Oh my soul…

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Well hello there.  It’s been 9 months since I visited the pages of this journal so I just may be typing to myself.

During the past 9 months, like the 9 months that it takes to birth a new life, something new has been developing, growing and birthing in me.

I’m not sure if that means that I will consistently write in this space again but that may happen.

I’ve been up to soul care.  My soul care.  Sometimes, like King David, we need to speak to our souls.  I love the Psalms.  The honesty of David is so refreshing.  He was honest but always ended his prayers with attention directed toward God.  He may have been depressed, downtrodden, running for his life at times but in his honestly he found God to always be enough.  He could praise and worship the God who loved him only after pouring out his heart before him.  Sometimes he had to speak directly to his soul…Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5

When Bob and I returned home after almost 11 months away for Bob’s cancer treatment and ultimate bone marrow transplant, I thought I’d pick up right where I left off.  But as Bob recovered I found that I needed a period of recovery too.

For so many months I ran 90 miles an hour without thinking much about what I/we were going through.  I had to stay strong, above collapsing, taking care of Bob, arranging hospital and doctor appointments, organizing the dozens of medications that he needed, making sure he received the correct doses at the right time, administering medications through IV’s, keeping everything sterile, watching him helpless; limp with barely being able to lift his head off of his pillow most days and feeling helpless when I couldn’t take his discomfort away.

Not much changed after we got home.  I was on high alert as Bob struggled with more setbacks and serious hospitalizations.  Go, go go… that’s what I did without much thinking, without much down time except praying and asking God to supply what I needed to keep going at that crazy pace.  I knew that I couldn’t get sick and that put more pressure on me.  There were times when I would think:  I feel sick.  What was that pain?  Oh no, I can’t get sick.  Bob needs me.  Sometimes my thoughts were irrational.  Stress will do that.

Bob’s doctors told us that it wasn’t going to be easy but we didn’t fully grasp the full scope of it until we got to the other side and looked back.

As Bob recovered and could do more for himself again, I found I remained on high alert not able to relax nor could I find lasting inner peace and quiet that I often experienced during the months away.  There was more peace during the hardest places because I was being carried…carried by the Lord even when I couldn’t feel it.  It’s obvious now in hindsight.

Many people run through life at high speed so they don’t have to face the truth about themselves or the thorny, painful, hurtful areas of life.  They know if they slow down they would have to come face to face with themselves, their fears and anxiety.  Running from the pain seems easier so they continue running in the wrong direction.   Trying to quench their thirst for God with counterfeit gods doesn’t bring lasting peace.  It’s just a bandage but won’t reach or heal the deep wounds of life.

What brings peace is being honest with ourselves, with God, facing our fears, hurts and surrendering them to God.   Then we can slow down and live at peace, because we’re no longer running away but toward the one who cares for us like a good father.

I’m by nature a quiet, reflective type.  It’s always been easy for me to unwind.  I always thrived on peace, quiet, and by being alone but the running to care for Bob, living for so long on high alert, in the flight or fright syndrome — not by choice but by necessity — I became accustomed to that lifestyle.  The hypervigilance that I lived for so long left me jumpy, waiting for the next crisis to respond to when I didn’t have to do that anymore.  It served me well for many months but began to hurt me when I couldn’t let it go after the necessity to live that way was gone.

I needed to face my fear, anxiety, claim it, speak it out loud, tell God about it and then surrender it all to him.  So I have been in process of letting go of the lifestyle I lived for so long and allowing a peaceful, quiet life to be birthed in me again.

That’s where I am.  I haven’t been gone just facing myself, those deepest fears, anxiety, realizing it’s okay to rest now.  Jesus says:  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)   It’s been good for me to rest in Christ.  

Healing comes in different ways.  Bob is in a complete molecular remission and I am healing emotionally.

Here’s a great song that speaks to me right now.  You may like it too.  Sometimes we just need to speak to our soul like King David did…

It’s all good, because like the lyrics by Casting Crowns says … “Oh my soul you are not alone.  There’s a place for fear to face the God you know.  One more day he will make a way.  Let him show you how you can lay this down.  Cause you’re not alone.”

That’s for me, for you, for all of us.

