life

Stuck in the Kitchen Again…

We just returned home from Dixie’s check up with the surgeon.

The good news is her incision is healing well and the sutures in her rectum are still intact.

One more week and she can ditch the cone.

IMG_4186

I don’t like it when people call it the “cone of shame.” There’s nothing shameful about recovering from surgery.  There’s something bad-you-know-what about it. It’s an “I’m a tough little cookie” cone of honor.

We went to see the surgeon today because, as you know, she has been having so much trouble going and we were concerned. He did a rectal exam and said the diameter of the portion that he sutured together is only half the diameter of the rest of her bowel, so she is straining (really hard) to push a large stool through a much smaller opening. He put her on a stool softener which seems strange because what little has been coming out has been plenty soft. But the stool on the other side of the sutures isn’t soft at all.

So we are relieved to know that she is healing and her ability to go should improve. I’ve been so worried.

The sad news is that the biopsy report confirms adenocarcinoma.

Fortunately the margins were clean and it wasn’t in her spleen but it has spread to her lymph nodes and omentum. Which means it’s in her bloodstream.

I’ll be meeting with the oncologist next week to discuss chemo, etc.

We didn’t use the same hospital that we used for Bebe, so this will be a different oncologist. Depending on what he says, I might try chemo this time. We’ll see.

The surgeon said her prognosis, based on limited data, is 8 months.

So that’s where we are – sad but also aware that God can do anything.

Once she recovers completely and can get back to her routine we will feed her really delicious, nutritious food, build up her immune system so she can fight this devil off, take her for lots of walks and have lots of fun – even go to the beach when it gets warmer.

And try chemo if it doesn’t put a damper on her quality of life.

IMG_4189

Would love it if you would keep this sweet little heart in your prayers.

In the meantime, we’ll be hanging out in the kitchen again today.

I’ll be ruminating on all the heartbreak cancer has brought to my life these last two years.

Dixie will be ruminating gastric acid.

#ruminate

Standard
the friends

Is this my new calling? ‘Cuz I’m gonna’ need superhuman strength.

One minute you’re getting your face bit off and the next minute you’re living in Hintzville.

One day you’re living in Hintzville, going for a warm, sunny walk and a week later you’re under the knife.

Last post I told you what I know about Dixie’s history. What I didn’t tell you is that she has had varying amounts of blood in her stool since the day we adopted her. Every stool, every day.

Finally, after multiple trips to the vet and two rounds of blood and stool tests to rule out parasites and infections, we were referred to a specialist for an ultrasound.

The ultrasound revealed a mass in her colon. And an enlarged lymph node. And a small spot on her spleen.

So at 8:00 this morning I dropped her off at the hospital for a colonoscopy – to give the internal medicine specialist and the surgeon a look at what they’re dealing with from the inside.

While she’s still under anesthesia she’ll go directly into surgery.  To remove the mass and resection her bowel.   And, if she hasn’t been under too long at that point, the surgeon will remove the lymph node and her spleen, too.

Just got a call from the hospital. They are about to begin.  It will be about two hours. The surgeon will call when he’s finished.

I hung up the phone, got on my knees and asked God to fill the operating room. I asked Him to give the specialist and the surgeon insight and knowledge and skill beyond what they have. I asked Him to give the surgeon creativity in approaching the mass – since it is partially behind her pubis and difficult to access.  I’m praying he’ll get clean margins without having to split her pelvis.

I’m praying the mass is not malignant.  I’m praying it isn’t any kind of cancer at all.  It’s possible that it’s a stricture. I sure hope so.

I’m praying for no complications.

I’m praying that the resection will not come apart one day and dump feces into her abdomen.

I’m praying she will heal quickly and live another happy, healthy five years.  At least.

If it is a malignant cancer, the surgeon said worst case scenario she’ll have  3-4 months, best case she’ll have 1-2 years.

I’m praying it isn’t cancer.

I’m praying I don’t have to muster the strength, beg God for the strength, to walk another friend down this road again so soon.

