* Use Your Gift

God has given different gifts to each of us and He desires for us to use them for good. Our challenge is to accept the gift, use it wisely and show God’s love as we share that gift. I think my gift is words. I’ve written before about how much I love words but viewing that love for words as a gift gives me a greater sense of responsibility.  Somehow when I put words down on paper, they all just seem to come together. I can use those words to uplift others or I can ignore my gift and keep my words to myself.

I enjoy this gift and it makes me feel useful when I’m able to share the right words with someone just at the time they need them. I wish I could remember some of the words I hear in my head when I’m doing other things. Then I’d really be in business! For now, I’ll keep writing my blog and sending out my cards all the while being thankful for the gift God has given me. What’s your gift? Today I encourage you to use that gift for good. Someone is waiting for YOU and the encouragement only YOU can bring.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Goodbye My Friend

I recently lost a very dear friend to this wretched disease called cancer. She fought so hard with such grace and dignity that it’s hard to comprehend she’s gone. I just believed that if anyone was going to beat this thing, it would be Lynn. She was so determined to stay upbeat and positive throughout her fight and she did. But, that’s how Lynn lived her life.

As a teacher, she was a champion for students. Lynn truly had a gift for teaching. If there was something her students needed, watch out! Lynn would find a way to make it happen and she didn’t back down. Tenacious, in a good way, would be the word I would use to describe her. Whatever it took to make sure a student grasped the concept of what was being taught, she just kept trying until something worked. Math was her passion but my favorite memories are of the year we spent team- teaching writing skills to students. One year when she was asked to teach reading, I was honored when she reached out to me for ideas to help some of her struggling readers. She just wanted to be the very best teacher for her students.

Lynn was my friend, my neighbor, a teaching colleague, a fellow cancer thriver and a Christ follower. I will miss her terribly but I know I will see her again one day. No, she wasn’t healed here on Earth like we all wanted but now she has a heavenly body that is perfect and pain free.  Goodbye my dear friend.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are amazing creatures. They spend most of their life at sea but when the female is ready to lay her eggs, she comes ashore on the very same beach where she was born! That fact in and of itself is just a wonder of nature. Up to the shore she comes where she digs a very deep hole with her hind flippers and then lays from 100 to 200 eggs depending on the species. It takes anywhere from 40 to 60 days for the baby turtles to hatch.  These hatchlings struggle to get out of their nest in what is called a “boil”. Then they have to cross the beach to get to the ocean. That’s a lot of work for such a little turtle!

The hatchlings are at great risk from predators when they make their way to the ocean. Some get lost and go the wrong way. Others are eaten before they ever make it to the ocean. But once the ones who make it are there, they know exactly what to do and they are at home. Instinct kicks in and they swim out to sea.

Okay, great story and incredible feat of nature but what’s the point? The point is that they, like us, have to overcome many things before they are able to lead a productive life in the sea. We, too, have many struggles in life but it’s the struggles that make us stronger and define who we are as individuals. Don’t get so caught up in the struggle that you miss the blessing that comes at the end from knowing you have made it to the other side. As the lyrics from a song by the Christian group Mercy Me says, “Take joy in the journey”. You’ve made it. You’re finally in the ocean and you’re swimming for home!

Blessings, Cindy J

* Pumpkin – Love and Defiance

Pumpkin is a big ball of fluffy, yellow and white fur. She’s my cat. Not just any cat but a beautiful Maine Coon. Just the fact that she is not grey as most Maine Coon’s are is an anomaly in itself. But I must warn you, don’t let her beauty fool you. She can be loving and gracious one minute and then she can turn on you with the swipe of a paw or a nip with her very sharp teeth. She knows I love her yet she still defies me when I try to show her that love. In fact, one of her favorite things to do is sit behind me on the top of my chair while I read. She wants to be near me but not touching. A lap kitty she is not!

My girl is not one to trust a stranger. When someone other than my husband or I comes into the house, she immediately goes into hiding. Our guest may get a glimpse of her during their stay but you better believe she gives them a wide berth. We rescued Pumpkin from an animal shelter as a kitten so I sometimes wonder if that’s why she has such a hard time trusting people.

Do you know people who are like my Pumpkin? Ones who have a hard time trusting others or letting people love and take care of them? It’s not easy to be around them but guess what? They’re the ones who need you the most. Sometimes when people are hurting or scared, they close themselves off and try to shut everyone out. They may be so overwhelmed that they don’t know how to let others help them. What can you do? Love them and take care of them anyway. Many times defiance deserves our love, just like my Pumpkin.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Bumps in the Road

Normally when I write a blog post, I share things about my cancer story but it is intended to speak to anyone who may be facing adversity. This post is directed to those who are staring down a cancer diagnosis and are not sure where to turn.

A cancer diagnosis is like being on a journey except you don’t have a map and you’re not sure where you are going to end up.  Each journey takes a different road and there are many bumps in that road. Every person has distinctive bumps with their diagnosis but the important thing to remember is that we are all on this road together. You are not alone.

You might be tempted at times to trudge along in the muck and the mire on your own because you think that surely no one else can understand what you are going through. Please don’t. They DO understand and they want to be there to lend you a hand and make your journey easier. There are many professional organizations who have valuable information to share about your medical issues. Then there are survivors who are there to let you know the real-life things to expect.

There may be a time when you are completely stuck on one of those bumps. The wheels fall off and you can’t move. All you can do is rest, be patient and wait for help to come along. Those are the hardest and loneliest times. Sometimes the help is not what we want or need and that’s another challenge we have to face.

