Posted in Christian, Writing

When A Farm Gets X-Rated

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First day of Dove season. Our friends Ed Kobel and Beth and Mike Weems on an unsuccessful hunt. The dove  were all hanging around our house and vacated the woods. Smart Dove.

So, October is not only breast cancer month, but wait for it…..drum roll please…. it’s wild hog month!  Who knew? Well, um… this girl did. Last weekend, I gave an X-rated tour on the farm to a few wives that attended our couple’s Abiding in Christ study. I drove them through the woods back towards the river and beach. Along the way, I spouted off bits of information I’ve collected about farming from how to produce rich grasses to how to make the meat of a hog juicy. The ladies in the back seat leaned in close to hear.

Through the woods, I pointed out where the wild hog had destroyed the vegetation.

“The vegetation along this trail used to be so dense and beautiful, but we’ve since had wild hogs come onto the property. They start their mucking which makes holes in the land, and then those holes fill with water and can turn a dense forest into a swamp. They can quickly tear up an ecosystem.”

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I further explained, “the weekends my son Christian is on the farm, he hunts at night for the hogs. He walks on foot through the darkest part of the woods, finds a hiding place, and waits. Many nights he returns to the house with several dead hogs in the back of his ATV. One weekend, he’d had an unsuccessful hunt, so he prayed that God would send him something. Suddenly, the brush started moving and he heard their snorting. He’d been standing in that same spot for a while, and they were silent, but as soon as he prayed God brought the hogs. He killed them and brought them home.”

“What do you do with the hogs once their killed?” One of the ladies asked.

“We clean them and put them in the freezer for meat,” I said. “Well, we do that with the females and babies, but if it’s a male you have to cut off its testicles within seventeen seconds, or the testosterone will spread throughout the meat and ruin it.”

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My son Christian in the forefront with his kill. His little brother and friend admiring his work.

Their mouths dropped open.

“Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do with all this information I’ve heard today.” Angie, one of the women said. “But it’s been a very interesting ride.”

I thought since they liked that one, when we reached the bull’s pasture I’d bless them with more. “Did you know we had two bulls last month break their penises trying to mate? They jumped on the back of the cow and missed their aim and it just broke!”

They gasped. “That’s possible?” A lady said.

“Apparently so.”

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Let’s assume he’s fully equipped to handle the job. This girl’s not inspecting if you know what I mean.

 

After I dropped them off at the house, and drove off, I realized I just filled their minds with some X-rated hog testicles and bull penises, when they came to the farm to learn how to Abide in Christ. I wondered what they must think about me. I admit, I tend to put my foot in it.

Surprisingly, the next day they circled around and hugged me goodbye. They thanked me for giving them such an interesting farm tour. They couldn’t wait to go home and tell their sons all that I’d shared. One of the husbands even laughed and told me he’d wished he’d been on my tour.

All was well.

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A boar I painted. 

 

I painted a Wild Hog once. I was renovating and decorating the retreat home, where our guests stay the night. My friend Ed wanted the home to be in the theme of a hunting lodge. One of the bedrooms I made the Wild Hog room. I couldn’t find a painting of a wild hog that fit into my decorating budget, so I printed off a tiny picture of a painting from an artist off Etsy, taped it to my easel and went to work. While painting, I realized how peculiar, spectacular, and cute these creatures are. From the rich autumn colors of their fur to that funky twisted snout with the flat end made for rutting. (The wild hogs of North America don’t have the twist, but the European Wild Boar do.) I had to remind myself what these creatures do to the land and wildlife in order to allow my son to go out and hunt them after painting that picture.

Temptations in life are like that. We entertain the thoughts, justify them in our minds, and lose control of them. Suddenly they are a full-scale sin wreaking havoc on the landscape of our lives. It can ruin the ecosystem of our souls. We won’t see the damage at first, it’ll leave a little hole here, a little hole there, but then the rains of lies, pride, fears, justifications- whatever we try to cover up our sins with, come. Before we realize what’s happening there’s a stinky swamp where lush foliage used to be.

I am thankful our forest on the farm has yet to become a stinky swamp and still has plenty of vegetation, but we are vigilant about keeping the Wild Hog controlled.

