Posted in Christian, Writing

Flipping Pages: A glimpse at my week

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Page One: Saturday

This time, I drove Bella into the pasture, so she could see the calves up close. Up ahead, a small black mound nestled in the tall grasses. I stopped the ATV and climbed down. Bella remained behind, while I edged closer through the field of gentle beasts. The momma cow mooed at her babe, but there was no response.

A tiny hand found mine; she’d found her courage. “Momma, you know cows don’t sleep lying down,” Bella said. “Is she dead?”

Her Aunt Tricia.

Her babysitter Vanessa.

Her Ompa (grandfather)

Three deaths crammed in four small years. She’s a seasoned soul.

“I don’t know.” I said. “Come on baby. Get up.”

“Get up girl,” Bella said.

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Page 2:  Monday

After dark, the remnants of Oma’s life in Ocala were in one last car load. She’d sold most of her furniture and walked away from the rest. We unloaded the boxes and stacked them in the room designated to be her office.

“Wow,” Oma said as she walked into her new place in Orlando. “It’s so beautiful!”

New paint… cleaned carpet…furnished…decorated… started with a desire to make all things new for her.

A few minutes later, Bella pulled on my arm. “Oma needs you Momma. Come.”

I heard the unusual sound before entering her bedroom. Her face buried in her son’s chest. “Oh Tammy!” Her arm reached for me too. Her wailing and tears made my heart ache. I realized there’s only One who can make all things new.

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Page 3 Wednesday night:

“Ladies, our two members dealing with brain cancer are unable to join us tonight because they are not feeling well right now. We need to rally around them. One needs help with driving her children to where they need to be. The other needs help with food. I will send out an email tomorrow, letting you guys know the details.”

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Page 4: Thursday morning

“You tested positive for a gene mutation called PALB2,” my gynecologist said. “It creates the rarer type of breast cancer, but it is also the most dangerous—the most invasive. It’s behind the Triple Negative Breast cancer that killed your sister.”

I swallowed. All the years of scolding her for diet soda. It was a gene all along.

“Identifying the gene mutation only raises your chances of getting the cancer by 9 percent, but if you flip over here…” She flipped the page. “It clearly states if a close relative such as your sister had the cancer your chances jump to 58 percent. Then, if there are other members of your family who’s had breast cancer it continues to raise your chances even higher.”

Great-grandmother.

Grandmother.

More recent, great aunt.

The gene slithers down the family tree puddling in me.

“I want you to see a specialist,” the doctor went on. “She’ll monitor you more closely, but she may recommend a full mastectomy. Do you have any questions?’

“What would you do if you were me?” I said.

“I would see the specialist without delay, and I would do whatever it is she recommends.”

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Page 5: Thursday afternoon:

“Knowledge is power,” my dear friend Yvonne said on the phone. She should know, her husband battled his own cancer markers for several years. “But I’ll be honest, the flip side is there’s a heavy burden carrying that knowledge.”

I hung up.

Was it better to know or remain blissfully unaware?

I didn’t know.

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Page 6: Thursday evening:

 

A sweaty, small boy emerges from the gym. I’m waiting outside. He smiles and approaches cautiously.

“Hi Bryson, I’m Tammy. The password is ____. Always ask whoever picks you up for the password okay? If they don’t know it, you do not get in a car with them.”

In the car, I put his address in my phone. The directions appeared, but as I turned onto the road they disappeared. This phone needs to be updated. Tried again, this phone needs to be updated.

I’m kicking myself.

“I’ll use my phone,” he said. He becomes my copilot.

Confident for little years, he told me he liked math was a number’s guy–none of my boys liked math. Raised by a single mom who had brain cancer, her tumor now dormant. Wondered if that made children mature faster?

His sister met us in the driveway, handed me a pile of sticky notes. Their mother’s normal thank you. I tend to save them. She wrote, “God is smiling. Psalms 139.” A passage about God knowing us, seeing all, knitting our inward parts in our mother’s womb, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

She didn’t know yet about the gene.

But God did.

 

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Page 7: Thursday night

I shot Bella the look as I held out her pajamas again. She giggled and ignored. Again. Last straw.

“Get your pajamas on now!” I spat at her.

“Hey!” Jay said. “Just calm down. Bella mind your Momma.”

The burden of the knowledge hunched my shoulders. Twisted my insides making me mean.

Later, snuggling in a chair, I opened Bella’s Bible. Adam and Eve were hiding from God. He’d told them they could eat of all the trees in the garden– except that one—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Something else had slithered down the tree, something with a voice, and Eve listened. Her bite cursed the world. Why? Why couldn’t you have been satisfied? Why did you have to eat the one God instructed you not to? Why did you want the burden of knowledge? There would be no cancers, no death, no brave boys without fathers.

But…

Then again…

I would have bit the apple too.