I always have a saying I send to people who have recently received a cancer diagnosis…

“While traveling along this cancer road, it is important to take others along for the journey. “Please, don’t be afraid to find someone who can help you navigate this difficult journey.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Porch Time

In the south, porches are a part of our culture. No matter the season, wrapped in a blanket with a cup of coffee in the winter or sipping something sweet and cold as we rock in the summer, we love our porch time. I sit here on my own porch with my computer in my lap or my journal writing down my thoughts. Sometimes I am just quietly rocking in my chair, listening to the waterfall in my fish pond. It’s peaceful and I am content. I think you have to search for peace and take the time to let it happen. Maybe that’s why I love my porch time so much. It allows me the time to just sit, ponder and reflect.

My sweet “daughter-in-love” Mary Catherine has an affinity for porches and porch sitting as well. Check out her blog called “porchesandpillowfights.com”. She, like myself, enjoys a good cup of morning coffee while sharing time with her preschooler on their porch.

Many times my best thinking happens on the porch. As I sit and look out into my yard at the world God has created, I just can’t help but be overwhelmed with gratefulness. The key here is the sitting and being quiet, not an easy task for most of us. I will admit that I was not good at it until I retired but I wish now I had taken more time to just stop, sit and relax. As the weather begins turning warmer, I encourage you to make the effort for a little “porch time”.   Who knows what good thoughts you’ll think!

Blessings, Cindy J

* No Bitterness

“What we cannot change, we must endure without bitterness.” – A quote from Grandma Rose in Tending Roses by Lisa Wingate. I wish I had read this book and taken Grandma Roses’ advice earlier in my life. Bitterness is like a root; once it takes hold it starts to grow and get stronger. Before you know it, the roots run deep and have found a strong hold in your mind. Everyone you see and everything you encounter is tempered by that bitterness. If you don’t let go of the bitterness, it will slowly destroy all the good things in your life.

I have dealt with bitterness and surprisingly it was not in regards to cancer. Having cancer actually helped me to let go of those feelings of anger because I needed to concentrate all my energy on getting better. What I discovered was that “difficult paths often lead to beautiful places”. Another great quote from Grandma Rose.

Our family has been tested just this past week with the heart wrenching loss of a sweet baby boy who only stayed here on this Earth for five short days.  He had complications that no one knew existed until the day he was born on March 10. It will be hard not to have some amount of bitterness but I just continue to pray that whatever adverse things may come my way in life, I will endure them with a spirit of courage and graciousness.

Blessings, Cindy J

* Pearls – Irritation to Beauty

Have you ever thought about how a pearl is formed? A tiny irritant of some type works its way into an oyster, mussel or clam and as a defense mechanism, the mollusk secretes a fluid to coat the irritant. (Thanks Merriam-Webster for this definition!) Slowly, layer by layer the coat builds until a beautiful pearl is formed. Naturally occurring pearls are actually quite expensive and no two are the same. This further adds to their beauty.

Do you have an irritant in your life? It can be a current situation, your job, a serious illness, a person, your finances, etc. Whatever it is, it just won’t go away or go YOUR way. Maybe you can react like the mollusk and create a protective coating that turns your irritant into a positive opportunity; especially if you know it is not going away anytime soon.  Some irritants stay with us for life. 

ABC’s Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts said her Mama always told her that “everybody’s got something” so the best thing you can do is to “make your mess your message”. I think she was telling us that life is not always going to be perfect and whatever comes along was meant to be for us. So, we can either wallow in self-pity or we can make a pearl. I think maybe this blog is my cancer pearl. What positive thing can you create with your irritant?

Blessings. Cindy J

* Storms at Sea

Being out on a boat in the ocean can be one of the most peaceful, relaxing experiences you’ve ever encountered as long as the water is calm. Just the gentle rocking of the waves can soothe away your worries and make you forget about life on land. But what about when the storms come? That idyllic feeling can quickly change to worry and fear.

Most of us have faced those “storms at sea” in our personal lives. It seems like you’re going along and things are just fine when wham another issue presents itself and you’re in the midst of a storm. That’s kind of how I have felt about my health issues over the past few years. It seems every time my life takes a turn for the positive, another problem appears. Scar tissue, concerns about my eyes, abnormal blood work, etc.

Even though the seas of my life have been rocky at times, I have never fallen out of the boat. Sometimes I’m drenched by the waves but I’ve never drowned. I just hold on tight through prayer and staying focused on the promises of God found in his Word (the Bible). I know for certain that God is always right there with me in the storm. He even sends other people to sit with me in the boat during the storm. Does someone need you in their boat today?

Blessings, Cindy J

* Slosh

Have you ever filled a cup to the brim then tried to pick it up just to have the liquid inside slosh* right out all over everything? You try to be so careful but yet the contents just spill over the side anyway. When David wrote Psalm 23, he said “my cup overflows” when he was describing his relationship with God. Wouldn’t it be great to be so filled with the joy of the Lord that it overflows onto everyone?  To be so filled with the Holy Spirit that I “slosh” everywhere?

When I think back over the last eleven years since I was diagnosed with cancer and all that I have endured health wise, it can be a bit overwhelming. But then when I also think about all of the good things I have been able to be a part of, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal at all. My youngest son was so afraid that I was not going to make it to see him graduate from college. Not only did I see him graduate, I was able to be at his wedding and I just got to meet his newborn son. I also saw my oldest son get married and have two amazing little girls. You better believe I “slosh” that joy all over the place!

Being around someone who “sloshes” that much joy fills us with hope. Right now, we all need a bit of hope. Find something that brings you joy and “slosh” over someone who needs it.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13 NIV

*Note: The word slosh was borrowed from a sermon on the 23rd Psalm preached by Dr. Rob Roberts. Thanks Rob!

Blessings, Cindy J