Jesus in 2017: Resolution to Revolution


Happy New Year!

Look forward—that’s the general theme of January. Many of us make resolutions we can’t keep, promising to be more forgiving, and/or throwing out old habits and junk. I quit making resolutions a few years back. Why? Because I never kept them.

The most profound resolution I’ve ever made was over three decades ago. I resolved to try and be the hands, feet, eyes, the very spirit of Jesus on earth. Oh, yes, I’ve failed miserably. But I’ll keep trying.

Why? Because I’m hooked, fascinated, Holy-Ghost filled. Because the premise seems too good to be true: Some two-thousand years ago, Christ incarnate walked the earth as an ordinary man named Jesus. Sent by a holy God, His own Father, who wanted to redeem us, His creation, from sin and death!

The Bible tells us that nothing about Jesus’ appearance was outstanding. He was only thirty years old when He started His ministry, a carpenter prior to that. Probably strong from walking and from his trade. His face was likely ruddy, his hands rough. No one would have pointed to him and said, “Oh look, the Son of God!” Even his name was ordinary for the time.

Today it’s this very ordinariness that makes many people take notice. Because how could someone so nondescript, so common, become the most influential, most celebrated man to ever live. If I were to argue for Christ, I wouldn’t point to his miracles, His amazing sermons and parables, or even His love. No. I would just say, “How could such an ordinary person change the world in such an extraordinary way unless He was who He said He was—the Son of God.” And close behind, how could twelve men, His disciples, mostly laborers, common and uneducated, take the gospel to the world? Further, why were these men willing to be martyred for him?

And if that ancient truth isn’t enough, two-thousand years later, lives are still being transformed because of the Gospel of Christ. Peace, joy, and love transform hearts and minds. A spiritual dimension once unknown opens eyes to the goodness, the mercy, the love, the very person of God. You see your “neighbors” in a new and enlightened way. Supernatural experiences become a reality. Even dying isn’t an issue.

Witness the twenty-one Christian Egyptian martyrs beheaded by the madmen of ISIS. Not one of them renounced Christ. Why? I mean, really. . . Why? They could’ve lied. Thinking about it, I wonder if I might’ve considered lying. There’s a lot of pre-Pentecost Peter in me and I fear I might’ve denied Him, might’ve said, “Okay, I’ll convert to Islam.” And then after the flogging for indecent dress, after the burka and the baptism from hell, I would’ve tried to hold Jesus in my heart as they scrutinized my every whisper. But, not these young, brave men.

I will never forget their images: twenty-one orange-clad heroic souls, their faces calm, some praying, their hooded, cowardly captors dressed in black, leading them as though they were dogs on a short leash. I wish I’d turned away.

How I prayed for their families, and hold that thought . . . how I prayed for their murderers. No, I didn’t pray they would be blessed. I prayed God would reveal Himself to them. (Which actually is a blessing) That He would convict them and they would see themselves the way God sees them. That the Almighty Creator would allow them a glimpse into the hearts of these decent Christ followers and it would haunt their nights and change their own hearts.

So, why did these martyred Christians not convert to Islam? Because the resolution they made to serve Christ is part of the revolution that Jesus began. People in Islamic countries know the risks, but even at the point of death, they know the benefits are greater. They/We are part of a bigger plan.

We, as Americans, must especially develop a determination, a resolve to be more like brave Christians around the world who stand up to ISIS, other terrorists, and hostile-to-Christian governments. More like those who work tirelessly to spread the Gospel of Christ, to feed the hungry, the thirsty, the poor. Even more like those who pray for those in ministry and in turmoil, and those who are especially forgiving, thoughtful, kind, and generous.

And my resolution, coupled with yours and others becomes the revolution that will eventually change the world and restore Christ to His throne. We don’t all have to die for Christ, but we should all live for Christ.

So as you make your New Year’s resolution, I hope you’ll remember God’s love, His Grace, and His promise: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Think about what this promise must mean to Christian martyrs, now at an all-time high, around the world. Think about what it meant to those rag-tag disciples of old who followed in the footsteps of Christ, eleven of them martyred.