So, as you celebrate Wild Hog month (side note: we celebrated Christian’s 18th birthday this month as well), keep a grip on those temptations don’t let em loose.

Before I close I thought you’d enjoy some wild hog trivia. You know I got it in me.

 

-Wild hog rut in search of food. They eat snakes, worms, acorns, berries, roots, eggs from birds and alligators. They have ravenous appetites and rut all day and night eating.

-As I stated before, their rutting uproots small trees, grasses, shrubs, turning a forest into a field of mud holes. Their rutting damages root systems of trees, taking out homes of other animals. It damages an ecosystem, causing other animals to flee an area where wild hogs have taken over.

-They normally travel in packs.

-They produce four times the amount of offspring of a deer in any given year. They mate more than once a year and produce 5 to 6 offspring on average.

-The Wild Hog carries 45 different parasites and diseases that can be a danger to livestock and cost farmers boo-coos (very technical term here) of money.

-The Wild Hog can charge up to 30 miles an hour. Females are aggressive if they are protecting their offspring. Males will become aggressive if they feel threatened, but normally they are not aggressive animals.

-They have weak eyes, but they have keen sense of smell. So, believe me they can smell you when you are hunting them.

The Wild Hog started in North America when hunters released farm hogs into the wild in order to later hunt them. Not realizing how quickly they multiply.

-Currently, in some southern states there is an overabundance of wild hog creating real problems for not only the ecosystem but the economy as well. The wild hog can be hunted year-round as they are considered a nuisance.

 

Supposed to be cooler this weekend. Hope you get some Outdoorsy time.

 

Posted in Christian, Writing

A Funeral…A Birthday…A Calling

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I skipped writing a blog last week. It was a week meant for quiet, sadness, sprinkled with a bit of joy as well. A dear friend named Vanessa Raghubir passed away from brain cancer. If you’ve been following the blog you’ll know all about her. (You can find multiple stories about her by scrolling down)

My husband and I spoke at her funeral. Jay read scripture and shared personal reflection about Vanessa, and called me up to tell her testimony… Vanessa’s story. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, to be honest, the mere thought made me want to puke my guts out and lay on the podium sobbing. 

I told the story of Vanessa having three altars in her apartment one for the Hindu god, one for the Muslim god, and one with a cross. Vanessa choose Jesus Christ. I explained He was the one God who knew what it was like to feel abandoned as she did. He was the one God who knew what it was like to be beaten, as she did. He was the one God who knew what it was like to face death, as she did. 

He’s the God who knows about all of your heartache too. He knows what it’s like to lose a child. He knows what it’s like to be sad, hungry, rejected, humiliated, poor…the list goes on and on.

I told this story to a room filled with Hindu worshippers, and Muslim men and women wearing burkas -not exactly easy on the nervous system if you know what I mean. A friend in the back told us a few Muslim men moaned when I mentioned the one true God, but everyone was respectful and allowed her wishes. You see, one day Vanessa told me she could see herself telling her testimony from a stage to all her friends and family, but Vanessa lost her voice before she got the chance. I know it was no accident she’d told me her wishes.

 God will ask you to step out of the boat during a hurricane, all it takes for the waters to calm is your feet.

God showed up. I survived without puking my guts up, and her testimony was told.

A woman approached me after the funeral, she was co-worker of Vanessa’s at the bank. She told me how happy she was to hear her story.

“I tried to lead Vanessa to the Lord,” she said as her eyes teared. “I kept telling her she needed to choose Jesus Christ, but she brushed me off. She told me she’d think about it. I came here thinking she never made the choice. I’m so glad she found you.”

“I only planted a seed, just as you did,” I said. The truth is this. It was God Vanessa found. God wants us to find Him so badly. He will place people in your path to point the Way. 

“for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you…” I Chronicles 28:9b English Standard Version

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When I think of Vanessa’s life and my own, Proverbs 16:9 comes to mind: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”  

I shared a somewhat embarrassing story at Vanessa’s funeral. A story I’ve kept close to my chest all this time.

About a month before my sister, Tricia passed, she had her son help her into the kitchen where Mom, Dad, her husband, and children were. She walked over to Momma, kissed her on the mouth and said, “Momma, I want to go home.” 