Flipping back to page One:

“Momma, go see if the baby calf is dead. We need to do something.” Bella said.

“Hold on. Let’s just watch and see.”

Suddenly, a floppy ear twitched.

A head popped up.

It looked at us.

On shaky legs it wobbled over to its mother dragging a long umbilical cord, before latching on and suckling.

“Awe, she’s so cute,” Bella smiled. “It’s okay Momma!”

Pure joy at the sight of this sticky new life.

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“And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold I am making all things new.’” Revelations 21:5a English Standard Version.

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** Name of boy has been changed to insure privacy.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing

A Bike With Fat Tires

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Something happens to me when I hop on my bike and head out for a ride; in my mind, I become a 10 year old. It’s as if I have no fear, and I’m transformed into that dirty, stringy, tow-headed girl who wanted desperately to keep up with the country boys. I probably smell like her too. This morning, I flew through our neighborhood gate right before it closed, jumped a few curbs, and twisted through traffic. Afterwards, as I’m parking my bike I have a conversation in my brain that goes something like this… “that was really stupid, you could’ve hit the gate. Praise God, that driver saw you! Tammy, if you wipe out jumping that curb you’re not going to jump up and yell, “That was radical!” You’re going to lie there crying, “Dial 911!” 

But, then… it’ll happen all over again tomorrow.

I have a hybrid. I love my bike. It has the wider wheels that can get me through packed sand, turf, or city traffic. Last weekend at the farm, I was eyeing my friend Ed Kobel’s bike in his garage. It had extremely wide wheels. I’d never seen a bike like it. 

“That’s the wheels it takes to get down these sandy roads?” I said nodding at the bike. “I’ve been wondering if my bike could handle it.”

“Oh yeah,” Becky, his wife said. “A normal tire can’t make it here. You have to have thick wheels to get through thick sand.” 

Thick wheels to get through thick sand… 

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Appian Way, outside Rome: That cat has no fear.

This morning on my ride I was thinking about fear versus faith. How Satan loves to throw the stick of fear into our spokes knocking us off the course God’s cleared for us. God never leads us to a place of fear. He may ask us to do something that gives us fear, but the feeling of fear and trepidation is never manifested by God. It is propagated by the enemy.  It is the enemy’s way of getting you to doubt the Father. So, if you are feeling fear about something God is leading you to do, don’t let the enemy win. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 English Standard Version.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” How is it God tells us in His Word be anxious for nothing, yet anxiety is now the most common mental illness in the US?

As Christians we are equipped to deal with anxiety and fear. The anxiety or fear I’m referring to is not birthed biologically or traumatically, it is the fear produced by insecurity in who God is, and who you were created to be. If you truly believe God and His word, you won’t let fear rule your life. 

Thick wheels can cut through thick sand. The most important tools we have to combat fear is God’s word and the Holy Spirit. If the word of God is your foundation throughout your life, you will have the ability to glide through whatever season or calling your are in. When the sands of life get thick and you feel fearful of the trail ahead, you have God’s power inside of you to break that debilitating stronghold and pedal forward.

Remember, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 ESV.

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I was a witness to the enemy’s fear tactics when my sister, Tricia was dying of breast cancer. It was around two months before she passed, and I found her sitting up in bed one morning. 

“I know you’re not going to believe me,” she said, “but Satan was whispering to me all night.”

“What were you hearing?” I said, a bit skeptical.

“Sinister laughing. Then he told me that God could’ve healed me, but He didn’t love me enough. He told me the work I did for God won’t matter once I’m gone. He told me my life with cancer was a waste, and never made a difference like I wanted it to. He was constantly repeating, you’re going to die and laughing.” 

She grabbed my hand, her palm was clammy.

“Tammy, I know where I am going. I don’t fear dying because I know I’m going to heaven, but do I have to be terrified in the process? It was so real, I looked over at Thomas to see if he was hearing it too, but he was asleep.” 

The passage in Psalms popped in my head, so I recited it to her. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, as You are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. ” (Psalms 23:4 ESV) For the first time in my life, that passage came alive between us. I fully understood God was warning us that Satan was not done with her. It wasn’t enough her body was riddled with pain. He wanted to discourage Tricia even on her death bed. We prayed that God would intercede on her behalf and He would give her peace. The Bible reminded Tricia that God is there with her in that valley, she just needed to grab on to Him. 

Tricia destroyed the bondage of fear with her faith. The next night, Tricia slept with no problem. 

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (II Corinthians 10:4 ESV)

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Jay giving me his evil expression. That would be my purse he was holding. (felt I needed to clarify)

 

Looking back now, I think about what the enemy was telling my sister. Her cancer didn’t matter… Her life didn’t make a difference to anyone. If you’ve been following this blog, you know her cancer made a difference in the life of my friend Vanessa who died one month ago from brain cancer. Vanessa Raghubir’s decision to follow Christ started by reading Tricia Baines’s story, yet Tricia died not knowing the impact her life and death had on others.

