When Light Meets The Dark

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It was that time again–time to travel the 160 miles to the medical center for my husband’s cancer check-up with his oncologist/hematologist.

We left yesterday morning while it was still dark.

The darkness of uncertainty always covers us as we travel east for his appointments but the sun coming up yesterday was a reminder that God’s light would already be there to meet us when we got to the hospital.

Yesterday we received a great report from his doctor.  Bob is still responding well to the chemo drug without side effects.  He has another appointment in August and if the markers of the Leukemia in his blood reach a certain target level he will not need another bone marrow biopsy.

So we travel and trust and we know that no matter what the outcome will be in August the light of God’s presence always goes with us and before us.

We are never alone.

(This post is in response to the Daily Post’s Friday Photo Challenge:  Early Bird)

Blessings,

Nancy

Hydrate!

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I never thought I’d be that woman.  The one dehydrated and hooked to an IV, EKG, blood pressure machine, and God only knows what else all those wires were.

My family would be the first to tell you that I’m a health nut when it comes to the foods I eat but they could also tell you that they have spoken these three words to me often, “Drink more water!”

It was just a few days of being active in the sun to deplete me.

My husband and I took a break from our snow-covered state and entered a warmer climate and I was ecstatic about shedding the parka’s and boots for tennis shoes and shorts.

Coffee in the morning, a sip of water (here and there), coffee in the afternoon, a sip of water (here and there) and wine with dinner didn’t add up to enough liquid to sustain me through the hikes and all of our outdoor activities in a warmer climate.

By the way, the nurse informed me that neither coffee nor wine counts!  They are diuretics.

So there I sat for half a day in the emergency room while the doctor on staff ordered tests to determine why I collapsed that morning.

Long story short, they hooked up a bag of fluids and pumped it through me.

I was back…ready to put my hiking shoes on and go…

I’ve gulped down water like crazy everyday since and I’m feeling great.  Infusing the water with citrus helps too.

I was a woman in need of water.  I was thirsty and didn’t even know it.

infused water 2x - Copy wdpThere’s another woman who was thirsty and didn’t know it.  Let me tell you about her.

She was trying to fill the empty places in her life with temporary solutions but the solutions weren’t quenching her deepest soul-thirst.

When the women in town went to collect water from the well in the morning, she stayed back.  Maybe they didn’t want to associate with her and she knew it.

Most likely an outcast and shunned by the people in her town, she waited until noon (the hottest part of the day) knowing others wouldn’t be around to fill their jars in the heat.  That way she could avoid their glaring stares.

She was, most likely, ashamed but didn’t know how to solve her problem.

But Jesus knew and He cared.  So one day at noon He met her at the well.

Jewish people would steer clear of Samaria and take the long way around to get to their destinations.  The Samaritans were not full-blooded Jewish.  They were a mixed race and considered unclean by the Jews but Jesus thought differently.

On His way to Galilee, Jesus went through Samaria and stopped at the well to rest.

He waited for the Samaritan woman and asked her for a drink.  What a surprise that was.  First of all she was a woman.  Men didn’t talk to women in public.  Secondly she was a Samaritan (considered a half-breed and despised by the Jews) and Jesus was asking her for a drink of water?  That was unheard of!

But Jesus always surprised people and went to places others refused to go and spoke to people whom others wouldn’t think of talking to.

Jesus reached out to her and ultimately offered her a drink from His Spiritual well–the well that never runs dry and even bubbles up to eternal life.

Jesus set up that divine appointment.  He knew she was coming and made sure He was there right on time.  Jesus never misses an appointment.

He confronted the woman with her lifestyle by simply saying, “Go, call your husband and come back.”  “I don’t have a husband,” she replied.

Jesus tells her that she is right and goes on to reveal the truth about her life.

She was a woman who had 5 husbands and the man she was living with then wasn’t her husband and Jesus offered her the solution to escape her circumstances.  The solution was Him.  He offered her His Living Water so she would never be Spiritually thirsty again.