“You are home, sweetheart,” Momma said.

“No! Home Home!” 

“You’re ready to go to heaven?” Momma said.

Tricia turned and walked over to Daddy.

“Daddy, I want to go home!” She said.

Realizing by now what she was asking, Daddy nodded. “Okay, you go on now.”

She turned to her husband Thomas and said the same thing. She told everyone individually her intention. She wanted their permission to go.

Of course, we all assumed she would go just like that. So, I stayed awake that night, looking for some sign and praying God would allow her to pass by my room in Orlando. (She lived in Virginia) That night, Jay fell asleep on the sofa, and I kept the tv off for I wanted to be ultra- aware for I just knew I was going to see something in my room change the moment she took her last breath.

Around 2am there was a light in my room. I jumped up in bed. My eyes darted around searching every dark corner for her, but she wasn’t there.

Instead, it was my phone.

I had a private message on Facebook. The words were jumbled, but I’m going to take the liberty in writing them clearly below.

“You don’t know me, but my name is Vanessa. I know Jay from the bank. I’m in the hospital, I had a brain cancer tumor removed. I’ve been reading your sister’s story. Thank you for writing it.” 

That was my first contact with Vanessa. You see, God wasn’t going to send me my sister. He was going to send me someone He desired to make my eternal sister.  

I’ve spent this week, looking backwards and forwards, wowed by the steps God lit up in our lives and how our paths intertwined, connecting us for eternity.  I celebrated my 49th birthday, with Vanessa’s family instead of my own. It was the day she was cremated. Before we left to go to the cremation ceremony, I found a new laptop sitting on my bathroom counter. I’m so thankful God gave me a man who holds my hand through my dreams. 

Before Vanessa lost her voice, she asked me to write her story when I finished my sister’s memoir. One day, while sitting at the foot of Vanessa’s bed, I told her. “I know you want me to write your story, but my sister’s story is incomplete without you. You’re her ending.” Vanessa seemed happy to hear that.

Take some time to think about your steps. Has God been trying to get your attention? Lead you to Him? Has He called you onto a stormy sea?  Has He put you on a path you didn’t expect? Or is He giving you an assignment?

Next week, I will share what we can all learn from a dying girl from Guyana. I hope you’ll keep a watch out.

Until next time…

Posted in Christian, Writing

Today: August 20, 2018

 

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Today, at 8:30am, Bella started Pre-K4. She was nervous and had a fluttery stomach, but once we arrived and walked into the classroom, she ran over to the puzzle table and dove in. “Bye Momma!” she said waving me off. Today, she passed a milestone. Today, she seemed to grow a foot…a year… and a whole lot of independence.

 

Today around noon,  I visited my friend Vanessa who’s been suffering from brain cancer. You can find her story “Naked and Picking Weeds 1, 2, and 3 by scrolling below) Today, her breathing was different than the last time I saw her, I held her tiny hand, her princess hand I like to call it, her fingers didn’t curl around mine like they did last week. Today, she didn’t pull me back when I tried to let her go. Today, she didn’t blow kisses at me as I headed out the door.

Today, I leaned over her, “I love you,” I said. “You have a great adventure ahead of you. You’re about to meet your Heavenly Father and He has something amazing in store for you. I just know it!”

Today, I witnessed a mother’s touch, calming the breath of a dying child. It was beautiful.

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Today at 4:30 my doorbell rang. I received a surprise package in the mail. My editor at She Leads Daily decided to print last month’s magazine that included an article about my painting. I hollered before texting my family and showing my boys. “My writing and art is in a print magazine!”  Today, I crossed milestone.

Today at 4:51pm, just twenty-one minutes later, Vanessa took her last breath. She passed away. Today she crossed over. Today, Vanessa can see, run, talk, laugh, breath, and eat. She is meeting the Father who’s watched over her.  She is meeting Jesus whom she gave her life to, not too long ago.

On one of my visits, I laid my head across Vanessa’s chest and she stroked my hair. “I’m going to meet Tricia soon,” she said. (My sister Tricia died of breast cancer.)

Today, Vanessa met her sister.

Today,  I’ve swayed between shock, joy, incredible sadness, love, and peace. Today I experienced an abundant life.