We, as Christians are God’s army. We are all a threat to the enemy. He would love to keep our journey’s stagnant our lives meaningless because we are ill- equipped with skinny tires in thick sand or paralyzed in fear of what’s ahead. Are you going to let him derail you from God’s plan for you? Or are you going to place the thick Word of Truth as your foundation and utilize the Holy Spirit’s power in the pedals?

Is God calling you to speak? Just do it.

Is God calling you to write that book or article? Do it.

Is God calling you to forgive someone? Do it.

Is God calling you to try out that Bible study? Do it.

Whatever God is calling you to do, don’t let fear win. And believe this, whatever God is calling you to do, it will be a success if you get on that bike and pedal. Ride your faith like you’re 10 years old. You’re life will be powerful!

See you on the trails! Until next week…

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 Writing

When Being Still Seems Impossible!

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“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalms 46:10 English Standard Version.

In 2015, I wrote about a citrus tree I’d planted in my small garden. (You can find the story here https://tammycarteradams.com/2015/08/28/far-reaching-branches/) My husband, Jay told me it would never produce fruit in such a small space in our garden.

            I am happy to announce…he was wrong! Fist pump!

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“Give me some dap!”

 

There are huge uh… fruit of some sort growing all over it. I believe it’s grapefruit, but I won’t know until the day it ripens, which for weeks I’ve been monitoring its progress.

            “How’s the fruit?” Jay says when I walk in the door from the garden for the umpteenth time.

            “Still green.”

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The Mystery Fruit

            After several months of this, I contacted a specialist on all matters of the universe, Dr. Goggle and found it takes 11 months for grapefruit to ripen on the vine. ELEVEN MONTHS!  I mean goodness gracious, I could die of scurvy before this fruit ripens! Kudos to the citrus farmers out there, I crown you Saints of Patience.

            Blessings follow patience I suppose. If you’ve read my previous posts titled Half -Naked and Picking Weeds Part 1-3 (You can find part 1 here: https://tammycarteradams.com/2018/05/22/half-naked-and-picking-weeds/), you’re familiar with my friend Vanessa and her battle with brain cancer. She’s being blessed for her patience.

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Bella staring out the hospital window.

            Since Half- Naked and Picking Weeds was posted, I’ve been sitting with Vanessa in her apartment while she tells me her life story. Her apartment is dark, because her eyes hurt, and I squat at the foot of her bed with pen and notebook. Somehow, we work through her sentences one by one, word by word, and I’m able to understand. (The brain tumor has affected her communication skills.)

            These past weeks, her head has been hot to the touch. So much so, one day I placed a cold cloth on it after rubbing it with oil. There was a bump rising up on her skull, along with the anxiety in my gut. Time was running out…or so I thought.

            Her mother Joan came into the room, “No Tammy take that cloth off. Jesus is using heat to heal my daughter.” I removed the cloth, remembering my sister’s hyperthermia treatment in Germany, where a doctor heated her body up and iced her brain to fight breast cancer. How ironic, Vanessa’s brain was heating up now on its own.

            Last week, my husband and I met Vanessa at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. While we waited for her MRI consult, Vanessa wrung her hands, I reached over and squeezed them in her lap.

            “Oh my gosh, I’m just so anxious,” she said.

            I touched her head. “You know it’s weird, but your head’s not hot and that bump has gone down. You look good and sound better since the last time I saw you.”

            “I know. I feel great,” Vanessa said.

            Finally, we were called back to speak with the doctor. The doctor turned from the monitor and asked her, “Are you sure you haven’t received any other treatment?”

            “No,” Vanessa shook her head. “I’ve been on hospice.”

            “Well, this is incredible. You only have one tiny spot of cancer left. Here,” She pointed to the monitor, “at the base of your brain. You can see, the swelling and the tumor have all shrunk. I suggest you get off hospice and start getting some physical therapy right away.”

            Vanessa laughed. Her mother cried. I sat speechless by it all. (Speechless is a word rarely prescribed to me.)

            You see, I’ve struggled with this whole cancer thing since my sister’s diagnoses. I’ve been asking God if He ever heals miraculously in the USA. I’ve read of many healings in developing countries where there is no medicine. Although, I’ve prayed for a miracle, I admit my faith is weak when it comes to healing. Sometimes, hopes hurt, and when they’re dashed to bits it takes time to recover. So, we build a wall around hopes and tread the perimeter with caution.

            I can’t imagine I’m the only one who feels this way.

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My sister’s daughter Peyton.

            Around two months ago, Vanessa was given two months to live. Her tumor grew and swelled her brain to a point where she wasn’t conscious. Two hospitals washed their hands of her and sent her home to be on Hospice, but God had a plan. The miracle comes when there is no other option.