Most of all, remember the one Man, Jesus, who left a throne in the kingdom of heaven to walk the dusty earth in cloth and sandals, unshaven, unkempt, and at the end, unloved. He died brutally for you and for me and we owe Him everything. Like those disciples who’ve gone before us, let us resolve to be part of the revolution, to spread the Good News of Christ’s coming and of His return.

In January 2017, and always, that’s a resolution worth making. Worth living for. And many think, worth dying for.

new-year-1898575_1920

 

Leaving LoRayne

With a dab of perseverance and a dollop of faith, My Aunt LoRayne proved to me that in the worst of circumstances, all things are possible with God!!

The worst nine months of my life? Possibly. Mostly because I have fibromyalgia, a little known illness that sometimes includes chronic pain and debilitating fatigue. The doctors back then had told me to stay stress free. Oh sure…

Actually, I was doing okay until my Aunt LoRayne was found lying on the church lawn a block from her home, having suffered a heart attack. Alan, my husband, and I drove the hour and a half to Williamson, LoRayne’s and my home town, only to be told her heart was too weak for an operation. I arranged for her to see a specialist in our capital city of Charleston, West Virginia, Dr. K.C. Lee.

Dr. Lee was compassionate, but honest: LoRayne had a 50 percent chance of surviving the surgery because of her deteriorating heart.

Faith in hand, LoRayne, or Lo, as we called her, didn’t hesitate to let Dr. Lee know who was in charge. “God didn’t let me survive to let me die,” she told him. “Between you and God, I’ll be fine.” She dismissed her grim odds. Remarkably, she did much better than expected and came to rest and recuperate with Alan and me after her surgery.

The counselors were emphatic about her diet restrictions, particularly one: “Feed her no sodium.” Not to worry. Because of my own health, I was sensitive to medical instruction. I scoured the aisles at the local grocery and made her meals from scratch. I wasn’t staying stress free, but God would see me through. It won’t be that long and she’ll be able to care for herself, I told myself.

Two weeks later, a thud in the middle of a restless night jarred me fully awake. I found Lo bunched up on the bedroom floor. We rushed to the hospital by ambulance, where an Emergency Room physician quizzed me as to why there was no sodium in my aunt’s system.

“Well they told me not to…”

In my zeal, I had overdone my job and almost killed my aunt. I called the hospital. “You distinctly said ‘NO sodium!” I said.

The voice on the other end was incredulous. “Nobody omits ALL the sodium!”

It was a relief of sorts: a fixable solution and we could finally go out to dinner! LoRayne and I were both ecstatic. She was as tired of eating bland meals as I was of cooking them.

Alan allowed me to sleep in the mornings, checking on LoRayne before work and sometimes fixing her breakfast. My sharp-minded aunt and Alan discussed news and political events, religion, and even one upped each other with sports statistics. The patient was doing better than the primary caregiver—me!

We joked about the sodium incident each time I cooked. Maybe it was because of that episode that I wasn’t overly alarmed when I found LoRayne disoriented and teetering in the bathroom. I remember thinking: It’s probably a deficiency of something.

A quick phone call and Alan informed me she had been alert and capable when he left.

“Lo, let’s get you dressed.” She responded with gibberish and could barely walk. As I prodded her arms through her blouse, fearing the worst at that point, my words consoled: “Some enzyme must be out of whack. We’ll get it fixed, darling.”

She had a routine appointment that morning with a Primary Care physician she’d briefly seen in the hospital. I decided it might be best to keep it rather than risk a long wait in an emergency room. The glaze over her eyes frightened me and I hauled a mostly incoherent, babbling woman into his office, only to be told her condition was common among the elderly—dementia. He might as well have told me she was the bride of Frankenstein.

“It’s not possible,” I kept repeating. “Last night she recited a recipe from memory and we played gin rummy after dinner. Dementia doesn’t come on like the flu!”

