The Cancer Connection

I hate cancer. We all hate cancer! But sometimes it connects us to other people. Sometimes it might be the thing that allows us to minister to others in a way that we least expect.

It was a Tuesday night in the middle of Christmas vacation. I answered a call to pick up someone. When I answer a call I don’t know anything about the person, number of people, or even where they will be going. All I know is a first name. I arrived to pick up Nick. I’m able to call through a third party phone number so I called to let them know I had arrived. They weren’t there yet so I had to wait. Ugh. Waiting doesn’t make me any money. I’m just waiting.

Pretty soon a pick-up truck pulls into the driveway and out come four college aged kids. Oh great! I think to myself. They’ve already had too much to drink. I was early in the whole Uber driving experience and one of things I did not want was belligerent guys who have too much to drink, riding in my car. Apparently in the recesses of my mind, I have had bad experiences. To me, drunk guys do stupid things.

They get in the car and I tell them, “In the event of motion sickness, there is a zipper bag in the seat back in front of you. It includes paper towels, a moist towelette and a mint. Just in case.”  To my surprise I realize they don’t smell like a brewery. I don’t like my nice car to smell like a brewery either. Are you noticing that I had a bit of a negative attitude starting this ride? They laugh at me. One says, “My mom is a flight attendant! That was funny! But we aren’t drunk – yet.”

On the way they start asking me about driving for Uber, how long I’ve been doing it (my answer was two weeks), favorite passengers, etc. We talk about the colleges they attend, what they are studying, and how happy they are to be home for Christmas break.

I take them to a nearby bar at the Hilton. They gave me a nice tip. I decided I liked these boys. They were smart, funny, and genuine. And they weren’t drunk – yet.

I went to my normal Starbucks hangout while waiting for another “ping” on my app. It’s a quiet night. Not much happening, so I sit for about 30 minutes with nothing coming in. Then I’m pinged again and notice the name is the same and I’m picking them up at the same place I dropped them off.

They all pile in my car and say the place is dead. They need to go someplace happening! They ask me to take them to another bar in another town. We arrive and the bar is closed. It’s only open on weekends. I can sense their disappointment. I’m not really that intuitive, they said, “Aw man! Where are all the people?!” They asked if I would drive them to another location. When we got there I said I would drop them off and wait for one of them to come out and let me know if they were staying or going. It wasn’t happening either, so they piled back in the car. They decided to go back to one of their houses and just hang out together.

As we were heading back to their house one of them said, “Hey, do you want to get lit?”

I had no clue what that meant. I guess I’m a sheltered mom. I said, “I don’t know what that means.” They laughed. Then he said, “Do you want to get drunk with us?” Um…boys… I’m 50.

I said, “No, someone has to drive.” Then one of the kids said, “Would your husband be mad? Where is he anyway?” I told him that my husband was probably “getting lit” in heaven. I know it sounds bad to say it now, but at the time, it seemed like a good way to respond. I thought of “getting lit” as in heavenly glory lit, the kind that happens when you’re having a party in the presence of God, y’know?

The passengers grew silent. Then softly one of the boys said, “What did he die of?”

“Cancer. Mouth cancer.”

They asked questions. Honest. Genuine questions.

One of the boys said, “Jimmy’s dad has liver cancer.” Another boy said, “My dad has esophageal cancer.” I could hear his voice crack even in the back seat. He wanted to know how long Mike lived after his diagnosis. I answered his questions, but also wanted to give him hope. Obviously I didn’t know anything about his dad’s condition, but I wanted him to know that death wasn’t necessarily coming in the next two months. My heart ached for these boys. Then Nick said, “My mom has breast cancer.”

I felt a holy moment happen in my car. These boys were telling me the things that were really hurting them. Perhaps this was why they all wanted to “get lit.” Pain. It’s in many of us. After they got out of the car I prayed for each of them and for their parents. These boys had a profound impact on me. These random strangers riding in my backseat, bonded with me over cancer. We loved on each other in a way that only strangers can, with kind words, and a genuine concern for our fellow man (widowed woman/young adult boys)

 

How Random Strangers Are Changing My Life

It began with a man named “Frank.” I was sitting in Starbucks and needed to use the restroom. He was sitting across from me. I had noticed him before as he was a regular there and always dressed nicely. I notice things like that. I didn’t want to carry all my stuff to the bathroom so asked if he had recently brushed up on his wrestling skills just in case someone would try to abscond with my laptop while I was away. He promised to tackle anyone who might try a grab and run. When I returned we struck up a conversation. This was an unlikely pairing in my mind. I mean, my “friends” are all Christian, white, homeschool moms. Okay, maybe not ALL of them. But one of those three categories would be the bulk of my friends.

