Serendipity Sunday

Life is full of magical moments and little synchronicities.

Several happened to me last week and many of them related to my cookbook project.  This might have been the coolest.

It’s been a long standing habit of mine to check two pages of any devotional book before buying it.  Well, I bought one this week based solely on serendipity.

This first photo is from a chapter I wrote back in the Spring entitled, “The Well Stocked Kitchen”.

A Well Stocked Pantry

Now this one:  A page from a little devotional book I picked up last week at the Good Will entitled, “A Grand New Day”.   It’s the page from my birthday, March 30th.

I’m still grinning ear to ear.

Happy Serendipity Sunday to you.

Every New Beginning Ends

100_0389When my oncologist looked at me yesterday during our regular 6 week visit and said, “So you’re done!” it took me a minute to understand what he was saying.

Fresh from the treatment room where I had received the IV medication I’ve taken every 3 weeks for the last year, I was still groggy from the Benedryl. “What?”

“That’s it!  You’re all done with your treatments!”  His smile grew bigger.

“But I thought I still had 1 more!”  Much more alert, I also suddenly felt scared, interestingly enough.

“Nope. You haven’t missed any and 17 is what I generally give and today you got 17.  You’re all done.”

Nearly 24 hours later, and I can still hardly believe it.  In February of 2015, when I was told it would take 18 months to complete the course of treatment recommended, I honestly didn’t think I could do it.  18 months was a lifetime!  It wasn’t just the surgery I had to face.  It was 6 rounds of chemotherapy.  It was the 35 rounds of radiation.  It was a year’s worth of Herceptin, and all the poking and prodding and testing in between.  It sounded like a hideous 18 month clusterf*** of pain and danger and potential side effects to deal with.

This wasn’t a sprint.  It was a marathon and I hate running!

I didn’t think I could do it.  I literally did not know if I’d be strong enough or brave enough to do it!   All I felt was fear – Me, who didn’t think she was afraid of anything, was suddenly a coward begging God to PLEASE make it all go away!.  Seriously, I promised to do literally ANYTHING if it all just miraculously disappeared.

But in spite of the prayers, God didn’t make the cancer go away.  At least, not supernaturally (which I know happens.)  Instead, S/he took me by the shoulders, pointed me towards the fiery furnace, and said, “Go.  Just take one step at a time.  And I will be with you all the way.”

That’s exactly what happened.  With every step I took, God was there  walking with me, never leaving my side and – during some particularly dark moments – carrying me through the flames.  One step.  Then another and another.

Suddenly, 18 months was over.  I made it!

I believe in the power of prayer.  I believe that all prayer is answered, just not necessarily in the form that we think or hope it will be.   Experiencing an immediate deliverance or an unfolding grace for the journey – both are answered prayer and both are miraculous.

Day and night.  Light and Dark.  The Lord created them both and while we may not always understand it, the Dark IS holy.  There are certain things we can learn only by experiencing a Dark Night, as fearsome and lonely and painful and confusing as it might be.  That’s why authentic Shamans are those who have experienced a real and traumatic “death and rebirth” of some type.  Not at all like the New Age folks self-identifying as shamans after taking a few courses, beating a drum, and finding a few hawk feathers.

Learning to accept the dark days of our lives as part of the natural order of things helps relieve some of our suffering.  We come to understand that we aren’t being punished when bad things happen to us – when we suddenly find ourselves face to face with the fire.  We are being called to transform.

In 18 months, I learned to prioritize and simplify my life.  To say “No” where before I said “Yes”.  I learned who my real friends were, and how to care for myself when no one showed up.  I learned to trust “in spite of”….in spite of my fears, in spite of what others had experienced, even in spite of doubt.  My personal spiritual beliefs were honed and sharpened. I know now what I believe in, and WHO I believe in, with a deeper understanding and depth than ever before.  The dross floated to the top and has been skimmed away.

The fire purifies, if we let it.

Every tear I wept was gathered in gentle Hands and kept for safe keeping.  Every time I bowed my head….in weakness or humbleness or fear or worship…those same Hands tenderly smoothed over my hairless head and brought me physical comfort, and an soulful awareness that I wasn’t alone.

And every groan of despair that rose from deep within my belly and broke through lips cracked and blistered was turned into a song of deliverance.

The dark is not to be feared, but revered.  For without the darkness of the night sky, we’d never see the stars.