But, he wasn’t her regular doctor and didn’t know the intelligent, take-charge woman who had suffered a heart attack just a few weeks ago. Telling us nothing could be done, unbelievably, he sent us away.

Frustrated and more scared than I’d ever been, I drove to her cardiologist’s office, where I rigged her arms around my shoulders and dragged her inside. Hopeful though I was, he told us the same thing. “She has dementia. She’s old!” Yes, but…

People stared as I lugged LoRayne through doctor’s buildings. Haven’t you ever seen a drooling, old person being towed by a hysterical middle-aged woman?! With only one option left, I asked if she had enough energy to visit her surgeon, Dr. Lee. She nodded yes and I knew she was as scared as me. Oh Lord, why didn’t I call an ambulance this morning?

“I’m so sorry LoRayne.”

She shook her head lovingly, but the glaze scared me. What if Dr. Lee turns her away? I knew we were both thinking the same thing.

Dr. Lee saw her immediately and after a few word and sight tests, he knew she’d had a stroke, a diagnosis I’d figured out by then. He would admit her to the hospital. Tears flooded her face and I fell sobbing in a grateful and exhausted heap into his chair. Every muscle and bone in my body ached.

The right side of LoRayne’s body was paralyzed and her speech was garbled. They told us she’d probably never speak clearly or walk again. Lo rolled her eyes. “We’ll see about that!” they said. Having survived countless operations during her life, she and God were up to the challenge.

My caregiving was now replaced with rehab visits.

Several weeks later, she left rehab shuffling on a walker and talking, some words garbled, a few understandable. Her progress was amazing, but she had a long way to go. Alan and I worked with her and she continued therapy. Every day marked a small milestone. She was my sidekick and though the stroke had made her emotionally dependent on me, she insisted her goal was to live independently.

After months of home therapy and care, amazingly, she felt ready to live on her own with a part-time caregiver. And she wanted to go home, to Williamson, back to her church and friends. We sold her house, found homes for the stuff she didn’t need, and found an apartment in a high rise for the elderly, a short walk into town. Perfect. Within weeks she was set up for housekeeping, complete with caregiver. She was excited and scared and so was I. Add to that totally exhausted. It had been nine long months and some days I felt near total collapse.

Not so for Lo! She was excited about her new living arrangement and the wonderful women who shared the seventh floor. “God put me in the perfect spot,” she informed me. She made it sound more like a sorority than an apartment.

Still, she was emotionally dependent on me; we talked on the phone several times a day and always before bedtime. I was excited for her, but the responsibility for her finances, the detailed care, the selling of her house, and the parceling of furnishings had taken a major toll. My fibromyalgia flared to a new level. And then depression set in. Alan suggested we take a month and drive through the Rockies. I loved the West, but it seemed too soon to leave LoRayne. Plus, the repercussions to my own body might upset the plan.

“We’ll be laid back,” Alan assured me. “We’ll stop and go as you want and sightsee at our leisure.” A perfect plan. I worried about broaching it to Lo, but after telling her, she seemed okay. However, the day before we left, she cried into the telephone: “I can’t believe you’re leaving me!”

My heart dropped. “I’m not leaving you, Lo, I’ll be gone a few weeks, we can still talk on the phone, and if there’s an emergency, I’ll fly home.” That seemed to satisfy her.

Two days into the journey, however, LoRayne cried into the telephone again: “Don’t leave me! Please don’t leave me alone!” I listened in disbelief and tried to reassure her. “You’re not alone, Lo. You have a wonderful support system of friends, a caregiver, and you have God.” But each call was the same. By the time we got to Kansas I told Alan we should probably turn back.

Alan was my angel. “I’ll do whatever you think best, but you need to think about your health, too,” he said.

Prayers and tears came easily that night. “Dear God,” I prayed, “please show me what to do, because, Lord, if LoRayne is the same tomorrow, I’m turning around.” It was probably after 2:00 a.m. when I finally dozed off.

