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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            Two months 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, two months 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:

https://tammycarteradams.com/2014/12/19/the-right-to-life/

            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…

Posted in Christian, Farm life, Women, Writing

I’m Full of Bull!

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At the farm, there’s a gentle bull in the pasture behind our house. Some mornings he’s standing there by the fence looking through the french doors at me. I step out onto the porch and sweet talk him. If we’re by the fence, he’ll trot over and without warning give you a lick across the face and neck with his enormous tongue.  It’s gross, but you can’t help but walk away feeling loved and a bit sticky. He’s a new Brahman bull the farm has acquired from a ranch in Texas.

While the other bulls buck each other over territory and food, he meanders away, not wanting to participate in the conflict. He not only stands out from the herd in behavior but in his appearance as well. He is pale in color and has an enormous hump on his back that looks burdensome and painful to carry.

            I’ve nicknamed him Ferdinand after the once controversial classic children’s story, The Story of Ferdinand the Bull, by Munro Leaf.  Ferdinand is a bull who’d rather smell flowers in the paddock than fight with the others. It’s a Bella fav.

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I find it intriguing how much we can learn from a bull. His breed is named after the Brahmins who were Hindu priests. It’s ironic considering the Brahman is looked upon as sacred in India, the Brahman breed is the largest source of meat for carnivores today. Due to their thick skin, they are resistant to extreme heat and pestilence. They also do well in extremely cold temperatures.

Traditionally, the Brahman bull is used in a sport called Bull-butting. It is a ferocious game between two bulls until one falls to the ground disabled or gives up and retreats. To prepare for their sport, their bodies are strengthened on a diet of milk and honey. It is beyond my comprehension how so many people enjoy watching sports involving hurting animals. If there’s one thing I would change about this world, it is purposely hurting the defenseless for pleasure, power, or convenience.

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Yet, we have become a world of bullies haven’t we? One can scroll through Facebook and find political rantings written in a way that shames those who have a different viewpoint on the matter.  It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything political or responded to anyone’s comments. God impressed upon me it’s not my place, for I’m His. He doesn’t want me to lose my clout by being a lout (sort of speak. I tried here.)  I’ve been obedient, but I admit, some days it’s not easy. I pursued a Political Science degree in college, and I was raised in a very political family that loves a good debate, but then there’s Jesus. He didn’t waste breath or influence on politics. Although He had the power to overthrow the Roman government, He used his energy and His influence on Kingdom work alone. I love that about Him!

 

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There is also body-shaming going on throughout social media. It’s another kind of bullying it’s just hidden under self-promotion. I was blessed to see what that does to a woman whose breast was chopped off, whose hair and eyelashes had fallen out, and who felt she lost everything that made her a woman. My sister Tricia died of breast cancer in 2014. One night, I found her sitting on the bed staring at a friend’s sexy pictures with tears in her eyes.

“She’s supposed to be a Christian,” she said. “Does she even know how this feels to someone like me?”

I snatched her phone away. “That’s it!” I said. “We’re having a friend deleting party!” I deleted all the women from her friend file who made her feel inadequate. You see, the enemy tried to use those pictures to steal her light, but he didn’t win.

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I say I am blessed to have witnessed this because it gave me a love for women and their struggles. I know the women who reveal their bikini-ready bodies, are not thinking about how this affects women who are hurting, women who can’t lose weight, women who are sick, women whose husbands find them unattractive, but I plead on their behalf that you remember to love them by considering their feelings. We need to be more outward- focused in a world focused inward.

On the flip side, we Christians have to stop being so easily offended. We tend to live with our hearts outside our chest, which causes them to get bruised and banged up. In defense, we want to stand up for ourselves or our Lord, while God is saying “it’d be better for you to get out of My way.” There have been times I’ve wanted to stand up for myself because I felt attacked or accused unfairly, but you know what? God’s got my back.

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We as Christians should carry our cross of self-denial like Ferdinand carries that large hump on his back. We should learn from a gentle bull not to bothered by the heat of politics or the pestilence of a self-obsessed culture. Just as he gives kisses to a carnivore like me, we should be willing to love those undeserving as well. When we see some bucking going on, it’s best to get out of the way and mind your own Kingdom-building business. The cold don’t bother Ferdinand, so don’t let the times people are cold bother you. Allow God to thicken up your skin and see yourself through His eyes.

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Momma often rolled her eyes and said “Bull!” when she felt we fed her a tall tale, or she used the cliche’ “He’s full of bull,” meaning he’s full of you know what (wink). I no longer subscribe to those cliches. Don’t go offending my bull now, Momma! In the case of Ferdinand, I hope someone thinks I’m full of bull, for he’s a bull with a lot of heart. See you soon Ferdinand.

