Counting My Many Blessings in the Year of Cancer.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Cindi Albright https://www.flickr.com/photos/rustiqueart/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Cindi Albright https://www.flickr.com/photos/rustiqueart/

 

Today is Thanksgiving Eve. It’s time to count our blessings and pause in gratitude.

I look back over the past year on this Thanksgiving eve and I am grateful that I was born an American. I am grateful that God placed me in the adoring hands of two parents who never placed limits on me because I was female, who didn’t try to form me into a half-person who knew her “place” at the back of the bus.

I am grateful for my grandmother who was a Pentecostal Holiness preacher. She was a “church planter” who started and succored into success churches throughout a multi-state area and who had a huge following for her weekly radio sermons. She gave me a vision of God as Father to all His children, including the female half of the people He made.

I am grateful for my other grandmother whose grandparents lived in the South and fought on the side of the North in the Civil War because they saw slavery as a sin against God. I am grateful that she lived long enough to tell me stories of pioneering across this great land, of following the frontier as it receded before the courage of people like her.

I am grateful for my wonderful husband whose loyalty I never doubt, and whose forbearance I often sorely test. When I walked in the house and told him I had cancer, he cried. Then, he went with me to every doctor’s appointment and every treatment. He took time off work to take care of me when I was too sick to care for myself. He loved me. He loves me. He is my spouse, my life’s mate.

I am grateful for my fine sons. I am grateful for the good men they have become. I am grateful for the loving, good-to-the-core young women, my two new daughters, they have chosen for their own life’s mates. My children are good people. My most important life’s work is a success.

I am grateful for my sweet, precious, 91-year-old baby, my mother. I love her and treasure her and am grateful I still have her every single day.

I am grateful for my beautiful, wonderful baby granddaughter. I can’t think of her without melting, can’t write about her without smiling. Just holding her in my arms is everything good in life in one sweet baby hug. She is, as I tell her often, the smartest, the prettiest, the nicest, the sweetest and just the best baby girl in the whole history of baby girls.

This has been a rotten year for me, at least in most respects. There are parts of it I don’t feel like writing about just now, but that were tough. I have already written about the other things. This was the year in which I discovered I am unlikely to live as long as I had thought I might, when I found out I had cancer, when I went through the difficult passage of cancer treatment.

Cancer changed me. It wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me, and it hasn’t been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it changed me.

Cancer gave me the opportunity to mentally unpack my life and look at what parts of it I want to keep and what parts of it I want to toss. It let me understand the limits of my lifespan, and this understanding sharpened my resolve about the things that matter to me.

Cancer gave me a kind of freedom. We all know that we are marked “Return to Sender,” but for most of our lives, we tend to forget that. Cancer brought that fact into sharper focus for me. And, in that focus, is freedom.

This is an odd thing for someone who held elective office for decades, but I never was much of a people-pleaser. I haven’t lived my life by trying to trim myself, my beliefs or my actions to fit what other people wanted me to do, believe or say.

I have my parents to thank for that internal freedom. They gave it to me by telling me, from the dawn of my life that I was made for myself and not other people. My parents did not fence me in with narrow ideas about myself. They did not allow me to drink down the cultural limitations that other people sought to impose on female children.

They weren’t feminists, didn’t even know the word. They were parents who were children of other parents who had rejected these notions somewhere along the long march through the abolitionist movement, the frontier and the turn to a powerful personal faith in a God Who did not Himself impose these limits.

My childhood, and a couple of life-changing things that happened to me at the end of it, shaped me to be a go-my-own-way, do-what-I-think-is-right kind of person. That acute freedom led me into some very public mistakes, which I very publicly regretted later on. But it also led me into an incredible life in which I had the opportunity to do things that mattered, that saved lives and changed lives for the better.

As I sit here on this Thanksgiving eve, writing this post, I am grateful. I am grateful for this wonderful country, which I love with my whole heart. I am grateful for my family, and for the friends who have stuck with me through it all.

But most of all, I am grateful to my Maker for loving me, and for forgiving me my sins, for giving me my children, my husband, my parents, my sweet baby granddaughter. I am grateful to Him for my life.

I am grateful to Him for His love. For seeing me through all of it, for walking beside me in the valley of the shadow. I am grateful to Him for Calvary, for eternal life, for lifting me out of the mire of mortality and giving me the gift of endless tomorrows.

