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Cows, Cornfields, and a Father Who Cares for It All

Cows, Cornfields,This past weekend, I took my oldest son with me to visit my parents. It was a nice, long drive through New England and the middle states during leaf peeping season. The hand of God almost seemed to be painting treetops as we drove. My parents now live in farm country, where life somehow seems slower and cornfields abound—even the occasional buggy or two. And I really didn’t know how much my frantic, suburban heart needed cows and cornfields until I had been there a few hours and soaked it all in.

My father recently had surgery to remove his bladder. I went down there post-op to check on him but also to hear face-to-face the plan from here on out. Phone calls just didn’t cut it. I needed to look at him and see where life after surgery had taken him.

I was amazed. In addition to decorating the foliage with a beautiful array of color, God was apparently also strengthening a body that should be beaten down and exhausted after a sum total of five tumors over many years and, most recently, ten hours of surgery and four units of blood—but, overall, it wasn’t. I’m sure it was for the first few weeks after surgery, but it certainly wasn’t now.

While God was growing cornfields so tall with bonneted women bending over to eagerly check the harvest, He was also apparently breathing fresh peace through a cottage home: winds of reassurance, a cloak of safety.

While He was giving cows full milk to squeeze in industrious dairy farms all over His rolling fields, He was also delivering love, food, gifts, and messages to two of His children weathering a raging storm.

And this moment converged in my own life with crazy-busy slamming in regularly and not letting go. So, sitting in this peaceful countryside did much to soothe me and my son. I napped when they napped. I worshipped when they worshipped. And I slowed way down for a few days.

Blogs and book signings by the wayside.

My own “mom duties” minimal.

Just breathing in hay smells and watching the buggies clomp-clomp down a street that wasn’t too busy for them. How badly I yearned to be a buggy in those moments.

We even watched an old movie snuggled under afghans after warm chicken pot pie.

This isn’t where I grew up. Where I was raised used to have tall cornfields. I could get lost in them for hours. I still dream about them from time to time. But developments popped up everywhere, the high school grew enormous, and streets became busy. My parents found that quiet space again when they retired, and it’s a place to truly feel restoration and refreshment.

I thought I was going just to see how things were going, but God also delighted me with rest.

The noise around me stopped.

I could see where this was the best place for my father to convalesce. How could you not heal in a place where people seem to have enough time and quiet to feel God’s breath on their faces as He exhaled?

When I asked my son what his favorite part was, it wasn’t the Chinese food buffet we went to (although that ranked up there) but rather the amazing worship choir/band/orchestra at their church—and relaxing. It said a lot to me about what a family in our season of life back home in Massachusetts was like. We had been spinning like tops, trying to find a good stopping place, but we hadn’t found it yet.

Until this trip.

I found it difficult to part with the calm I felt in their part of the country. I found myself longing for another escape there very soon—with a different child this time, to be fair.

But I also realized that God provides in ways that are sometimes not thought of or expected by us.

–The visiting nurse arriving to discuss my father’s body functions, in her own way, was Jesus tangibly holding his hand.

–The woman at church who wrote so many sentiments and cards was Christ’s disciple washing my father’s feet.

–The beaming smiles of the friends in the pew behind them were life-giving gifts from a Father Who deeply loves us.

For seven weeks, I had been sitting in my home, half a day’s drive away, crying out to God (joining the voices of many others) for my father’s provision, and this weekend, I got to meet some of them. I was able to thank them. I was able to touch into what God had been doing while I lived away. And I was able to feel the Father’s warm embrace that “He’s got this. He always has. He takes care of His children.”

I returned to talk at a speaking engagement the very next day, but I was rested, calm, at peace, and knowing my Father in heaven better. He knew I came to check on my dad, but isn’t it just like God to take care of us at the same time?

Life picked up where it left off, except I had auburn-golden-crimson colors in my mind. The kindness of strangers. God’s kiss on my face in the smile of a coffee shop manager. A peace that passes all understanding swirling through my parents’ home.

That peace certainly didn’t belong there on its own because cancer doesn’t speak peace.

But Jesus does. He put it there.