I’ve already fallen in love with Dixie.

img_9447

And I’m still missing Bebe.

img_9199-jpg

And Lucy.

lucybee

I told you last week that Dixie had been bounced around a lot this last year after her “mom” moved into a nursing home.  And that made it really heartbreaking to leave her this morning.

So I’m asking God to hold her close, to whisper in her soft, floppy little beagle ear that she hasn’t been abandoned.  That she is deeply loved and she will be going home to Hintzville.

Just got a call from the surgeon.  The colonoscopy showed that it is a mass, not a stricture.

Dixie’s being prepped for surgery and he’s heading into the OR.

Praying he gets it all.

Praying it’s benign.

Praying she heals well.

Praying, praying, praying.

And feeling sick.

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
faith, family, Food

Kneading Prayers

The sweet potato rolls I make every Thanksgiving require 8 minutes of kneading, which works out perfectly. I knead 1 minute of prayers into the dough for the families of each of my six sisters, a minute for my family and a minute for my mom and her husband.

I’ve been kneading prayers into various doughs ever since Sarah gave me the idea two years ago.

img_0121

Tomorrow I’ll spend most of the day making the rolls for a support group that meets weekly at my church.

And though they are strangers, I’ll be kneading 8 minutes of prayers into the dough for them, too.

Friday I get to help serve the Thanksgiving feast.

And meet the eaters of my prayers.

If I have time, I’ll make them a pie, too.

Or maybe these apple blossoms.

img_3484

Sweet Potato Rolls

Combine 1/4 c. warm water with 1/4 oz. dry yeast. Let it get foamy.

Scald 1 cup milk in a small saucepan, remove from heat.

Stir in the following:

1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Let cool slightly.

Place 2 cups roasted, peeled sweet potatoes in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Combine them with 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. Beat until smooth.

Then beat in 1 large egg, the milk mixture and the foamed yeast.

Mix in 7 cups of sifted, unbleached all-purpose flour, one cup at a time.

Switch to your dough hook and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. The dough will be sticky.

Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover and let stand in a warm place until doubled. (approx. an hour)

Punch dough down and knead again with your hands just until smooth.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Using a bench scraper cut the dough into 20 equal pieces. I weigh each piece because I’m a spaz and they bake better if they are uniform. Shape each piece into a roll.

Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheets and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Snip an X in the top of each roll with a pair of kitchen scissors. Brush each one with melted butter.

Bake until tops are brown, about 20 minutes, rotating pans half way through.

Cool on a rack.

I make two batches: a rounder, smaller dinner roll and a larger, slightly flattened roll like the ones in the front of the picture. I use the larger rolls for turkey sandwiches.

You can make the dough the day before, shape it into rolls and put the sheets in the fridge. Take them out of the fridge about 45 minutes before you want to bake them, snip, brush, bake and serve fresh from the oven.

It’s the cardamom that makes them so good.

Bon Appetit.

Standard
faith, Jesus

We All Need Jesus.

“Do something uplifting today,” the hub said, as he smooched me and left for work.

“I am.” I pointed to the sweet video I was watching, posted by BJ of The River Walk.

He popped his head back through the door and said, “You don’t deserve this.”

“Aww, thank you honey.”

Those were the exact words my dad said, over the phone from Florida, after my first husband left me. And the hub knew it.

Vegetal words – planted 25 years ago by my beloved dad – blooming afresh this morning thanks to my thoughtful hub.

God took a beating on Facebook yesterday.

The depth of hate revealed – for God and for me – was quite troubling.

Vegetal hate, lying deep and dormant, springing up with a vengeance.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who encountered it.

I took the beagle for an uplifting walk in the sunshine and shook it off.

It’s not like God didn’t give full disclosure when I signed on:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Now I understand why love had to be commanded in the verse just prior:

“This is my command: Love each other.”

It’s not easy to love those who have a deep-seated hate for you. It’s especially hard when they have a deep-seated hate for God.

Last night, while we were feeding the friends, the hub summed up the reason for all the ugliness on display yesterday:

“It’s all they have.”