I told Alan what I’d prayed without much enthusiasm about the possible result. However, when I called Lo that morning, she said, “I’m so sorry, Karyn. Please don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

I was stunned! Thank you, Lord! When I found my voice, I asked, “What happened?”

She had prayed to Father God and had spoken to her caregiver; both had told her what she already knew—she was acting childish and selfish. Her words. My aunt had never been either. Emotionally she had to untie the rope and set herself free and with Father God’s help, that’s exactly what she did.

It started out harrowing, but Alan and I had a wonderful vacation and Lo gained a new sense of independence. She’d been told she’d never walk or talk again, but in less than a year, God rendered a different verdict. We serve an awesome God!

When I look back, I see that the impossible was made possible with God. He was always there—prodding, helping, and carrying—serving as caregiver to both Lo and me, giving each of us what we needed at precisely the right moment.

IMAG0064 (3)

IMAG0067 (2)

A Love that Never Died

Thanksgiving is about love—love of God, family, country, and for some, just love of food. I’m thankful for much, but especially for family, particularly my Aunt Jeanette, above with her grandson, Rod McCoy. By the grace of God, she is still with us, miraculously. Hope you enjoy this story I chose for Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! kcs

She had searched under her bed, through her closet, behind the dresser, and throughout her bathroom. Nothing. Maybe she was wrong; maybe she hadn’t smelled something burning after all. Things had started to change as she aged, her 84 year old brain worked fairly well, but maybe her sniffer wasn’t quite up to par. Still, my Aunt Jeanette checked the room several times that balmy June morning in 2010.

My brain doesn’t work as well as my Aunt Jeanette’s, and even if it did, I couldn’t remember back to when Jeanette met her future husband, Paul McCoy. Or even back to 1949, when diapers were my underwear of choice.

Back then, I was the first grandchild to debut. As such, my aunts, uncles, and parents often sat me in their midst where I mesmerized them with baby gibberish as I tried to eat my toes or yank on one of my fourteen hair strands. They would make faces and ridiculous goo-goo sounds as they coaxed me to their laps. Like other oft-told stories from my childhood, this one seems like a memory, but I was much too young to remember.

Paul McCoy wasn’t my blood uncle, but I didn’t understand what that meant until I was too old to care. By then, blood, coca cola, or whiskey couldn’t have kept me from my fun-loving uncle. He was a big man, tall, with brute strength, always teasing or pranking, scrubbing your head with his knuckles, and telling you the latest and best of the dozen or so jokes he’d just learned. He was always happy to see every person who walked through his front door.

Jeanette feigned exasperation at Paul’s jokes and stories, but exposed her affection by repeating them often. They were quite the pair; Paul was an early bird, Jeanette was a night owl. She’d often cajole her nocturnal kin to drive around our small town, looking for neither mischief nor mayhem in the early hours, just laughter and crazy fun. I’ve made that circuit with Jeanette, my mother, and Jeanette’s daughter, Cheryl, more times than I can say.

The years passed; Jeanette and Paul grew older and we children grew up. In 1997, Paul succumbed to diabetes and passed into heaven. Jeanette’s friskiness was understandably curtailed. Her heart and humor were forever intertwined with her husband, and his death, she often stated, was the worst thing that ever happened to her.

Make no mistake, the myriad surgeries and ailments she had suffered were major calamities in their own right—hip replacement, knee replacement, even breast cancer. All told, nine operations. And although she was grateful for the years she’d survived since Paul’s death, not having her best friend and soul mate to share it with still brought tears to her eyes.

And that morning in 2010, she was acutely aware that there was no one to confirm or deny the burning smell that may or may not have been. And, so, she went about her day, making the trek from her bedroom to the kitchen, and passing, as she always did, the photograph of the man she couldn’t remember not loving, which hung prominently on the living room wall.