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Posted in Christian, family matters, Farm life, Minsitry, Motherhood, Parenting, Writing

If Chestnut Trees Could Talk Week 3

 

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Many times when you plant a young tree you stake and tie it, so it has a support system for growth, but a Chestnut Tree shouldn’t be staked and tied when it’s newly planted unless it has an immature root ball.  A Chestnut Tree needs the movement to grow. When a Chestnut Tree sways in the wind, it stimulates its roots to grow, and also allows the trunk to become thicker at the base. This movement creates a healthy tree.

This brings us to the third thing the Chestnut Tree wants to tell us:

 

III.  When planted if a Chestnut tree is tied and staked tight, it will never grow roots and a trunk that can weather the storm.

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My son Nick came home from FSU for Christmas break, not looking healthy. He’d lost weight, and his eyes sunk deep into his pale face. Each morning, he headed out the door and didn’t return until late. Everything in my Momma body screamed something was not right. One afternoon, I received a text from his roommate’s mother, who was hosting a brunch for all his high school friends.

“Nick brought me flowers but didn’t stay for the brunch. He didn’t look good. I hope everything is alright.”

That night, I texted him demanding he come home immediately. I met him outside and he followed me in.

“Sit” I pointed to a dining chair across from me. I leaned over. “What’s your GPA?” I said.

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His eyes teared up. “I don’t have a GPA, Momma. I received a call on the way to the brunch. I’m on academic suspension for a semester.” He spilled the whole story. He couldn’t handle the 16 hours I made him sign up for in his freshman year. He found himself buried after the hurricane when a week of makeup work was piled on top of his regular week, which started a cherry-picking of which class he’s doing well enough to skip, in order to catch up in another. He’d always been good at school, and now he sat across from me with his tail tucked between his legs. He was having an identity crisis.

“I stayed up all night studying and vomited on test days. I panicked and then I made stupid mistakes, like forgetting to email my speech to my professor, which earned me a 0 on the whole project.” He shrugged. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

I recalled a conversation with my husband Jay, during Nick’s senior year.

“I’m concerned life’s been too easy for Nick,” I said. “He’s never failed at anything. He’s always been a good student, good at computers and editing, he’s talented in art, he picked up a guitar and learned how to play. Everything he touches turns to gold. I’m scared when he does fail, he’s not going to know how to recover.”

“He’ll be fine,” Jay said.

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I’ve gone over and over in my mind the picture of my boy. I think of mothers who have heard worse news from their boys, like the parents who showed up for parent’s weekend only to find their son died the night before from alcohol poisoning. This could be so much worse.

He hung his head and promised to pay us back. “Maybe I’ll just quit college and work for Dad, I can learn the business.”

“No, you’re not. You’ll untuck your tail and try again. Look, I can handle bad grades. I’m not happy about it, and we did lose money, and I’ll admit I’m a bit embarrassed to tell family and friends, but that’s just my pride and money can be replaced.” I reached for his hand. “To be honest, I’m relieved it’s not something worse.”

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Life is messy. Sometimes, we have to flap in the wind to learn how to weather the storms.

My son is flapping in the wind like those Chestnut trees on the farm. He’s learning how to weather the storms of failure, criticisms, and a confidence beating, but the roots of humility, perseverance, and faith will spread. His trunk will strengthen. Too often as parents, we tether our children too tight to our aprons strings, and they never learn coping skills. The best lessons we can teach is how to turn to God when they’re in trouble, and how to learn from failure.

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Nick is reading Discerning God’s Will, by Richard Case and journaling. It is a crash course on hearing God’s voice. He is on academic suspension until summer, when he will start again with a clean slate.

“I’ve been praying about my degree. I pray a lot in the car. God will show me what to do, for now, I volunteered to work for a guy starting an oyster business,” he said.

He also has an interview with the city of Tallahassee to volunteer for several organizations this Friday and is re-thinking a business degree.

“Would you guys be okay, if I just pursued my passion in Marine Biology?” Something, Jay and I talked him out of. (Momma has had to take some responsibility. No judging. I’m a work in progress.)

Nick is spending a semester spreading roots and growing a thick trunk so he can bear fruit no matter what storms come along.

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What about you? Do you see failure as hopeless? Or do you see it as an opportunity for growth and change?  Next week the Chestnut tree wants to tell us what protects them until they are ready to nourish others. Have a great week!

 