Today, I ask anyone reading this to say a prayer for Vanessa’s Momma Joan, and her family and friends as they mourn her passing.

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Goodbye my sweet Vanessa. I love you.

Tonight, I know we’ll meet again.

Posted in Cancer, Christian, Minsitry, Writing

Half -Naked and Picking Weeds Part 3

(Please note: If you haven’t read part 1 and 2 of Half Naked and Picking Weeds, I suggest you scroll down and read those first as this is a continuation of it.)

 

I asked Vanessa what she wanted everyone to know. Before the words slipped from her lips, she closed her eyes to concentrate on forming them. “Every day counts,” she said. “I want them to know, every day counts.”

   Every day counts. Even the humdrum days?  Even the days when the kids are driving us cray-cray?  Even the days we can’t wait to slam our bedroom door and disappear under the cool sheets because the to-do list whipped our butts? Even that day when her head is wrapped in cold rags and she has to wear sunglasses because her eyes hurt from a cancerous tumor pushing against her skull? She would tell you…yes, even that day.

            I’m convinced there are days of our lives that count more than others. They weigh more in value on eternity’s scale.

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          The doctor didn’t lie when he said rotator cuff surgery was painful. I’d given birth to four children and after surgery the pain sent me moaning on the floor rocking back and forth. He’d stated my arm was so tore up it looked like an eighty- year old woman’s with an old tear and new. For six weeks, my arm was in a bulky sling and I couldn’t hold my baby, so I borrowed Vanessa’s arms.

            You can’t help but get personal with someone who’s loving your baby. Her affection for Bella built the foundation of our friendship… our sisterhood. One day she casually mentioned that she worshipped the Hindu gods, Allah, and the Christian God.

            I laughed. “What are you doing covering all your bases?” I said.

            “Oh my gosh!” She burst out laughing. “Yes, I want to be sure I get it right. Besides, I think they’re all the same anyway.”

            “You should look into the characteristics of each of them, that’s how you’ll know if they are the same,” I said. “I think you’ll find the Christian God is far more personal. He’s the only one out of the bunch that gave His life for mankind. He’s the only One who loves us whether we love him or not.”

            I walked her out that day and knew when I closed the door, God just opened one.

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Doors in Rome, Italy

            The next afternoon, “So, how do you worship all three gods?” I said.

       “I have three altars in my apartment. I’m drawn to the Christian God, so I go to church on Sunday, but I have a Hindu altar, an Allah altar, and an altar with a cross. I pray at each.”

            “What do you pray about?”

            “I just want some direction you know?  I want to know what I should be doing in my future,” she said. “I’d like to use my experience with cancer for something good now that I’m healed.”

          It amazes me when God opens a door. Sometimes, it’s just a crack, while other times it is thrown open so wide the light is blinding. Soon after, over the phone my father told me what he taught in Sunday school that week, the story of Paul’s travel to Athens.

            “When Paul arrived in Athens he noticed all the gods and altars scattered around the city,” Daddy said. “but there was one altar titled the “Unknown god,” and Paul stood before them and told them about that God, our God. You see, baby, they were trying to cover all their bases, as many people do today, but in doing that, they are lost.” (Acts 17: 16-34)

I was blinded by the light.

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The next day, Vanessa sat across from me at the kitchen table. Praying she’d understand, I slid my open Bible across the table. “Before you go, I want you to read something.” I pointed to the passage.

            After she finished, her eyes widened. “Oh my gosh! That’s me!” she said.

            “You said, you were praying for guidance and for your next purpose in life. How can God lead you if you haven’t made Him Lord?”

            She nodded.

            “I don’t want you to do anything for me, but you need to think about that,” I said. “God will never lead you if He’s not in the lead.”

            She promised to think about it. I wasn’t there the day Vanessa chose to make Jesus Christ her Lord. God placed the seeds in my hands, I pushed them under the soil, and moved on to tend to the weeds of life, but God sent others to water it.

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            After I recovered, Vanessa remained Bella’s babysitter one day a week until Bella started preschool.  Jay, my husband, then hired Vanessa to work at the office for him and his brother Shaun. She was so happy to be back behind a desk. One Thursday morning, Jay stopped by her counter.