So.  That’s it! And I have such mixed emotions.  As I turn the page to close one chapter of my life, the blank page of the next is staring me full in the face.  So much has changed, but I’ve never been more ME. I’ve lost much….friends, my job, my old identity…but I’ve gained so much more.

I feel like a new being.  I know that the Next Right Thing will reveal itself to me in due season.  The right people.  The right events.  The right stuff.  Trust in the Divine Plan for my life has never been stronger, forged in the furnace of affliction.

I have walked through the fire and, as promised, made it to the other side unscathed.

To God be the glory.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” – Isaiah 43:2

The Perfect Storm

fire.jpg

That’s what they’re calling it, these infernos from Hell that are consuming tens of thousands of acres all over Southern California.  “The Perfect Storm” has completely destroyed over a thousand homes and businesses, and sent almost one million people running for their lives. It has irrevocably changed the face of many communities – and much of Southern California itself.

And it’s only Wednesday.

This is my territory, my ‘hood – Southern California. I’ve grown up here and created precious memories all along the various fire fronts.    I have memories of my days spent as a young woman on the beach and in the hills of Malibu.  I lived for awhile in San Diego and spent one long weekend at a resort in Rancho Bernardo.  In the last couple of years there were many trips to Lake Arrowhead to lounge, cruise the lake and enjoy shopping  and music with people I cared about.  Then there’s the fresh apple pie I’ve had in Julian, and the night spent in Fallbrook – avocado country!  I’ve made love in the hills of Big Bear and Ventura, and gone to the Ren Fair in Devore.  These are my stomping grounds.  And my Californian sisters and brothers in them.

I paced around the Tree House yesterday, keeping one eye on the news and the other looking out my windows at a changed landscape of my own.  It’s Nothing compared to what others have experienced.  I lost some Mexican pottery to the 60 mph winds, and everything is covered in a fine sprinkling of soot.  Then there are the piles and piles of windtorn branches and debris everywhere.  Across the way I can see at least three old trees that were snapped in half by the fingers of some invisible giant – Trees that have been rooted and growing here for probably 30 – 40 years.  And just like that! they were torn from the soil like matchsticks.

On my way in to work this morning, driving South into Irvine and nearer to the Santiago fires, the air became acrid the further I drove, and the Sun burned a blood red sky.  It’s hot and dry, but thankfully, the winds have stopped.  Only thing is, now the smoke lies like a choaking, gray fog blanketing everything in sight.  Kicking up ashes on my way to the door, I was grateful to fill my lungs with the clean air inside the building.  Even at this, my eyes sting and feel swollen, my nose is congested, and going out into the 90plus smokey heat to get to my car? It’s enough to keep me inside and at my desk for lunch.

I read the stories.  Watch the news.  Listen to the conversations around the office.  All of us have been effected in one way or another.  We’ve got employees that were evacuated in San Diego.  One of the parks in Fallbrook has almost completely burnt to the ground.

And all I can think about is…What must it feel like….

To be watching the news from an evacuation center, and see your home only yards from  consuming flames ten stories high?

To have only the space inside of your car for packing all of the ‘important’ items you’ve collected in 40, 50…70 years of life – knowing full well that the next time you return to your home, nothing will remain?

To have your son, husband, or father standing at the front lines of the Fire, inhaling smoke, blinking back cinders and fighting the damnable winds trying to get control of the Uncontrollable?  And knowing he’s trying to save the property of perfect strangers, his own life at risk of being be swept away in fire tornado?

What must it feel like to look around you and know that all of your worldly possessions just went up in smoke?

My heart breaks as I watch the news….families displaced and ‘homeless’ now.  The faces of the elderly particularly move me.  The elderly that may not have had insurance to cover their losses, who haven’t the physical or mental stamina to rebuild, restore, and recover.  Thankfully, our commuities here in California are coming together.  We’re seeing the very best of people come out, with very little of the nasty stuff our brothers and sisters in New Orleans experienced with Katrina. Maybe we were better prepared, having learned some painful lessons through their ordeal.  Maybe the people running the cities are different, somehow, or the people themselves are different.  I don’t know.  All I do know is this:

It reminds me of how important it is to build my life on something that lasts…something that cannot be consumed by fire, washed away in floods, or torn to hell by a tornado.  My life – like a house – must continue to be built upon a sure foundation of faith, love and hope, strong vital relationships, and a lifestyle that has rejected the superficial in order to dig deep into the Everlasting.

It also reminds me that I better get renters insurance.

Today is the Perfect Day to do that.