The thing is we don’t really know why she had five husbands or why she was living the way she was.  It could have been by choice.  Maybe there was abuse in her past and she didn’t know what a healthy relationship was.  It could have been that she was left by her first husband and then tossed from man to man.   Women were completely dependent on men to care for them, in those days, or they wouldn’t survive.  Maybe she held out hope that someday the right man would meet her deepest needs and solve her loneliness.

We don’t know the back story, but what we do know is that Jesus cared enough to go to Samaria to meet her and offer her true love and hope and the best part of the story is that she accepted it.

She not only accepted it but she left her earthly jar behind and ran into town with her Spiritual Living Water splashing joy on others and many believed because of her testimony.

It’s truly amazing and the story reveals the depth of Jesus’ love for everyone and His willingness to go out of His way to find one lost soul.

We can’t fill our lives with temporal things and think that it will satisfy our Spiritual thirst.  There’s no person, place or thing that can take the place of God.  As much as we try, our divine thirst cannot be quenched by anything but Living Water.  That Living Water is the Holy Spirit.

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  By this he meant the Spirit…   John 7: 37-39

I need water to survive physically and if I’m not hydrated my body lets me know.  Ignoring my physical thirst or thinking something else (like coffee or wine) will satisfy my thirst can result in a medical emergency.

But just as important, I need to quench my Spiritual thirst daily too.  If I don’t drink deeply from the well that never runs dry and ignore my need for the Living Water of Jesus, I will collapse Spiritually.

I’m staying hydrated physically now but my recent trip to the hospital reminds me that my Spiritual thirst is just as important and I need to have Spiritual Living Water running through me daily too.

And like the Samaritan woman I hope I will always be just as excited to lay down my earthly jars and run and tell others about the Living Water of Jesus that Spiritually hydrates me.

If you click this link:  John 4: 1-42 you can read the amazing story of the woman at the well and Jesus’ encounter with her.

Blessings!

Nancy

Expressions of Love

heart sunset 2 - Copy wdp“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”  Sarah Kay


I’m not sure why I was having a bad day.  It was several years ago.  All I remember was there were tears and I wanted a little slice of time to myself.
Bob left the house and returned later with a box of Good and Plenty, handed it to me and said, “I thought this might make you feel a little better.”
I smiled, opened the box and we went for a walk while I ate my candy.
And you know what?  That simple gesture of love lifted my spirits.
He could have brought home a dozen roses, a box of chocolates and a diamond ring and it wouldn’t have had the same effect.
I’m not saying those gifts would be meaningless but there’s a time and place for everything.
The little box of Good and Plenty was perfect.
Why?  Because it came from someone who has studied me, therefore knows me and my husband picked a simple, thoughtful gift for that day.  Knowing that Good and Plenty was one of my favorite childhood candies, he went out and bought a box.
It was just an ordinary day, with me needing a little encouragement and my husband decided that Good and Plenty may do the trick.  I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I ate that candy–it was many years ago so it was a special surprise.
Silly, huh?  But you know what?  It’s often the simplest gestures of love that mean the most.
As hard as I try to remember, I can’t recall why I was so sad that day and either does Bob but we both remember the gift of Good and Plenty and how it made me feel.
That’s important information for many of us to remember, especially during the month of February when images of love abound as we approach Valentine’s Day.
We can start by studying our loved ones, making mental notes of their likes and favorite things, listening for clues of what may lift their spirits, bring them joy, put a smile on their face and then follow through with a simple gift.
It doesn’t have to happen on Valentine’s Day.  Actually, an unexpected gift expressing love on any day has even more meaning and impact.  However, Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to express our love to a spouse, child, friend and even a stranger with a random act of kindness.
Sometimes bigger isn’t better and less really is more.  One simple rose (in a favorite color) placed in beautiful vase instead of a dozen roses — a box or boxes of favorite childhood candy instead of a box of expensive chocolates — think, study, explore, put thought into purchasing a simple gift and then share your love.