Posted in Christian, Christmas, Farm life, Minsitry, Women

The Two G’s: Grief and Gratefulness

Dear Sisters,
My sister Tricia Baines passed December 19, and the cows on the farm began dying by New Years. When the Baines family heard, they packed up and headed south to the farm to help out. By the time we arrived, over 100 cows were put down, and Thomas ( my brother-in-law), Caleb, and Peyton (their children) had been vaccinating, tagging, and hand-feeding the calves left without a mother. How ironic!
Peyton was feeding the last sick Momma cow by hand. When I heard the news, I prayed all the way to the farm God would heal that cow for Peyton’s sake. Although, one morning Peyton stated matter of fact, the cow was suffering and needed to be put out of her misery. The men grabbed their rifles, and I watched Peyton and Colin jump in the gator to see it done. The answer to my prayer was “no.” Needless to say, it was a sad Christmas season.
By the third month anniversary of my Tricia’s passing, I thought I was surviving without her just fine, for my day was consumed with the unending demands of an infant again, and searching for my missing feline Finley. My husband was out of town for a few days, when the dam broke. The tears sprang up, and I couldn’t stop them any longer. I was dealing with three events back to back that left me broken-hearted and bleeding internally.
While living with me in Orlando, Tricia shared my pain over loosing two cats, and loosing Finley brought those loses to the forefront of my thoughts. She went with me to Tipsey’s (my three- legged Maine Coon) appointment. She sat in the waiting area, while I consulted with the vet over his swollen jaw.
“I’m sorry to report it’s cancer,” he said. The sharp irony of his words pierced through me, and my eyes widened before swelling with tears. He snatched the box of Kleenex and handed it to me.
“I hate cancer!” I said, flailing my arms towards the waiting room. “My sister whose sitting out there, she has cancer. She just received chemo yesterday! What is this the cancer…cancer… apocalypse?”
He looked a little stunned, and unprepared to deal with an emotional wrecking ball who felt her universe was caving in. “I’m so sorry.” He patted my back. “We can put him on chemotherapy, but I believe it will only prolong his suffering. My best advice is to take him home, love him, and spoil him, and when it’s time, you will know.”
When it’s time…I will know…I didn’t want to know.
Tricia’s eyes met mine as I carried Tipsey out. She nodded and put her arm around me. Without words, she knew the diagnoses.
The time came a few months later.
“Make the appointment Tammy,” she said. “He’s suffering.” I knew it was hard for her to watch a cat suffer with the same disease that invaded her.
Once again, she waited while I went in. I knelt beside Tipsey, and told him I loved him. I thanked him for being such a great companion to us. He was the best cat we’ve ever had special needs and all.
The nurse wiped her eyes.
The day I adopted him I intended to adopt a kitten, when this huge Maine Coon chirped at me from the cage. He wrapped that one paw around my neck and held tight and I knew he was mine. He was a lap cat, loved his Daddy’s lap best. At the sound of a can popping open, he hopped down the hall like a bunny and slid into the kitchen doorway. He was a love ball wrapped up in fur.
I looked into his eyes, and nodded at the vet. “I’m ready.”
He injected him with the potion that would close his eyes forever.
“Look at me Tipsey. I love you! You go to sleep now.” His eyes focused on me, and with one last chirp, they went blank.
Tricia came in after, and said her goodbyes.
“I prayed so hard for his healing.” I said on the way home.
She stared out the window. “Tammy sometimes the answer is no. We just have to accept it, even if we can’t understand, no matter how hard we try.”
I knew she was not merely talking about the cat.

Now it seemed once again the answer was no, and I didn’t understand why I was to undergo something painful on the back of the enormity of loosing my sister.
I wept for three days. Exhausted from keeping up the pretenses that I’m okay with it all. I threw on a sundress to attend a baby shower for my cousin, but when I saw my belly pooch, I wailed all over again, so I stayed home. I didn’t want to see anyone, for I felt my God didn’t hear me. I questioned if my pleas fell on deaf ears. I placed all my faith in Finley’s return.
The storm of grief can swallow you just when you’ve safely reached the shore. My missing cat made me miss my sister more. I wanted to cry out to her, for she had been there for two of my cats deaths, but now she was gone.
In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon wrote “There is a time for everything a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to mourn and a time to dance… .” There is a time to grieve. If you are in a grieving season as I, there is a coping skill to bring you out of the swells of sorrow It is another “G” word…Gratitude.
Being thankful for my blessings in spite of my sadness keeps me afloat. I have many more things to be thankful for, than to be sorrowful for. My daughter’s giggle, my husband’s love, my boys obedience…(except when it comes to cleaning their room), the ability to pay the bills, the daffodils on my table. I have to accept the no’s just as I accept the showers of “yeses”. I don’t have to understand I just have to trust He knows what He is doing.
Last week, I wrote one last message on our community website regarding Finley’s disappearance. I knew it was a shot in the dark, but I had to try once more. I received a message back from a woman who lives across the highway in another neighborhood. She saw a tailless-orange cat walking into her neighborhood. The boys and I covered that community in posters with the promise of a reward if found.
Yesterday, a compassionate neighbor called.
“He shows up here every 3 to 4 days begging for food. He’s very vocal and seems friendly. I’ve never tried to catch him. I just set the food out, but we’ll try to catch him next time he shows up.”
I am praying it is Finley, and we will be able to get him back, but if it’s not I need to accept the fact that the answer is “no”, and move on. I will grieve the fact I may never see Finley again, but I can be grateful I will see my sister some day.
When my sister passed my former roommate’s mother hugged me and said. “I know right now you are sad, but think about how excited you will be when your time comes, for someone you love has gone before you, and she’ll be waiting for you there.” Now, that’s something to be grateful for. My sister will be looking for me.