In the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians, the eloquent St. Paul writes: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Jeanette knew the quote, but her husband was gone, and in her twilight years, when her senses weren’t what they once were, when her confidence waned, she needed him more than ever.

That evening in 2010, around eight o’clock, Jeanette did something uncommon; she fell asleep on the family room sofa. It was early for her, but it had been a long, busy Friday—cleaning day—and she’d worked harder than usual. Fatigue swept over her, driving her into a deep slumber.

How long did she sleep? She couldn’t quite say, but something in her subconscious was nudging her to awaken. A noise . . . buzzing. What? Finally, groggily, she realized the phone was ringing and reached to pick it up.

“Hello.”

“Grandma, I knocked and knocked and you didn’t answer,” said the voice on the other end. “I’m outside.”

Jeanette quickly arose and opened the door to her grandson, Rod.

“I have the keys to Chad’s truck,” he said, referring to his cousin, another of Jeanette’s grandsons, and laid the keys on the kitchen table next to her purse. It was an odd time for him to come by. Odd that he had Chad’s keys.

She shook off her sleepiness and walked outside to say goodbye, where they chatted, as they often did.

Just minutes had passed when Rod glanced up, startled. “Grandma, look!” he said, pointing to the left side of the house.

She turned to see an alarming gray haze rising like a storm cloud from the living room. They rushed inside to find every crevice of her one-story home filled with smoke.

“My purse!” Jeanette, near hysterics, covered her mouth. “I have to get my purse.”

Rod jockeyed to move from the hallway into the kitchen, but the dense fog blocked his vision and choked him. He retreated. “Can’t do it,” he said, and led his grandmother outside. It was not only an impossible feat, but surprising, given the short time they’d been outside.

When the fire truck arrived, a fireman retrieved her purse, but the house was a loss.

It seemed a blur, this finite period of time that had assaulted and then plundered her. That had brought her from a groggy awakening to now standing in the dark with flashing red lights and puddles of water and meandering hoses. Without a fresh set of clothes or a place to sleep. Without a safe harbor. Tears covered her cheeks. Except for Paul’s death, nothing had ever compared to this.

The next day she and her children made their way through the charred remains of a life well lived, now mounds of soot and ash. The furniture, pictures, clothing, books, shoes, linens, eye glasses, and vast array of Christmas ornaments—everything was ruined. Glass shards littered the sooty floor beneath the blackened lop-sided picture frame that had held Paul’s photograph, now missing from the frame. Once again, Jeanette couldn’t contain her tears.

Her daughter, Cheryl, noticed what must have looked like the tip of an angel wing peeking through the midst of the dismal gray floor residue. She bent down to investigate and pulled the whiteness up and out of the ashes like the Phoenix arising. After blowing the soot off, she gasped, “This is impossible!” Then she turned the photograph so her mother could see the familiar head shot of her husband Paul.

They were speechless. (The second miracle of that day!)

Though her home and her valuables had burned, Jeanette understood—the love that burned in her heart lived forever. Forever. And it had just been confirmed, miraculously, unbelievably. As she stared at the perfectly intact photograph, she knew it was a gift. Paul McCoy, by God’s Grace, had made an appearance on the second worst day of her life, an appearance she desperately needed. Love had reached out of heaven and shown its face, healing some of the heartbreak.

The Psalmist writes, “For He will give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” And so He had. From Rod waking her unexpectedly from what could have been, to Paul’s coveted picture escaping the blaze. Miracles existed in her world.

One day she’d be reunited with the man she loved, because love, as St. Paul promised, never fails. And Paul and Jeanette’s love surely never died. xxx

Below left is the recovered picture of Paul. Right, is a rare picture of them dancing. Today, Jeanette is 89. She has survived the odds, many of her friends, her seven siblings, and her husband. She still lives alone, cleans her own house, and goes to every home basketball game her high school alma mater plays.