I took the photo of the sunset, at the top of this post, on February 13, 2014 in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico.  My husband and I were walking the shoreline when we noticed that the sparkling reflection of the sun on the sand looked like a heart.
I refer to that photo as the night that God kissed the shore with a heart for us just in time for Valentine’s Day–a reminder of his love for us.
His love cost everything he had — his only son and his very life.  That’s truly the only BIG GIFT worth receiving, because that’s how we learn how to love even in the smallest of ways.
We love because he first loved us.  (1 John 4:19)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The greatest gift is LOVE–go out and express it in creative ways and give someone a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Blessings!  Nancy ❤    © 2015

Daddy, Carry Me

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“Daddy, I can’t go.  I’m tired.”  Her hands reach up, “Daddy carry me. I’m scared.  It’s getting dark.  I can’t see.”

Like a good daddy he whisks her up into his arms and gently places her on his shoulders.

The evening is fading and the sun begins to withdraw behind the horizon.  Darkness isn’t far behind.

But she’s safe; secure in her father’s embrace and her fear subsides.

He sprints across the shore with confidence because he knows the way and she trusts him.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will         strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.            Isaiah 41:10

Blessings!  Nancy ❤

Grace Like Rain

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I slip my glasses on so I can see my way into the kitchen.  With pen and journal in hand, I click the brew switch on the coffee maker and take a seat at the table to wait for my first cup of morning brew.

As I flip open my journal, I notice the sound of gentle rain hitting the window.  My eyes land on the sliding door as beads of moisture glide down the glass.

Dawn is trying to break through the darkened clouds.

I hear the ready ring from the coffee pot.

The Italian roast flows into my mug.  The rich aroma wafts through the still air.

Taking my seat at the table once again, I sip and write.  Sip and write.  Ideas race through my mind and out the tip of my pen.  On the blank journal page, I scribble words leftover in my mind from the night before.

I’m always thinking, feeling, trying to sort out what I envision in my writer’s mind.  Whether I have a pen, journal, keyboard or not it’s the way I’m wired.  My brain is always creating.

I close my journal and listen to the patter of rain.

Sometimes we need a dark day.  It pulls us in, it quiets our souls, we are hidden and alone, away from any commotion or communication.

It’s a necessary place to be at times–small and hidden.

The electronics beckon but sometimes we need to tuck ourselves away from TV, phones, computers–away from the “Look at me” world that we are living in.  The false realities of our day make us believe that we’re not fully alive unless we’re seen.

So here alone I ponder.  In this space, in the dark cover of morning I’m embraced in solitude.

I stop striving, contemplating, thinking, being distracted by my own thoughts and I quiet my mind.  I empty myself and it’s here that I’m fully alive.

In this place there is no communication with others, except with the Lord my God.  Here there is no pretense.  I am fully seen, fully known and fully loved.

Like the rain that saturates the earth, my soul is saturated in grace.

And like Mary I know that I have picked the better thing.

 …but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

Written by:  Nancy Janiga ©2015

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Amen to Wonder

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Years ago when my husband and I moved out of a large city and bought a house on a wooded 10 acre piece of property, my parents would escape from city life, several times a year, to spend weekends with us.  And once a year my mother would come by herself and stay for a week.  She called it her R&R.

We did a lot of hiking through those acres of woods and far beyond.

My mother saw beauty in everything.  Especially nature.  Everywhere we walked she seemed to be soaking it all in.  Those visits, the walks, the talks, inspired a deeper appreciation for nature in me.  Without her keen eye, I don’t think I would have picked up the extraordinary beauty in those ordinary places.

It was like she was inhaling the glory of God.  Everything held wonder for her.

As far back as I can remember, sunsets, the mountains, the valleys, every plant, flower and bird were a means to give acknowledgement to God.  When my sister, Judy, lived in Arizona my mother would return from trips to her house describing the majesty of God revealed in every mountain top.  There was a bursting forth from somewhere deep within her soul, like a release, at the beauty of it all.

When I was a child, even through my teenage years, I dismissed her sense of wonder and awe as a ‘mom thing’ and didn’t enter into it fully with her.  In my adulthood, I began to understand.

She could appreciate the created fully, because she grasped the deep love of the creator.