Blessings,

Nancy

Coming Alive Again

It’s a crazy mixed up world we live in.  All you have to do is turn on the news to realize that.  Then there’s our own personal challenges added to the mix.  And…well…that can make us feel overwhelmed.  But there’s still beauty to be found in the middle of the broken.  My camera helps me seek and find it.  I’d like to share another poem that I wrote, several years ago, that was just published.  Go figure…just published after all these years!  Another surprise for me.  I thought I better hurry up and post this since spring is going to shift into summer soon…

Coming Alive Again

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In spring there’s a freshness

and a beauty unfolds,

all that was sleeping

awakens for us to behold.

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There’s a sigh of relief

that winter has ended,

even the birds are aware

of all that is splendid.

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Woodland animals awaken,

peeking out their faces

slowly at the beginning,

from their resting places.

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Everything comes alive

like a rebirth,

a sense of anticipation

fills the whole earth.

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Dormant flowers rise up

to feel the sun’s warmth,

brown grass turns green

and color comes forth.

colors of spring

Gray skies become blue,

clouds look like marshmallows,

a tapestry on the ground

that is no longer fallow.

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A colorful picture

and a marvelous sight —

when the world around us

is no longer black and white.

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Written by:  Nancy Janiga

All photos taken by: ©Nancy Janiga

Holding On

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I wrote the following words on January 11, 2015 in my piece titled, Our Spring is coming

“We are looking forward to the end of this storm, this winter that we are in.  We are looking forward to seeing all the signs of spring and new life…The crocus’ poking up from beneath the snow, the sun shining brighter, the patches of snow disappearing and the grass greening.

We are looking forward to spring with the hope of being home where we can live out what the medical staff is calling our new normal.”

As spring and the promise of new life arrived, we received the results of Bob’s spinal fluid and bone marrow biopsies, CANCER FREE!  Two of the most beautiful words that we’ve ever heard!

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Through the sovereignty of God and our son, Scott, agreeing to God’s plan through his bone marrow donation, Bob received a second chance at life; a rebirth so to speak.

After 8 months in this medical community, we thought by now we could make plans to return home but Bob is fighting an intestinal infection.  The transplant knocked down his immune system so it will be an uphill climb for a year from the date of his transplant.  The complete recovery process, at times, is grueling.  What would be a minor illness for you or me, becomes serious for Bob.

What we have learned through this experience, right from the beginning, is that we never know what tomorrow may bring so we must hold tight to the ONE who holds tomorrow in His hands.

In the middle of our own medical odyssey, my dad had a heart attack and a stroke and is recovering nearby.

We’re a little battle fatigued but remain hopeful.

Our hope lies in the one who holds tomorrow in His hands and those hands are holding both of the special men in my life…my husband and my father.

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I wrote a poem years ago that I completely forgot about until I received a letter in the mail recently.  The letter came from a mission publication stating that they were going to publish my poem.  It was an unexpected surprise.  A gift of God’s timing.  Here are those words:

Rejoice and Be Glad

Springtime brings new energy
And all nature is refreshed;
The veil of winter lifted,
Feeling by the sun, to be caressed.

The earth begins to come alive
As presenting a new song
And all that is within us
Begins to sing along.

God paints the earth with greenery
And colors every flower,
Showcasing birds against blue skies
With a demonstration of His power.

Somewhere deep within the heart
There’s a joy we can’t contain;
Surrounded by spring’s newness,
Hope and happiness remain.

Skipping to the beat of spring
Floods the soul with peace.
After the wilderness of winter,
God brings us sweet relief.

God is bringing us sweet relief slowly from our winter wilderness.  What was buried beneath the winter of our souls, is emerging stronger, resilient, joyful and thankful.

Many of you have been part of this second chance at life for Bob — especially through your prayers — and for that we are thankful.  We are thankful to God and to all of you.  And now we wait in hope for God to clear up Bob’s infection and make his recovery complete.

Blessings,

Nancy

A New Perspective

“It is not the ‘ministry’ you could have ever anticipated or chosen but we are confident in God’s ability to help you live it out!” (from a dear pastor and his wife)

window xx wdpI pondered those words as winter released its grip.

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I think God gifts us with creativity to help us cope through the messy parts of life.  I find that my photography is a way to count my blessings.  I capture most of my photographs indoors now.  I keep snapping and pondering…

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It’s been 2 months today since I posted here but I haven’t been stagnant.  What have I been doing?  Besides taking care of my husband, through his cancer and transplant journey, and finding stillness in my photography, I’ve been praying the Lord’s prayer.  Everyday.  Often several times a day and finding power to live out this ‘ministry’.  My prayer, the words that I learned as a child, take on new meaning and perspective these days:

Our Father who art in Heaven 

( You are my Father.  A good and gracious Father.  A Father that I can approach with the truth about my feelings, even weep and find comfort when I need it the most).