Paul head shotIMAG0044 (2)

The Forever Season

Yellow, brown, scarlet, and orange—the brushstrokes of angels bring autumn’s beauty to life. Instead of enjoying the pageantry, I busy myself lamenting the stark wintry weather that will soon ravage fallen leaves, old bones, and the landscape. Those merry folks who embrace winter’s bite make me grumpy, honestly. Vapor rises from their breath, liberating squeals of joy, as tongues escape to catch snowflakes. Bliss for them, despair for me.

I scold myself: Do not despise what hasn’t yet come!

Still, winter arises for me each year like the wilderness trip for the Israelites. It seems to last forever and I yearn for it to be over. It feels longer than other seasons, meaner. But in the valleys of our lives, when we face dragons and demons and worries and winter, we are empowered to survive, to rise above whatever metamorphosis, whatever pit of despair or anguish, winter brings.

As leaves flutter in the breezy wind that will soon make me gasp, I ponder the philosopher’s question: Could I truly appreciate summer had I never known winter? In this body that feels every nuance of cold, I scream “Absolutely!” Just as I know right from wrong, though the boundaries challenge many in the 21st Century, “Yes!” I don’t need a comparison to cherish the difference.

But then I laugh. Taking things for granted is a human condition I can scarcely escape.

When I am still unbundled and carefree, I enjoy watching cascading leaves on that perfect autumn Wednesday or Sunday when the day can’t decide if it should be hot or cold and so it climbs up and back down that Fahrenheit scale until my closet is a mishmash of sandals and boots, sleeveless dresses and coats, sweaters and shorts.

In autumn, I like the way the glass catches the sun at my window, it’s feigning-friendly ray sneaking into the warm indoors, until its untimely eventide turns—into a blistering chill against my unsuspecting window pane. I even like it though spiders trail the sun into the nice, warm shadows of my home and spin dusty looking webs.

Autumn is that compromise between extremes, a lesson perhaps, bestowing a leafy, cool reception for winter’s gray and white affliction. It doesn’t sadden me like winter. It just disappears much too quickly.

Nowadays, seasons seem to depart faster than they come, faster than the weather that defines them. Reformed of centuries-old lore: Sun scorches. Leaves fall. Snow pelts. Rain pours. Quoth God’s seasons, “nevermore.”

This prose, these lyrical phrases I’ve written with the vain imagination of emulating my poetic friends, evokes a smile and a recollection of the romantic John Keats. His lusty spring, summer nearer heaven, autumn of contentedness, and winter of pale misfeature.

Seasons are the song of the poets. For Keats and his kin, they are metaphors for life. However, seasons, like their defining weather, cycle endlessly. Human seasons are finite. Once we reach what Keats called the pale misfeature of life—brought on, not by sunless days, but by maturity—the spring in our footstep lessens and we move closer to winter’s finale.

Manes and whiskers turn bristly and white, and eyes dim, as the autumn years become wonderful, long-ago memories. Soon, the effortless, anticipated wounds of winter will linger once too long and the curtain on our final encore falls. Goodbye, we say, to loved ones and planet earth.

It makes me sigh and smile. This juncture in my life is not fearful.

I anticipate it!

If we know Christ, we must never fear seasons of change. Even as breath becomes a whisper that fades into the universe, we are still merely evolving. We get to (yes, it’s a privilege) escape our earthly bodies and embrace a heavenly spirit. At least that’s what I believe.

Like the butterfly fleeing it’s cocoon, untouched as it makes its debut, so God’s grace, that Holy miracle we can scant understand transforms and welcomes earth’s pilgrims as we discard our fleshly cocoon and encounter our eternal home. And like the butterfly, we are liberated, declared by a Holy God to be, not sinless, but guiltless before the Creator who loved us enough to undergo the earthly metamorphosis of seasons for Himself.

In the summer of His life, He died on a cross, ensuring that when our winter expires, it will mark a new and amazing beginning—a heavenly eternity—rather than the end.

Quoth God’s seasons, “Evermore.”