This past summer, while walking through an art gallery my husband and I spotted a piece of art that we were both drawn to.  We studied the painting, the colors, the depth, we envisioned it in our living room but left the gallery without it.

On another visit to the same gallery, the artist who painted the piece was there.  We talked to her and we began to see more deeply into it as she described the process, what inspired her to paint it, the methods she used and what she named it.

She remarked that her paintings aren’t complete until they are enjoyed, looked at with wonder, awe and eventually find a home.

That particular painting found a home.  Our home.  After spending time getting to know the artist, the appreciation for her painting grew deeper for us.

As my faith in God deepens, the more I get to know His love for all that he has created–especially His love for us–the more my eyes are opened to the beauty surrounding me.  I see creation through different eyes and I’m more able to savor the moments.

God gives us moments of wonder.  He has painted a world that many artists have tried to replicate but none can compare to the real deal that surrounds us everyday.

The long walks through the countryside with my mother–her naming the plants, pointing out the wild basil–picking it–rubbing it between her fingers to release its aroma–saying to me, “Here smell this, Nancy.”  Ah…she soaked in the moments and the wonder of everything.

God could have created the world in black and white but He chose to wash it with color.  Even in the depth of winter–when everything can look black, white and dull–He creates splashes of color for us to find.  I found it one morning on a branch in my yard.

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This year I want to say AMEN to wonder.  I want to recall the moments from the past that have inspired me and look for new ways to see the world and rejoice in the wonder.

Written by: Nancy Janiga©2015

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No Lists, Just Love

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He’s making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice, Santa Claus is coming to town…

Most of us have heard those familiar words many times.  The nice get a gift and the naughty, well…they don’t get anything or, if they’re lucky, they get a lump of coal.

As my husband and I were traveling down the expressway last week, my eyes caught a sign outside of a church facing the cars that were driving by.

 SANTA ISN’T THE ONLY ONE MAKING A LIST!

“What?!?  Did I read that right?  Santa isn’t the only one making a list!  That’s the message the church is communicating to those passing by,” I told my husband.

On our next drive down that same expressway yesterday, I stayed alert watching for the sign.  I read it carefully thinking that maybe I was mistaken the first time but I wasn’t.  There in bold letters fastened to the large sign of the church were the words:

SANTA ISN’T THE ONLY ONE MAKING A LIST!

“If you want a gift, you better be good, because Santa is making a list and checking it twice and he’s gonna find out who is naughty and nice,” many parents sing the song and retell the story year after year.

It’s all in fun and I don’t think there’s one kid, that I know of anyway, that has been harmed or traumatized by the story of Santa.

But the message on the church sign?  I’m not so sure about that one.

Is that the message that they want the world to accept?  The message that God is making a list of all our wrongs and that we better be good or He won’t love us?  Is their message saying that we have to perform, do good works, clean up our act, obey the rules, or else?

I know there are thousands of good churches that communicate truth with love and I attend one.  I’m not implying that I know exactly the motive behind the sign but the perception comes across as God is making a list so if you’re naughty you better watch out!

We can shut ourselves up inside brick structures to make us feel safe.  We can hide behind programs, methods, procedures to puff ourselves up and think we’re secure because we’re us inside and not them outside.

We can point out the wrongs in others, forgetting who we are (or who we once were) and erect barricades of false security, we can have rules that make us harsh judges or we can have LOVE.

There in the manger on that quiet night long ago LOVE was born.  When we were the naughtiest LOVE came for us.  Jesus was born to die that we may live.  He took our punishment so we wouldn’t have to.

He knew our list of wrongs, all too well, and left His throne of glory and came down to rescue us.

We receive the gift; the greatest gift when we deserve it the least–we don’t have to be good enough to receive it.  All we have to do is accept it.

That’s the beauty of the gift.  God wipes our list clean in one swift stroke and writes across it PAID IN FULL.  Then slowly but surely we’re transformed in a way that rules could never accomplish. 