Hallowed by thy name

(You are worthy to receive all my praise.  You are high and exalted and I worship you and thank you for allowing me to grieve my way to acceptance.  I praise you for understanding me from the inside out).

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven

(May your will be done here in this place (here on earth) where Bob and I live.  Thy will be done.  In releasing my life to your will, it frees me — frees me to give thanks, and leads me to acceptance and in thanksgiving and accepting your will I am surprised by JOY).

Give us this day our daily bread

(Daily bread.  We have enough to eat.  Thank you.  But we need more.  Give us what we need today…peace, patience, endurance, stamina, faith, hope, love, comfort…Give us yourself!  You are the bread of life and in receiving you we receive life.  Abundant life comes by living in your presence.  As my brother, Jim, said to me, “The Lord doesn’t just provide what we need He is what we need”.  And, Lord, you are enough).

And forgive us our sins  

(Forgive me for the sin of fear, despair, or looking back on life as it once was…that life that we left.  Bob’s illness took us out of our comfort zone and we found that comfort zone lacking in many ways.  It’s only in the valley, the trials, the storms that we experience the truth about our Christian faith and what it truly means to follow you.  We understand more fully what you meant when you said:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple”.  (Luke 14:26)

Even our own families and the familiar can become idols.  We have given up a lot, left family, home, possessions, Bob’s health, friends, church, and now we’re living in a medical bubble in a strange city.  At times it feels or seems like we’ve given up everything …and as hard as that is…it is also freeing).

As we forgive those who sin against us

(Sometimes it hurts when those we thought would be there for us are not or cannot.  Is that a sin against us?  I’ve tried to sort that out, Lord.  When our hope lies in what others do or don’t do, it robs us of peace and joy.  Many do not understand the weight we carry.  Forgive them for they know not what this is or what it’s like. Until we walk in another person’s shoes, we cannot fully grasp the truth.  It is the same for me; for us.  I acknowledge that I don’t always understand what others are going through.  We need to forgive one another!  That frees us to love).

And lead us not into temptation

(Lord, help us not to look at life through our earthly eyes.  Keep our focus crystal clear through our Spiritual eyes.  That first step toward sin often comes through what we see and perceive that we need.  Keep our eyes holy).

But deliver us from evil

( Lift us out from under the weight of the evil one.  Remove his activity in our life and let us not fall into his trap of believing that you are not able to heal. You can and still do and we rest in our prayers for Bob’s healing.  Let us not be lured into self-pity, bitterness over circumstances or lack of trust in your plan and purpose.  We trust and believe in your sovereignty).

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen!

(And may our lives and all we do and go through point to you.  May you receive glory).  Amen.

Blessings!

Nancy

Breaking up the Unplowed Ground

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It’s been a long goodbye this week.  I’ve had to say goodbye to loved ones traveling cross-country to start a new chapter of life in a new place.  It’s been a bittersweet separation these past few days.

My emotions range from being hopeful, happy, excited and then sad and lonely all at once.  Then there’s worry and anxiety close by to turn my world upside down.

Letting go.  It’s hard.

I spent the last few months in my garden.  Weeding, working the soil, planting.  It’s therapy.  And the therapy became a blessing as I have anticipated this week for some time now.

I worked the soil, in a large planter on my deck, trying to release a stump leftover from a shrub that once grew in the pot.

I dug, pulled, chopped, yanked.  Little by little the deeply embedded roots gave way to my prodding and poking.  Bit by bit I tossed the entangled roots until I got to the stump.  I dug a little more and released its grip.  It was finally gone for good.

Adding more potting soil, it was ready to receive fresh new plants.

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My heart can feel that way sometimes–choked and clogged by a number of embedded emotions that need uprooting so that new growth can sprout.

It may seem easier to let them fester, ignore them or even wallow in them but if I want to flourish, both emotionally and spiritually they need releasing.

It’s funny how God can speak to me in the most unbelievable ways.  Yesterday it was through a Persian poet born in 1207.

I opened a magazine and these words popped out at me:

Do not worry that your life is turning upside down.  How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?  Rumi

Ok, God.  I hear you.