 

snow (2)Butterflysmokebush back

This Side of Heaven

Ever feel like a cosmic force has sucked you into space, spun you around, and then slammed you back hard against the earth? And then afterwards, if that wasn’t bad enough, it happens all over again!

This was the beginning of one of those moments. If you’ve ever been stretched to your limit, and then some, you’ll understand what I’m about to say.

It started simply enough: My husband, Alan, and I were snuggled up on pillows, reading in bed when I heard a voice. It said, “Be patient with your Aunt LoRayne.”

I lowered my book and looked at Alan. “Why did you say that?”

He peered over his magazine. “Say what?”

“You said I should be patient with LoRayne.”

“No I didn’t.”

Uh oh. The Voice was as clear as an announcement, and even though I’d never heard God speak, I knew it was Him. That, or I was developing multiple personalities.

Had I been raised in a different family, (see Something about Karyn) I probably would’ve ignored it. Must be my imagination working overtime I would surely have thought. And for good reason. For months, we had been making exhaustive, weekly trips to Atlanta for my mother, Naomi Cantees’, care, but this time was different. We were nearing the end.

You see, my 55 year old mother was dying of cancer. Intensifying the situation, my Aunt LoRayne believed she would be healed, regardless of the diagnosis. Having a cancer patient in the family or being a cancer patient, many of you know, is a roller coaster ride from hell. One day things seem okay, yet the next, Last Rites can be in order. One Charleston doctor had advised us, “Don’t drag your mother all over the country looking for a cure.”

But we had, finding a renowned physician at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta who had performed the difficult surgery for colon cancer the first doctor had advised against.

Then the Voice had said to be patient. And I knew why.

LoRayne’s positive slant on even the worst prognosis was making me fruit-loopy, even though she was steadfast to help. Still, that constant diet of highs and lows, of becoming excited about something positive she’d relay only to learn that reality was nearly the opposite, made me weary, and leery of anything she said.

However, after three long years we all knew the end was near. Well, eveyone except LoRayne.

She and I were taking 12 hour shifts staying with Mother at Emory Hospital, and I was due to relieve her. I phoned to see how things were going before I left, as we sometimes did.

LoRayne was upbeat. “There are complications,” she said, “but Naomi’s condition appears to be reversing!” What! This was Mother’s last chance, and I wanted desperately to believe. LoRayne’s words offered the only lifeline we had left and so I clung to the lilt in her voice and the magnificence of her words, though her past assertions had thumped me. Hanging up, I unleashed a bucket of tears, thinking: Could we possibly be planning a celebration instead of a funeral?

Almighty God, it seemed, had answered our prayers.

LoRayne drove from the hospital that day and I decided to walk. It was an early summer morning and the news had invigorated me.

When I arrived in the room, I smiled and threw my arms around Mother.

“What’s going on?” she asked. “I’m excited about your news,” I said.

Mother looked away. “What did LoRayne tell you?”

When I told her, Mother started to cry. “I’m so sorry, darling, but that’s not exactly what the doctor said.” She explained that an annoying itch she had complained about was the complication LoRayne mentioned. It had been diagnosed as skin cancer. Another cancer. Though it was likely treatable, the original sarcoma was still killing her.

I sat through my shift rather civilly, considering the lump in my throat was jump kicking between my feet and my head. I was restless and angry, but I hid it from Mother.

The acting ceased when I retired my shift early. I found LoRayne in her hotel room. Something outside of me took over. I screamed, “How could you do this? Skin cancer can’t possibly be a sign that everything is okay?” Over and over. I had been thumped from the foot of the grave to the heavens one time too many.

And then I heard, not the audible Voice as before, but an expression in my heart that was just as clear. “This is what I was talking about. Be patient with your Aunt LoRayne.” I stopped mid sentence.

LoRayne began to cry. She was older than my mother, and had been a sort of surrogate mother to her sister since the two of them were young. She was wearier than me and just as distraught. That night she cried a long while. Together, we decided that she should fly home. My brother Ric took her place.

A couple of months later, Mother died.