When we have LOVE, know LOVE, and extend LOVE our pointing fingers will come down.  Then the greatest gift of Christmas, who wrapped himself in love and is LOVE, can keep on giving…

Written by Nancy Janiga ©2014

Through the Winding Path

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Bob and I have navigated through the winding path of his illness for 3 months.  The twists, the turns, the hills, the valleys, the sudden stops, the ups and downs seemed to never end.  Then there were the complete rest stops and the times of waiting for days, sometimes weeks.   We have found that the waiting periods are often harder than moving through the craziness of the path before us.

Two days ago was the end of the first leg of our journey.

I awoke early that morning.  Too early.  I laid in bed waiting for the alarm to ring at the set time of 5:45am.  Then I felt Bob moving and heard him get up and walk out of the bedroom.  I turned off the alarm clock before it rang and got up.  Finally when both of us were ready, we grabbed our coffee along with the small spiral notepad that held our questions for the doctor and hit the road at 6:15am.

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As we drove, we talked about what brought us to this point in our journey and Bob said, “We are moving toward our moment of truth and we’ll finally have a clearer picture of what may lie ahead.”  I agreed.

We enjoyed the scenery of the glorious summer morning while music from the radio played softly in the background.  I realized how often we take the simple pleasures of life for granted.  Just looking out the window of our car there were reminders everywhere from the fireball of the sun coming up over the horizon to the green grass and trees lining the highway below.

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Neither of us said much for the next several minutes.  Then Bob finally said, “We are going to hear what we are expecting to hear or we may hear the unexpected.  It will be what it is and we will deal with it.”  I nodded.

As we approached the hospital I thought, This is it.  Here comes our moment of truth. 

We checked in, sat down and watched as others got up, one by one, to go into their appointments.  When we realized that everyone who was in the waiting area before we arrived had already been called in, Bob said, “I think we’re next.”  He was right.

Bob went through an examination and the Hematologist asked him if he had any new symptoms.  I took the small spiral notepad out of my purse and we shared what we had written in it.  Most of the concerns were things we forgot to mention or questions we didn’t ask on previous visits.  His Hematologist sat at a computer recording everything that we told him.  For the most part, Bob felt good and was symptom free.

Then the words we were expecting came out of the Hematologist’s mouth.  “Your bone marrow biopsy has confirmed that you do have Chronic Myeloid Leukemia and the treatment for this type of Leukemia is an oral chemo medication taken daily.”

It’s what his blood tests revealed over the past month and we had already accepted that diagnosis and did our research.  We were ready to tackle it but just needed that confirmation.

On the other hand, his biopsy could have revealed a much more serious type of Leukemia or even a different bone cancer.  They checked for anything and everything possible, but confirmed what they suspected and what Bob had come to accept.

The only other better news would have been that nothing was found but according to all his earlier tests we chose not to live in denial while maintaining our faith that anything is possible with God.  We still believe that.

However, Bob has cancer and his cancer is treatable.  It’s not curable but it is treatable and for that we are thankful.  Again, we maintain our faith in God and always pray for healing.

Having our path change direction is part of life.  We shouldn’t find that unusual.  What’s unusual is to expect life to always stay the same, to never have any hills or valleys or winding roads that unfold before us.

As much as we know this truthful reality in our heads, it’s still hard to change course when we have to, but letting go of expectations and moving into acceptance is the healthiest route to take.

If we don’t let go of unrealistic expectations, it will rob us of our joy.  Not being able to bend with the curves or adjust our course is worse than facing the rough road ahead.

There will be some challenges in our future but who doesn’t face challenges?  We will face them together and in the midst of those challenges there will be many things to give thanks for.

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Today I’m giving thanks for Bob’s primary care doctor who saw Bob without an appointment in April when he showed up at his office unannounced.  I’m also thankful that he ordered a CBC test when Bob wasn’t due to have it done for 7 months and I’m thankful that he pursued more tests when the first one came back abnormal.  I’m also thankful for the team of specialists that have taken great care of Bob this summer.

And then there’s the people we love — our family and friends who have remained a constant source of strength as they kept in touch with us non-stop and often assured us of their prayers.  The encouragement has lifted our spirits more times than we can even count.