Cancer is, in ways I never considered before I learned I had it, a liberating thing. It liberates you from the tyranny of tomorrow and places you squarely into today. And for that, I am grateful.

Cancer may take away years of the time I thought I had to live. But it has given me today.

I give thanks on this Thanksgiving eve for the myriad blessings of my life.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, along with all my many blessings, the opportunity to write and communicate with you dear people who have formed this good community here on Public Catholic. I write other places, for some good-sized publications. But nowhere else do I know my readers by name and personality.

I am grateful for each of you. Thank you for your prayers and your support during this hard year just past. You are the best.

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25 Black Friday Facts

I’m skipping Black Friday shopping. I never go to these sales. But for those of you who do, here are a few facts.

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We Try So Hard to be Good, to Lead a Life Worth Living

 

Gratefulness is a blessing in itself.

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It Must Be Almost Thanksgiving Because I’m Steam Cleaning the Shower

So I was steam-cleaning the shower; giving the house it’s Thanksgiving go-over.

I have an industrial-strength steamer that, when it’s fully rigged up, looks a lot like one of the bugs in Starship Troopers. It produces hot, hot steam in violent jets that dissolve dirt and slay bacteria with a single hiss.

I was running it with the squeegee attachment, going up and down the shower walls, steam coming out in an angry zzzzzzzz, my laboriously straightened hair collapsing into tight little curls, when my youngest son popped his head around the bathroom door.

“Whachadoin’?” he asked.

(Duhhhhhh …)

“Cleaning the shower.”

“I want you to come do that to my shower,” meaning, the shower in the house he shares with his brother, a shower so dirty that there’s no way to be sure what color the enamel might be; a shower so dirty that self-respecting bacteria moved out months ago; a shower so dirty that I wouldn’t use it to bathe a dog.

“Nope. But you can borrow the steamer.”

“But I want you to come do it.”

“Nope.”

“All right then,” he said, wandering off.

I guess I’m responsible. After all, I raised him.

When he marries, I plan to begin my relationship with my new daughter-in-law by apologizing.

 

 

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Jesus Christ is King, the Lord of My Life: Slogan or Fact?

Jesus Christ is King.

That is the summation of our faith. The cross, which absorbs many people, including me, is a stepping stone to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of His Father.

Jesus is Lord of our lives. This usage comes from the days when one’s Lord was also his or her master; the ruling agent in a person’s life to whom fealty was sworn. By saying that Jesus is Lord, people put Him above earthly rulers, saying, in effect, that they were, as St Thomas More put it, “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

That understanding of what it really means when we say that Jesus is Lord of our lives has become watered down into a slogan. Given the serious times ahead for Christians, I think it is appropriate to go back to that original meaning and begin using it as a literal expression of fealty once again.

Christianity is always, everywhere, a counter-cultural force. No true Christian can live as God’s good servant, but the king’s first. We must always in everything put Jesus first. If we do that, it will pit us against the world, true. But it will also enable us to become the instruments of His change by which He converts the world.

Before we preach or teach it, we’ve got to start living it. Every day. In every way. Not for others or for the effect we will have on our society. Not even for ourselves. We must do it for Him.

That’s what it means that Christ is King, at least for us in this life. Of course, it has another, eternal meaning as well. Christ is not King of this world. He does not reign here except as He reigns in each of us and our lives.

Jesus Christ is King of all life, everywhere, and all eternity. His Kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven. We are His subjects in that Kingdom and his representatives of that Kingdom as we live in the here and now. We are also His subjects in His Kingdom throughout eternity. We, like Him, are eternal beings and our Kingdom is not of this earth.

This year, the feast of Christ the King fits neatly between Thanksgiving and Advent. It is the culmination of the liturgical year that is like a wheel, spinning through the Gospels every 365 days, teaching us the story of our salvation over and again.

Today, Jesus is Christ the King, the culmination of what we will look forward to in Advent.

The important thing for us is that we allow him to be King of our lives. Is Jesus your Lord in the sense which the phrase originally intended? Is He the sole arbiter of your actions, the object of your desires? Is he Lord of your life in deed and fact?