Philippians 4:7, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus speaking, ESV
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This blog has been shared at Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Tell It To Me Tuesdays, Pick Your Pin TuesdaysWomen With Intention WednesdaysCoffee & Conversationand A Little R & R.

More anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).

 

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Waiting for the Telephone Call

My father has struggled with cancer since the early 1980s. He was actually told his first one was terminal. My mother didn’t accept that diagnosis, given at a local hospital, and took him for a second opinion. And here he still is, decades later, because of her persistence—but also because of our faith community, which rallied in prayer. (And I know not everyone’s story of healing plays out this way. We each have our own story. This is just ours.)

His first cancer was a liposarcoma in his leg. I remember that one well. I was about 9 years old, and I’d come home to find him in his bathrobe laying on the couch airing out the leg that went through radiation. The pastor would come, sometimes an elder (leader) of the church, and there would be prayer. A lot of prayer. Sometimes they would invite me to come over to the couch to talk or join the prayer. I also remember a spaghetti dinner brought over by a neighbor; she made it with pepperoni in it, and I was consequently really happy every time she was slotted to bring a meal. When you’re 9 and your strong father is home sick and weakened in your family room, pepperoni in spaghetti makes your whole day. I think I may have played barber shop with his hair a lot while he was so sedentary. He tells me now, years later, he really didn’t mind. And I believe him.

His second cancer, only a year later, involved the colon. And back then, colon cancer victims very regularly ended up colostomates, where they have to redirect the waste to exit through an opening (called a stoma) out the front of the body into a pouch. Dad has been managing that lifestyle change now for over 30 years. In my ninth grade year, I wrote a paper on living with an ostomate, and it went into the Ostomy Quarterly. But that wasn’t so much about getting published. It was about taking the biology class I was in and finding direct application. It was about honoring my father.

Somewhere during Cancer 1 or Cancer 2, I wrote him a song and sang it into an old tape player so my mother could take it to him in the hospital. I remember that my grandmother was there, intermittently, while Mom had to go between hospital and home. A part of the song went something like this:

“Waiting for the telephone call, bringing all the news,
Remembering the Bible says that Jesus died for you.
God the Father, God the Son is all I think about
I know the Holy Spirit; there never is a doubt.”

Originally the part about “Jesus died for you” was “Jesus was a Jew” because I was 9 or 10, and that rhymed, and I saw Jesus being a Jew as a good thing (and it is!). But Mom asked that we readjust that so it wasn’t accidentally taken as some kind of slur or mocking in our culture, or be misunderstood by the man next to Dad in his room when they played my song. That was probably wise on Mom’s part. At this time, I remember my childhood pastor talking to me. I have no idea what he said, but he ministered to me as Jesus would a child who approached Him. He saw that this whole sick family member thing was about each of us: my parents, my sister, and me. It made a lasting impact on me that he found me worthy to stop, in the middle of talking with adults in crisis, to address my needs.

And then there was reprieve, and in 2002, in came bladder cancer. And at first, the BCG treatments kept it at bay. Dad was fortunate; the bladder was spared, although he had years of uncomfortable procedures to make sure the beast kept its teeth out. But back it came in 2013 and again in 2014, a very unwelcome companion.

And last night, my father lost his bladder.

But he didn’t lose his life.

Or his faith.

Or his God. He walks with Christ, the hope of glory.

Colossians 1:27, Apostle Paul speaking

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

And I’m convinced God has used this journey to not only build my father’s faith but to build the faith of so many around him. Because while God doesn’t cause the yucky things of life, He promises to take them and bring them to good purposes for those who love Him.

Romans 8:28, Apostle Paul speaking

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Good-bye, bladder. We’re very sorry to see you go, and we have certainly mourned your parting. But your part of the story is over now. And the disease within you has not stopped a very real God from inspiring people through a previously-very-red-going-slowly-white-headed, 6-foot-tall man who, through the power of prayer, has lived beyond three different cancers and five tumors into his eighth decade. Nor have you slowed down his impact on this world—because the God he serves is so much bigger than you, or any yucky disease for that matter.

[Dad, earlier this year, with three of his six grandchildren.]

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