            “Why are you sitting there?” Jay said. “Come join our Abiding study in the conference room.”

            “Really?” She jumped up and followed him.

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Vanessa’s desk at the office.

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            She sat in a men’s Bible study every Thursday morning learning how to Abide in Christ. Between Jay and Shaun his brother, Vanessa had two very determined men pouring Jesus into her on a daily basis. She told them she’d made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord.

            It was then…the cancer returned.

            Last week, I wanted to hear from her own lips she’d made a decision. I swabbed her bald head with a cold cloth. Our relationship had come full circle I was now at her home.

            “The last time we discussed God, you told me you’d think about it. Did you?” I said.

            “Yes, I chose Christ.” she said.

            “Did you tell Him that? Ask Him to take your life?” I said.

            “Yes, I did.”

            “You’re undertaking the most important assignment of your life, but you know that don’t you?” I said squeezing her hand.

            Vanessa nodded. “I do.”

            “You are just as much a sister to me as Tricia was. Our relationship is eternal.”

            “Really?” she said.

            “Yes, in fact if Tricia wasn’t a Christian you’d be more of a sister to me.” I hugged her.

 IMG_2962       I’ve never seen a faith so strong in someone so new to it. How does she know He’s a loving God when as soon as she gave her life to Christ, her cancer returned? I’ve pondered this. I’ve asked God why didn’t He allow her some healthy years to use her faith for Him.

Then, I glance at Vanessa she’s filled with a peace that is not human. She knows God loves no matter what she’s going through. If anything in this life can give us comfort, it’s this…our circumstances are never indicative of God’s love.

            What a relief! Having a bad day? God loves you! Husband’s left you? God loves you. Your son has passed away? God loves you! Your addicted to drugs or alcohol? God loves you. You’re sick with cancer? God loves you. Praying to the Hindu gods or Allah? God loves you right where you are. Vanessa’s proof of that.

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            It’s time to harvest at the farm. There are rows of heavy vegetables curling the stems. I don’t know about you, but there’s something satisfying about snapping them off and filling a bucket. We load them in the back of the ATV and drive them up to the farmhouse. In the sink, we wash them one by one, preparing them for the job they were born to do. Nourish.

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            Just like those vegetables waiting to be plucked off the vines, Vanessa’s story will become someone else’s spiritual nourishment. In time, someone will be walking ankle deep in the dirt and weeds of this world and feeling empty. They’ll wonder is this all there is to life? They’ll witness the light and color of a young woman’s faith and want to consume the invitation of salvation for themselves. The circle of life is eternal.

When Vanessa’s time comes, I’m so sure Tricia will run up and greet her at the gates of heaven. “Vanessa! I’ve been waiting for ya. What took you so long?” She’ll give her a hug with a hard pounding on the back. “Welcome home, sister. Welcome home.” She’ll wrap her arm around her shoulders. “So you gotta tell me, is Tammy fat? I sure hope so.”

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If you would like to donate to Vanessa Raghubir’s Go Fund Me Page, please click on the link below. She is in need of some financial aid. The Go Fund Me page needs to be updated it is from her first diagnoses of brain cancer, but the need is even greater with the second. Thank you and God bless you for helping someone you don’t even know.

https://www.gofundme.com/i3nnns

Posted in Cancer, Christian, Farm life, Writing

Half-Naked and Picking Weeds part 2

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I can remember it like it was yesterday. Tricia, my sister, and I were sitting on the veranda watching the sun go down at my Orlando home. I was going over the plan to send her to Germany for breast cancer treatment. I would keep Peyton with me, so she could finish the school year, while her and Thomas would travel back and forth to Europe. She would be receiving hyperthermia, a treatment that is now in its experimental phase here in the states.

            “I feel good about this one,” I said, for this was our third hospital…third attempt to fix this and my anxiety was heightened by the cancerous sores spreading over her abdomen and back.

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            She glanced at me across the table. “Tammy, if God doesn’t heal me in this life, He will heal me in the next,” she said. “Besides, if my cancer reaches one person for Christ, all this is worth it.”

            And there it was suspended in her prophetic words. Although, I was too preoccupied at the time to recognize it for what it was…Purpose.