My Aunt LoRayne believed that If you have faith as small as a grain of mustard seed, miracles will happen, just like the Bible says. She had enough faith for all of us. And maybe if we all could have believed the way she did, my Mother would have been healed. I’ve heard it said that an uncommon problem requires uncommon faith. I think there’s much truth to that. God certainly heals people miraculously and I know He answers prayers. He heard my aunt’s prayer. And while He appreciated her hopeful heart, He knew there would be no miracle for my Mother this side of heaven.

The miracle was for me—the gift of His soft yet urgent Voice. He warned me, not just to save LoRayne from my tongue lashing, but as a powerful reminder that He was mightily present.

In life and in death.

In the middle of the pain, the suffering, and the tears.

Photos:  Above: On our way to Atlanta in our Cesna. One of numerous weekly trips. With my mother Naomi Cantees and my husband, Alan.

Pic left: Mother, center, with her sisters, Ilda, left, and LoRayne, right. Circa 1944 in Belfry, Ky.

Pic. right: Mother next to my brother, Rick, at Alan’s and my wedding in Charleston, WV.

IMAG0040Ilda Nyberg, Naomi Cantees, LoRayne Dinguess for blog

The Cat that God Sent

 

In Loving Memory: 1993 – November 5, 2015

Let’s be clear: I’m a dog person.

My dog, Tiffany Jewel, had died and I’d mourned her for months. I wanted another dog, but my husband Alan and I were traveling a lot and it didn’t seem fair to board a dog so much.

Still, when we were home our house felt empty. I prayed and put it in God’s hands. A few months later, I was standing on the parking lot in front of my husband Alan’s office with two employees, Carrie, and my stepdaughter, Cindy. Between them they probably had eight cats. Cat people! Suddenly at our feet was an eight inch ball of fur, a tuxedo kitten decked out in black with white underbelly, paws, and even a white mustache. He was trying to climb my leg!

Both women oohed and ahhed, and Cindy finally picked him up. But it was my attention he wanted, bending almost backwards in her hands to stretch his front paws toward me. When she put him down, once again it was my legs he stroked with his body and my legs he tried to climb. I was having none of it. Cats were aloof and prissy. I’d had one cat princess, and one was enough.

Cindy couldn’t leave him, so she took him home. That silly cat stayed on my mind for the rest of the day. After dinner, I asked Alan if he wanted to drop by Cindy’s. He shrugged. “If you want.”

When we got to her house, the kitten was in a bathroom, because of her multiple cats and a German shepherd. After retrieving him, she asked, “Want to hold him?”

“Uh, okay.” Alan loved him on sight, but it was me he nuzzled and purred for. He had claimed me, and the fact that I couldn’t get him out of my head, meant I’d claimed him, too. He went home with us and we named him Maui, after the Hawaiian island we love.

He would sit with his legs in front of him, like a person, looking around or watching television. He’d tear through the house like a gazelle, roll a few times, sit up and look as if to say, “Never seen a tiger?” He talked vehemently, letting us know what and when he wanted something, whether for food, play, love, or treats. Never has there been a funnier, sweeter, or more lovable animal.

Now, at 21 years old, he’s a grouchy old man, eating ground cat food, getting fluid injections, and sleeping all day. Yet still adorable.

I’ll always remember the kitten he was and the cat he grew into, following me around like a dog, batting everything in sight, and begging. His favorite foods–black olives, apricots, and asparagus. He’d start at the asparagus tip and chew up the stalk.

I’ve always said he’s a dog cloaked in a cat’s body, but really, he’s his own cat. Special and loving in his own feline way. And, the truth is, I think I’m a cat person after all.

The aging Maui sometimes wakes me by swatting my face with his paw or nudging my hand over his head. It reminds me of the kitten. And I thank God, He sent me the perfect animal—a cat I couldn’t forget—and two women standing on a parking lot with me who would have never left without him.

maui.1

The aging Maui, 21 years old, still has a bit of mischief in his eyes.