Growing up I was painfully shy, but found my voice in the written word. I later discovered popularity in social media. Oh how easy it is  to be pop-u-lar (How can you say that word without singing the song?) when you have 12 Thousand Twitter followers and 2500 Facebook “Friends.” The illusion of online friends became quite apparent in the months after Mike’s death. I was strongly supported by my online community. I was even financially supported by many. It was mostly my online connections that raised enough money for his burial, and later that kept my family from becoming homeless when I could no longer pay the rent. Yes, they were there for me! Except … when I wanted to go to a movie. Or go out for dinner. Or even just to go to a friend’s house to chat for awhile. I only had a couple of real life honest to goodness, belly to belly friends here.

About a year and a half after Mike died I felt like I was dying too. I would get out in the world, but I didn’t really talk to people much. It wasn’t until the embers were reignited that I realized how little fire I had in me. Oh sure, I could be alive, and fun, and dance, and all that stuff that made me think I was alive.

Then I met, the random stranger. He was nothing like anyone I had ever connected with in my life. In other words, he wasn’t in the three categories, white, Christian, homeschool mom. It’s funny how when you meet someone, they become familiar to you. For the next week or so, I seemed to see him every time I went to Starbucks. I felt a bit like he might think I was stalking him. But now that we “knew” each other, we saw each other. I felt like I had a new friend there.

One night my son was doing his yellow suit in town square thing, so I was hanging out for several hours. Frank and I sat and talked the entire time. I was fascinated by his stories of Egypt and his Muslim faith. I felt like my world expanded with just one random stranger. For one, I discovered that he had no interest in converting me, or killing me. That was a huge relief! That was what I thought every Muslim was out to do. I found myself wanting to learn Arabic and traveling the world.

Then one day I realized, there was a fire again. The fire started with one spark ignited by an unlikely random stranger, which has now turned into a quest to meet random strangers on a daily basis. I’ve begun posting on Facebook photos and stories of random strangers that I meet. One really cool thing about it is that I’m seeing people respond with their own random stranger encounters. You know, the world gets a whole lot smaller when you are willing to talk to random strangers. #randomstrangers

Wear the Fun Clothes!

Do you have a particular outfit that makes you feel amazing? Most of mine do, because, well, what’s the point of clothes if they don’t make you feel fantastic wearing them? But there are a couple of ensembles that I save for “that” occasion. “That” occasion is the one where I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps. I don’t like feeling that way, so I pull out the outfit and go where there are people! For some reason my “pull me out of the dumps” stuff almost always includes polka dots. I find it humorous that when I was a kid I hated…HATED polka dots. I thought they were the dumbest thing in the world. But now, I love them. Polka dot shirts. Polka dot headbands. Polka dot shoes with a little red peep toe. Oh my that is like excitement on the sidewalk for sure!

I was feel a bit blueish, probably because the weather was cold and cloudy. Rather than wonder what I would want to wear to match the weather, I opted for a polka dot shirt, skirt that makes me want to twirl, a matching black jacket and … the peep toe shoes. I didn’t have anyplace to go, so I decided on heading to my favorite Starbucks. Some of my friends were there, because…well…we just go and hang out. I’m old like that. LOL

One of them had seen me earlier in the day after I had completed a six mile walk. I was all sweaty, wearing a ball cap, tennis shoes, walking clothes. Later in the evening I walked out of the bathroom at Starbucks in my feel good clothes. He said, “Wow!”

Sometimes it’s nice to get a “Wow!” Who am I kidding? It’s always nice to get a Wow! But even more important was how I felt. And how I felt is more likely the reason for the wow than the clothes themselves.

What to do with the carcass?

Several years ago when I was still in the “honeymoon” stage of cooking, we had Thanksgiving meal with all the relatives at our house. (The “honeymoon” stage is when you want everything to be really cute and perfect.  The smallest failure can result in tears.) It was my opportunity to “shine” for my in-laws.

We planned to barbecue the turkey. (You do that kind of thing in California in November.) My “perfect” Thanksgiving dinner was “less than perfect.”  When Steve went to light up the grill, we were out of briquettes.  All was not lost, however. After a quick trip to the store, we were ready to get cooking. The turkey cooked a lot faster than I expected, so it ended up being done long before the “enchanted broccoli forest.”  Even though my timing was not perfect and some dishes were served cold, I was so proud of our barbecued turkey. It was cooked to perfection.

Steve was pleased that we could have Thanksgiving at our house because that meant lots of leftovers.  Steve’s dad carved the beautiful bird. He put the remainder of the carcass that still had some meat on it in the refrigerator. We had heard that the meat would stay moister if left on the carcass.

After several days, Steve commented that it would be nice to have a turkey sandwich.  “Oh yeah, we have turkey in the fridge,” I replied. I filed that information in my brain to be retrieved at a later date, like the next day.