“Father Ken is a genius!,” I replied, as it dawned on me.

“What do you mean?,” asked the hub.

I meant the genius foresight in the prayers we’ve been praying every Sunday:

“Help us renounce dependence on our culture’s false securities; let us see them as idols in which we place our highest trust when you, Christ, are our only salvation – guns, the dollar, political parties and their leaders, stock markets, human intelligence, insurance policies, the possessions and provisions we hoard, our strong bodies, our touchscreen technologies.”

“Well, yeah,” said the hub.

It just hadn’t occurred to me that a political party is all some people have. I guess because we’ve been praying this in church – where people have God, too.

I was thinking about “us” as in those of us who were praying, not “us” as in society at large.

I can be dense.

After I walked the beagle I came across a few videos of President-elect Trump being prayed over at various churches while still a candidate. Here is one of them:

I didn’t know he had been prayed over, anointed for the task. That is quite heartening.

Excellent, in fact.

I was buoyant as I headed back outside to give the hound dog his turn.

img_3813

As we walked through the woods, I looked up and was reminded that Love always breaks through.

Which had me thinking: When no one hates us it’s only because we are not currently shining the Light into any dark places.

You can quote me on that.

Or you can quote Jesus.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Standard
faith, Light

Human Flourishing

aleppo-syria

– gettyimages.com

“In the faces of the children of Aleppo we see your image, God, and it is bloodied. In our helplessness and anger at this evil, help us to not grow cynical but to trust that this bloodshed broke your heart long before we even started paying attention.

Come and rescue these little ones and all the Syrian people from the futility of war.

May violence no longer be heard in Syrian land, nor devastation within her borders.

In this nation where we were first called Christians, send legions of angels to lend aid and protection; shield those who bring relief amid great danger; bring justice for those who are dead, and heal those traumatized by this horrific conflict.

May those who bring this terror be visited by angels and converted to the cause of human flourishing.

Lord hear our prayer.”

– Prayers of the people at our little church this morning.

#humanflourishing #relishthethought

 

Standard
faith, Jesus

Feasting at a Troubled Table

IMG_0596

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

It has happened a few times this summer, here, in my shady back yard.  A glimpse of sun glistening through the trees,
a brief, very brief, flicker of joy,
deep-buried joy.
Buried under an impenetrable sadness.
Not enough to spark ignition,
just a slight, fleeting flicker.

Glistening green evoking the carefree feelings of my childhood,
back when I used to sing to the sun.

Oh for childlike innocence.

Oh for a refreshed soul.

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Last night my church gathered to pray for peace.

It felt good to do something more than privately lament the escalating violence. It felt good to publicly lament; to add my signature to the Peace Petition.

Just as our prayers were about to begin, a voice spoke up:

“I have something to say.”

I turned and saw a tall, youngish man walking up the aisle.

“You can’t drink from the cup of God and from the cup of the devil.”

I expected someone to respond but no one did. Perhaps we were all processing his words.

Doesn’t that go without saying?

The man turned, walked back down the aisle and out the door.  An elderly man in the back asked, “What did he say?”

I thought he was someone from the church whom I had never seen before until the pastor suggested that he might be someone from the community who is hurting. So we prayed for him.

And then it occurred to me that he could come back with a gun. Shoot every one of us in that small gathering. It wasn’t a fearful thought, just a practical one.  Just a practical concern for our friends at home.

My daughter, the hub and I were all sitting side by side in a pew near the front. If he gunned all three of us down, it might be days before it occurred to anyone that the friends were all alone.

There is an exit that leads to a side door a couple of pews in front of us.

I’ll dive under the pews, I thought, drag myself out the door and make my way to the Escape.

The little beagle has been known to get into things when we are away. As a result, there is nothing but canned goods on the lower shelves.  Perhaps I should start leaving a little something that she and Max can chew their way into.  Just to hold them over until help arrives.

My thoughts returned to the corporate prayers, Scripture and interspersed singing. The pastor invited anyone who was so moved to come forward and pray what was on our hearts.