When I think back, it is obvious whose fingerprints have been all over the circumstances of this journey.  In and through our winding path, up the hills and through the valleys I have seen the hand of God.  Even in the waiting, when it was difficult, we were held by the mighty hand of God.

We have now reached the end of the first leg of our journey and we are getting ready for the second leg.  The second leg will be the treatment phase and I will be at Bob’s side to help him but not without the help of the one who has brought us this far.  We have seen God’s hand in this from the beginning and he won’t let go now.  He hasn’t brought us this far to leave us.

Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014

A Beautiful Fragrance

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Beneath the bay kitchen window, of my childhood home, there was a patch of Lily of the Valley.  Lush green leaves covered the ground and every spring their white bell-shaped flowers grew up on tiny stalks. 

Once our windows opened up, gentle breezes wafted their fragrance around our kitchen table.  All of our meals were surrounded by their sweet scent.

Playing in the front yard or just walking past the flowers I would catch a pleasant whiff. Often I’d kneel down next to the lily garden and look closely at each white bloom. I adored them.

Throughout their growing season, a small vase in our home held a bouquet.

Today, I’m still in love with the tiny beauties called Lily of the Valley.

Along the hillside in my yard they bloom. Like a cover blanketing the earth.

Each spring I wait in expectation for their arrival.  I weed and rake and glance toward them while taking care of other plantings in my yard. First the green emerges and in no time the delicate small flowers with their bold fragrance appears.

The hillside is an ideal place for them. There they are free to run wild weaving in and out of the trees and bushes.

At their first appearance, I’m ready with my shears. I clip a handful and place them in a vase.

There isn’t a scented candle or potpourri that could compare to the fragrance that fills my home from one small bouquet of Lilies. There isn’t a centerpiece that compares to the elegance it brings to my kitchen table.

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On a beautiful spring day this year, I gathered a bunch for a bouquet and placed them in a vase.

Then I went to my linen closet and pulled out an embroidered tablecloth that I recently purchased at a second-hand store.  I draped it over the table placing the vase of flowers in the center.  Instead of my everyday dishes, I pulled out a few pieces of china and stemware from a cabinet.

On special occasions, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, my china and stemware have graced my table.  In recent years, it hasn’t been pulled out much–not even for holidays.  These days everything has gotten casual–even special occasions.

But that particular day was different. My lilies were encouraging me to make a table transformation.

My husband, tired from laying hardwood floors in our living room all day, walked into the kitchen and announced that he was going to shower before dinner.

He glanced at the table and then at me with a puzzled look.

I smiled.  He smiled and walked toward the bathroom.

My unpretentious breakfast nook transformed into something elegant after placing the vase of lily of the valley in the middle of the table surrounded by china.

I reveled in the beauty.

Why couldn’t we eat our leftover pulled pork on china, I thought.  And so we did.

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After cleaning up the kitchen and putting the dishes away, one thing remained…the scent from the lilies. It remained throughout most of the house for several days.

In the midst of the often messy circumstances in life there’s still beauty around us.  Sometimes we have to look for it, be aware of it but it is there mingled with the messy.

Sometimes it’s refreshing to create beauty. Just like our creator beautifies us.

I was pretty messy when he came after me. He’s far from done with me but I’m a cleaned up version of what I once was.

If Jesus is at the center of our lives, like my lilies graced the center of my ordinary table, he will make something beautiful out of our ordinary lives.

Paul writes that followers of Jesus are the fragrance of Christ that spreads everywhere and an aroma of Christ to God. (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

When I think of fragrance, I think of a beautiful scent. To those God is seeking it will be irresistible but to others…maybe not so much. There’s no way around that fact.  The fact is not everyone will appreciate the fragrance.

To me a beautiful fragrance isn’t judgmental, pushy, or demanding. It is pleasant, kind, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. That sort of sounds like God doesn’t it? (See Psalm 103:8)

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5: 1-2)

The fragrance emanating from the lily of the valley that filled my home for several days was a good reminder of what God has done for me and what the very essence of my life should be for him.

Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014