After a couple more days passed, I noticed this…uh…smell coming from the refrigerator.  Being a couple of months pregnant, I made a mad dash to the bathroom.         My mind began to race. What do I do?  I wonder if Steve would mind if I called him to come home from work for this? No, probably not a good idea…The garbage man doesn’t come for a few more days, and I can’t leave that smelly thing in the garbage can. I must take action—now!

I opened the refrigerator and as fast as I could, I pulled the neatly wrapped carcass out.  Without breathing, I ran to the garage, put the turkey down, then ran back into the house and took a deep breath.

Now what do I do?

A brilliant idea popped into my head. I will put it into someone else’s garbage.

I opened the garage door and ran the carcass out to the car. Oh no! I don’t want that in my car.  I put it on the hood.  That’ll work!

I got in the car and began to drive.  I kept looking behind me.  I was sure I would be found out. Nope, no dogs chasing me yet.

I found a dumpster, heaved it in, and ran back to the car.  Whew! I made it.  Driving back to the house I felt like I had somehow participated in a great feat of espionage. I should have worn a dark coat on my adventure.

My thoughts returned to why I put the carcass in the refrigerator in the first place. Oops!   Now that that’s taken care of, how am I going to make Steve a leftover turkey sandwich?

Since my little carcass incident, I have made a Thanksgiving motto.  As soon as the turkey is carved I say, “Out with the carcass!” I have learned since then that it is okay to take all of the turkey off the bone.  It is even okay to freeze it. I just cut up all the leftover turkey into bite-sized pieces and fill up Ziploc freezer bags with about two cups of meat in each bag. Of course, you should label and date the bags so you don’t forget what is in them or forget how old the meat is. I only tell you this because I forget to label everything and you should learn from my mistakes.

What are some of the mistakes you’ve made around the holidays? Do you have any funny stories to share?

The Wounds of Silence From The Church

The Wounds of Silence From the Church

Nine years have passed since my wound of silence from the church. I thought the wound of silence had been dealt with – you know, by leaving the church. That’s how we often “deal” with a wound of silence. We leave. It hurts. We flee. It feels better because, “I told them!” Well, I didn’t tell them, but I left and now the wound can’t touch me, because I left. And the lie of the enemy creates a deep chasm in our spirits.

What is a wound of silence that can cause a person to lose their own voice?

This is my story. Yours will likely be different. But you may find by reading my wound of silence that you will be able to find your voice.

Nine years ago it was revealed to me that my husband, the father of our children, had molested them. When I found out, I called my church and begged them to have someone come to our house for the confrontation. I really begged, pleaded, “please! I can’t do this alone!” An assistant pastor was found who could be at our house for a short time. He was there when my husband confessed in part to what he had done.

Then …silence. I continued attending the church, shaking the pastor’s hand on the way out the door. It was an extremely dark time for me. It felt as if our family was thrown into a pit of despair. And all I got from the church was a handshake on the way out the door. This wounded me deeply. So, I stopped going. I could worship the Living God on the floor of my bedroom. I could hear Him through sermons on the radio. What was the point of “the church” if not to be a source of comfort to those hurting?

Are we just a place of music? Are we just a place of Bible readings? Or are we supposed to be more?

Last night I went to church. As I sat in the pew after the service was over, watching as all the people were hovering around, talking, laughing, praying, I felt invisible. I feel like this first realization of feeling invisible was the seed to a healing that was about to take place.

Today, as I walked into church, a man I don’t know, extended his hand and greeted me. It was this kind of greeting that made me feel truly welcomed. I pondered that handshake for a long time. What made his handshake better than the one by the pastor of the other church as I walked out the door?

I was sitting in my chair feeling invisible again when I asked God, “Why do I feel invisible in church? Why can’t the greeting from that man be enough for me to feel welcome?” And he took me back to that wound of silence. He showed me that I had allowed that wound to scab over. But not only that, I could still feel it and anytime I would start getting involved at church, I would pull back. The wounds of silence go deep. I had to take another step. I had to walk through it. I have to get outside of myself now. I have to stop thinking about how I’m feeling and what my needs are. It’s time for me to rise up — and BE the church to others.

There is no blame to be cast here. Although it would be easy for me to name the church and tell them how they could have done a better job. Forgiveness has taken place already. And now, this is the deal – it has to start with me.

I’ve often been in a place myself where I didn’t know what to say and saying, “I’ll pray for you” felt like it fell far too short. I too have failed to speak. Perhaps we’re so afraid of saying a platitude or the wrong thing, that we just keep silent. But in the silence the words of satan speak the loudest.

Church! You have a voice! Silence the enemy with your words! Words that say,

“We’re standing with you!”

“We believe in you!”

“We will do what needs to be done!”

And if you don’t have words – put your arm around their shoulder and speak the words, “I am here. Let’s go have lunch!”

My prayer going forth, “Lord, speak life into someone’s life, by using words from my mouth.” Speak Life! Silence the Enemy!