That is the challenge of the feast of Christ the King. This challenge is more urgent this year than others. Our faith is under attack from many directions. “Jesus is the Lord of my life” is no longer just a slogan. It is a question demanding an answer.

Is Jesus the Lord of your life in thought and deed? Do you follow Him before all others?

What answer do you give?

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A Funky Thanksgiving is on the Way to My House!

A funky Thanksgiving is on the way to my house!

My husband and my sons are cooking, due to Gimpy the Foot. I offered, but they were adamant that there was noooooo way that they want me re-injuring the Gimpster by a long-standing session in the kitchen.

Not, mind you, that they’re being all that altruistic. As my youngest told me, “You’ve been such a baby about this. I want you back the way you should be.” (I’m assuming he means in full-speed Mom working order.) “I am sooo ready for you to get over this.”

There you have it: The young son, taking care of the young son by taking care of his mom. (He’s right, btw. I have been a baby about Gimpy.)

My husband could cook, once upon a time. I remember it dimly. Back in our dating days, he cooked for me all the time. It wasn’t fancy fare, but it did taste good. Foolish woman that I am, I thought this meant I was getting a great husband with a co-chef thrown in.

I didn’t reckon with post-vow amnesia. As soon as he slid the ring on my finger, he forgot how to so much as boil a pan of water. When I can’t cook for some reason, he grills (he’s fantastic with a charcoaler) and brings in the meat. Nothing else. Just meat. Other than take-out, that’s the sum of his gastronomic contribution to this family for the past 30 years.

Before anyone gets riled up with the idea that my husband wooed and wed me under false pretenses, I should admit that I pretended to like football back when we were dating.

Madame Pot, meet Mr Kettle.

I suggested having the meal catered or even – horrors – eating in a restaurant. But they will have none of such sacrilege. They know what Thanksgiving looks like, and it comes out of Mom’s kitchen, not some box. Besides, if they ate out, there wouldn’t be any leftovers, and every civilized person knows that you need tons of leftovers for watching football around the clock over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

I was a fool – delirious on pain meds or some such – to even have such a crazy idea.

Now, my charcoaling spouse and my Ramen-noodle-is-a-feast sons are going to prepare Thanksgiving dinner.

I can hardly wait to see this.

I’m going to try to pin them down on what they think is an essential Thanksgiving Dinner – as opposed to the groaning sideboard affairs I spin up – and then make a list and send them off to the store for their last-minute Thanksgiving Eve shopping spree.

That alone should be a challenge for them. I had to get my girlfriends to shop for me after I busted up Gimpy because my men cannot follow a list. Now, they’re going to be on their own, trying to follow a list and come home with all the makings for an abbreviated Thanksgiving Dinner.

I start giggling when I think about it.

I know we’ll have turkey. And ham.  I trust they can get that done. The rest of it is going to be anybody’s guess. They nixed my suggestion that they go to mixes and not try to build things from the ground up. Their only concession is that they ordered the pies from a local bakery.

I figure if worse comes to worst we can put the veggies down the garbage disposal and go to a restaurant, then come home to four days of pigging out on leftover turkey and ham with a salad or something on the side and plenty of pie for desert.

In the meantime, I’m going to sit in my recliner and watch. And grin. And think about how very, very, very blessed I am.

You know that list I wrote of the 10 things I’m thankful for? Well … this is one of ‘em.

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving is Thursday. What am I thankful for?

Rest and be thankful. William Wordsworth

Thanksgiving is Thursday. What am I thankful for? The list is almost endless. Here, in the order they occur to me, are 10 of the things I’m thankful for this morning.

1. I’m thankful that my foot is healing. I have a boot and can use a walker now.

2. I’m thankful for my best friend, true companion, lover and love of my life: my husband.

3. I’m thankful that my sons are loving, kind, honest people. I’m proud of them.

4. I’m thankful I still have my mother and that she is not suffering and is relatively happy.

5. I’m thankful that, despite my overweight-out-of-shape condition, I do not have diabetes or heart disease.

6. I’m thankful for the Catholic Church.

7. I’m thankful for the gift of eternal life.

8. I’m thankful for second chances.

9. I’m thankful for a car that runs, computers, internet, electricity, hot and cold running water, central air and heat and the delete button on my keyboard.

10. I am thankful for my girlfriends, without whom life would be shades of dull.

 

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