            We will never know how many she reached for Jesus. Tricia and her husband Thomas handed out the gospel message everywhere they went in Europe. Tricia let her bald head and joyous spirit tell the story.

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            But there was the one…the special one…and she wasn’t from Europe. She was an American immigrant from Guyana. A twenty-nine year old, my sister never met. A girl my sister had nothing in common with except one thing…cancer.

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            Vanessa worked at the bank where my husband Jay had his account. He’d gone in one day to make a deposit and mentioned I was writing a blog about my sister’s journey through breast cancer. Vanessa wanted to read it.

            “Send my wife a friend request on Facebook, because I know it posts there. I don’t know how that whole blog thing works,” he’d said.

            Somewhere at the starting line of my sister’s four-year illness, Vanessa’s friend request came and I accepted. I can’t tell you how many times I saw her face pop up on Facebook and couldn’t remember who she was. Nevertheless, I left her there on my friend list.

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            One month before my sister passed, I was nursing my baby Bella in the middle of the night when my phone lit up a private message sent to me on Facebook. The message came jumbled a bit, but I deciphered what she was trying to write. I will take the liberties of writing it clearly below.

            “Hi, you don’t me but I know your husband from the bank. I’m in the hospital, just had a cancerous brain tumor removed. I wanted to thank you for writing your sister’s story. I’ve been reading it. How is she?” (from Vanessa Raghubir)

            Ironically, a month later I posted a blog about a girl with brain cancer who was taking her life via pills. I had no idea when I posted that blog in the morning, my sister would pass that afternoon and due to the controversial topic that blog post was read all over the world. You can find the post Right to Life here:

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            After Tricia passed Vanessa and I communicated via text. She’d shared her heart’s disappointments regarding marriage and children, while I set out to save her by giving her nutritional advice. I look back at those posts and feel ashamed. I was manic to save her as I couldn’t do with my sister, but there are times people don’t need fixing, they just need to be listened to.

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            One day, Vanessa messaged me she was having trouble paying the bills and wanted to know if Jay was hiring. She’d completed treatment but due to being left with a speech impediment, she couldn’t return to her former job. Jay had just started his own development company and couldn’t hire at the time. I told her I’d keep my ears open for an opportunity.

            Soon after, I lifted an iron pan with my bad arm, something tore and I landed on the floor howling.

            “It’s a double rotator cuff tear,” the doctor said. “One tear appears to be very old, I don’t know how you’ve been living with it, and I may not be able to fix that one, but it put a strain on the remaining tendons until another one snapped. You need surgery and I think you should know it’s a painful long recovery.”

            “What?” I said. My eyes widened before landing on my baby girl. He followed my gaze.

            “I know it’s not the best timing for something like this. We can wait, but I don’t recommend it.”

            We scheduled surgery.

            We hired Vanessa.

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            The first morning she arrived Jay asked her to wash my hair. I shot him a look that said, I don’t know this girl, you wash my hair, but he ignored me. Vanessa followed us to our bathroom and while he brushed his teeth, she leaned me over the tub and washed my hair. It was like a weird blind date.

            After she blew it dry using her fingers instead of a brush, which was uh…different…I looked at her reflection in the mirror.

             “I’m sorry,” I said. “I know this is awkward, normally my sister’s here to take care of me in times like this. It’s what we did for each other.” My eyes teared, for my heart felt her loss that day.

            “It’s okay.” Vanessa said smiling. “Your sister brought me to you.”

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It is often said God works in mysterious ways. It is like the seeds growing under the soil, we can’t see the sprouts bursting from the shell, until the healing of time passes, the tears pour, and God mercifully shines His grace on our mournful soul. One dawn when we’ve moved onto plow another plot of land in our lives, we look back and see fresh green shoots popping up, that’ll eventually produce their own fruit.  We’re taken aback by it, because it’s this miracle that we were allowed a small part of or at least to be a witness to.

Vanessa is that to me.

If you would like to donate to Vanessa Raghubir’s Go Fund Me Page, please click on the link below. She is in need of some financial aid. The Go Fund Me page needs to be updated it is from her first diagnoses of brain cancer, but the need is even greater with the second. Thank you and God bless you for helping someone you don’t even know.

https://www.gofundme.com/i3nnns

Part 3 next week…