My heart saw an image of the people in France, terrified and running for their lives, being mowed down by a truck.

My heart remembered what it felt like in the aftermath of 9/11.

I imagined the survivors and the families of the slain and all of France reeling as we did, wondering if life will ever feel good again.

I remembered the weight of that thick, evil veil.

So I went forward and prayed for them.

And I think I know, now, why the flicker of joy doesn’t ignite.

I’ve been holding my breath since 9/11.  I’ve been waiting for the violence to end; for the veil to be lifted. I’ve been waiting to feel good again.

But I may never feel good again.

That sparkling sun flickering gently, hopefully through the trees in my secluded, peaceful backyard seems like a mean tease.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

But perhaps that’s the way it has always been.  A feast set in the midst of the famine.

A table in the presence of my enemies.

I read an article about slain police officer Montrell Jackson. In the article his sister, Joycelyn Jackson, was quoted as saying, “It’s coming to the point where no lives matter, whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or whatever.”

She’s right. No lives matter to the enemy of our souls.

Black, white, Jewish, Muslim, Christian.  We will all have a turn.

It’s time for me to stop waiting for things to get better. It’s time to finally exhale and enjoy the blessings that are in front of me now.

Because things may never get better. Things may get worse.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Our Heavenly Father has gone to the trouble of preparing a feast of goodness and love even in the midst of this earthly strife.

It suddenly seems wrong not to eat.

#cometothetable

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

Standard
faith, Jesus

Sometimes My Heart Weeps

I usually leave a speaking engagement feeling exhausted and exhilarated. Today I feel exhausted and sick.  It’s not the scratchy throat and runny nose that seem to be worsening by the minute, it’s the quivering lip and the tear-filled, pleading eyes of a young face.

A face I can’t shake.

Even now I’d rather set my laptop aside and weep.

Just weep and sleep all afternoon. ‘Cuz I’m sick and I’m sick.

I got up early this morning, scratchy throat and all, loaded my stuff into my Escape and headed to a Christian school about 30 minutes away to talk to sixth graders about building healthy lives, healthy marriages and healthy kids.

The first session went beautifully, as usual. The students listed all the things that make them unique geniuses.  They listed all the good things they want from life and all the good things they want to contribute to life.

After a fifteen minute break, we talked about the things that can trip you up, pull you off course, cause you to lose your focus.  We worked through scenarios and looked down the roads of shoplifting, pornography, drugs and unmarried sex.

I shared real life examples from my years as a social worker and as a crisis pregnancy center director.  The kids had questions. Lots and lots of questions.

A girl in the front row raised her hand.

“If a man and a woman did stuff when they were young and then got married and did other stuff, would any of their kids die?”

“I’m not sure what kind of stuff you mean, like drugs?”

Head nodding yes, “And alcohol.”

“Well, drugs and alcohol could cause things like a miscarriage, or fetal alcohol syndrome or developmental delays, but I don’t think the drug usage of the parents would directly cause an older child to die.”

More kids asked more questions and then her hand went up again. Another question about dying.

“Do you know someone who died?”

“No.”

The third time her hand went up, same hypothetical scenario but this time a little more detailed, I knew she was talking about her family.

After the presentation, she lagged behind. She told me she is adopted. Her eyes pleaded with me for something, some hope that her older brothers, who were adopted separately, whose whereabouts are unknown to her, are okay. Are not dead.

We only had a minute. As her tears welled, I asked if the burdens of her heart were too heavy. I asked whether she was tempted to go the route of her birth mother. She nodded yes.

I gave her a hug. It was a limp, rag doll hug.

I wanted to ask her whether she could talk to her parents, whether they knew her concerns about her brothers, about alcohol. I wanted to know whether she had anyone to talk to. I wanted to tell her that Jesus knows all about her brothers. He knows all about her heart and her fears. He really does have enough love and power to help her.

But she left. She quickly left to catch up with her class.

And I want to make it all better for her.

And I can’t shake her sadness.

#purpose

#praying

 

 

Standard