            After her MRI, I sped a squealing Vanessa zig-zag down the hallway to the check out. Behind the check-out desk there was a sign on the wall. The sign was incomplete, but I knew it was meant to be noticed.2018-06-26_17.00.01

            “Vanessa, look what that sign says.” I whispered in her ear. “It says, Be still.”

            She nodded. “Be still and know that I am God,” she said.

            Perhaps, that’s why God allowed my tree to produce something to teach me to be still while He brings uh… something to a ripened state. Hmm…Maybe that’s why He’s brought me Vanessa. So, I’ll just wait…and continue praying….and maybe wiggle in my seat a bit.

            Perhaps you’d like to share how you struggle with being still, being patient, and letting God. Until next week…

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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 Writing

Half-Naked and Picking Weeds

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When I was a little girl we had this huge garden running alongside our house on Mockingbird Lane. Mornings and evenings when the heat was bearable we’d pull the weeds and collect our bounty in baskets. I can still feel the prickle of the cucumber stems and smell the pungent scent from plucking the tomato off the vine.

            My sister, Tricia and I labored in our underwear. The sun-browned our bodies to the color of mahogany and we’d moon Granny our bright white bottoms because she’d laugh so hard tears spilled out of her eyes. We didn’t have air conditioning in our home until I was almost a teenager. Daddy clutched the coins and feared a high electric bill. In case you’re unaware, summers in the Tidewater area of Virginia can get extremely hot and sticky.

            We didn’t have a microwave either. Momma feared her children would glow in the dark from the radiation. She was a purist when it came to feeding her brood. Most of our food was homemade for she didn’t like preservatives. While Tricia and I raided our cousin’s house for the Pop Tarts. No amount of begging in the grocery aisle would make my Momma cave.

            “That’s junk!” she’d said. “Do you want your poop to turn green? I’ll bake you a banana bread instead.”

            Momma was a firm believer in the color brown, brown eggs, brown bread, brown cereal, brown poop. She was obsessed with us having a good BM (Bowel Movement) every day. This obsession peaked in her wheat germ phase. As I sat guarding my mashed potatoes like a dog over a bone, and hoping Daddy would hurry up… for all things good and decent in this world… and say the blessed blessing so I could get in a few bites before she came around with that jar of brown granules…splat! It was too late, my potatoes were healthy-matized brown.

            “There! Now you’ll get a good cleaning out,” she’d said.

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            I can still picture Momma clad in a halter top and shorts standing by the hot stove. Her dark hair piled on top of her head, while her brown skin glistened from perspiration, cooking up dinner or canning the cucumbers. Without air conditioning, summer meal preparation was a true labor of love. It probably explains why Momma’s lost the joy of cooking today.

  I suppose my nostalgia stems from just returning from taking care of Momma after her surgery. Time has a way of turning the table. I was the one standing by the stove cooking the meals albeit in a nice cool kitchen.

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             I haven’t written in a while because I’ve gone through an extended season of illness. I had Influenza B, then strep invaded our home, after that a dear friend named Vanessa who’s been battling brain cancer took a turn for the worse, followed by my trip to Virginia to take care of my parents.

            Meanwhile these last two months, I’ve felt half-naked in the scorching heat picking through weeds while they keep popping up through the soil of my garden.

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            Speaking of gardens, we’ve entered the garden season at the farm. The land is plowed and planted. The families on the farm are pitching in, to weed and harvest. We are then going to learn to can the produce in an assembly-line fashion. I’m surprised I’m excited about this, and yes, for all those dirty minds out there, I wear clothes when I garden now. (Farm friends you can thank me later…Ha!) Our last attempt at gardening, we ended up with vegetables rotting on the vine, that eventually sank into the earth and fertilized the soil.

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            Lately, I’ve thought about times we feel like that, the times we feel God out of reach or not answering our prayers, the times we think He’s neglected us, left us drooping on the vine. If only we could peer into the future and see our rotten times just may be the fertilizer in someone else’s life, would we be more willing to allow ourselves to be bruised… to feel neglected? 

            I imagine Vanessa feels that way as she lies in her hospital bed suffering from seizures. There were times my sister Tricia felt as if God left her dangling on the vine during her battle with breast cancer, but her rotten part revived the heart soils of those around her.

 

            The older I get the more thankful I am for the rotten times. I hated my sister’s suffering, but it was through it my husband strengthened in his walk with God. It was through it, we all strengthened our faiths in a God who’s sovereign and holy. My sweet Tricia passed away in the winter of 2014.

            When vegetables rot on the vine, they not only fertilize the soil, but their seeds fall into the earth as well. After the vegetables have been long forgotten, a new shoot springs up from the earth. Lately, I’ve witnessed one of Tricia’s seeds in the green faith of Vanessa.

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( To be continued…)