about my mom and extend my thanks to her for her willingness to stand on stage and to live her finest hour so that all may witness its worth.
 
This is it. And this is enough for me. I hope it is enough for her; she deserves far more than a few meager words of thanks from my heart. Still and yet, even if my words fail to express the emotion I currently feel, they need saying, because words and feelings are a gift we give to one another while there is yet time to release them. We need to “send flowers” while the living are yet amongst us, and we have the occasion to bless them with our sincerity rather than leaving this earthly life without having said much of anything.
 
I don’t know who’ll make it home to heaven first, me or her. But I know that for as long as God allows us this shared pilgrim road, I’ll keep to her shadows. I’ll bend in closer for a listen every times she speaks, and I’ll make sure to press in for lots of hugs and conversations and tears and love. Why? Because my mom shines like a star these days. She illuminates my world with the light of all heaven, and this is…
 
her finest hour.
 
 
I don’t know how this strikes you today. I want to encourage you as a parent, maybe as a mentor or as a friend to someone in need. Perhaps you think that your finest hour is behind you. That you’ve done all you can do and that there is little hope of you having a further impact on a relationship that’s grown dim or cold or barren of connection. You fear it’s too late for further influence… that your season of persuasion and shaping has exceeded prearranged time limits. That what you think, feel, and want to say won’t have much of an impact on the one who has seemingly lost interest. I’ll tell you the same thing that I told the sisters last week…
 
Don’t be surprised if your best days of parenting, mentoring, loving lie in front of you; your finest hour might yet be up ahead, not in those moments that lie behind you.
 
God may yet need you to sow some good seed into the hearts of the generation that rests just beneath the crook of your arm. It’s never too late to speak your faith, friends. Never too late to take a chance on loving others and allowing them to be the lavish recipients of God’s great grace via your heart. Never too late to pray a few more prayers, say a few more thoughts, cook a few more meals, hug a few more necks.
 
There is someone out there who needs the wealth of your years, tenderness, and wisdom. A someone who needs your finest hour. May God grant you, each one, the wisdom to identify that someone, the strength to minister to that someone, and light enough to your stage so that you, like my mother, may be allowed to live a finest hour in keeping with King’s time table.
 
 
 
Oh the beauty of such trust… to be given time by the Father in order to live and to leave a lasting impact upon this generation. Keep to it, friends, keep to the kingdom road, and I will do the same. Shalom and blessed Sabbath rest to you,
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