I wandered through my garden today and noticed the beauty.  There are flowers blooming everywhere.

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The hard work this past spring produced an over abundance of growth.

I know It’s time to work the unplowed ground in my heart too.  I sit quietly, flipping through the pages of His unshakable and reliable word.

Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.  Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts…   Jeremiah 4: 3-4a

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.  Hosea 10:12

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I’m doing the hard work of pulling out some of those deeply rooted roots and weeds in my heart, because I know that to see new growth and flourish I must first dig out the worry and anxiety.  I have to uproot the wanting to hold on tightly when it’s time to let go.

And you know what?  The more I work at this uprooting process the more I’m seeing evidence of joy and peace sprout once again.

What do you need to uproot today?

Blessings!

Nancy ©pensandjournals.com

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

Savoring Moments Through My Lens # 2

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The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.  Psalm 24: 1-2

The sandpipers poked their beaks in the sand not noticing me at first.  As I approached them, they dispersed.  Flying across the water Afloat; they scattered.

I’m sitting at my desk doing what I do…writing.  I’ll publish my next writing post (most likely) by Monday.

I just took a break from writing to read and respond to the Daily Post’s Friday Photo Challenge: Afloat.

Besides writing, I also enjoy photography and savoring moments through my lens.  I captured the above photo on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida.

I marvel at God’s creation.

Be blessed!

Nancy

Savoring Moments Through My Lens

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The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 
Psalm 19:1

I walked toward the shore and marveled at the sight.  There pressed against the backdrop of a colorful sky was a crescent moon with Venus glowing bright and Mars faintly seen above it. Knowing this breathtaking site wouldn’t last long, I grabbed my camera to record the moment.

(in response to the Daily Post’s photo challenge, Ephemeral)

Blessings!

Nancy

BE.YOU.TIFUL

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Like a carnival barker the woman summoned me to the store entrance.  I glanced in her direction as she held out a sample of moisturizer explaining, “We’re sharing a few of our skin care products today.”  I hesitated.  She continued, “It’s free.”  I thought, Oh what the heck.  I took the small foil pack, thanked her and turned to walk away.

“Wait, I have one more thing for you.  It’s a sample of our non-surgical eye lift serum.”  “No thank you,”  I responded.

Before I knew it I left my husband, Bob, standing in the mall and I was sitting in a chair facing a mirror.  How did this happen?  I never fall for this sort of thing, I thought.

But there I was in a spa–as she called it–at the mall getting a trial non-surgical eye lift from the carnival (like) barker.  Her name was Lily.  As Lily applied the potions, I kept telling her, “I’m not purchasing anything.”

All of a sudden Bob appeared with a look on his face that said, “For real?”  I shrugged my shoulders and smiled.  “No no, don’t smile, don’t move,”  Lily commanded.  I sat up straight, threw my shoulders back and froze to attention.

She applied a gel substance under my eyes, smoothed it, fanned my face with a piece of paper and explained to me that the routine would have to be done a couple of times a week.  She added that I should notice amazing results in just a few applications.

“There,” she swung my chair toward Bob.  “What do you think?  This is just one treatment and look how amazing she looks.  Imagine what this will do with long-term applications?  This is like Botox in a bottle at an affordable price.”

Bob studied my face, nods and says,  “Yes, she looks great.  I see the difference.”

I started to say, “Really?”  But Lily stopped me at ‘real’ and instructed me not to move the muscles around my eyes.   She said, “Like Botox, it’s working on relaxing all your muscles.”  I looked in the mirror.  The skin around my eyes did appear smooth but only if I didn’t move any part of my face.

Lily offers Bob the same treatment stating that men use it too.  Bob declines saying, “I don’t need it.”   That’s when I thought, Hmm…but I do?

Lily informs me of the cost of Botox and then shares the price of the eye treatment indicating how affordable it would be.

Bob’s stunned look and my squirming to get out of the chair must have signaled to Lily that we were done.  She whipped out a cleanser, moisturizer, exfoliate scrub and said that the package was worth over $800.00 but for that day she’d give it to us for the price of the eye lift serum which was $400.00.

“We’re hungry, it’s time for lunch,”  I looked toward Bob and we start to leave.

Lily throws in a nail care package thinking that would seal the deal.

As we head for the exit, Lily follows us waving her business card and I see two women purchasing the products from another carnival (like) barker.  Now we’re really stunned.

Bob and I break free and make a run for the nearest restaurant.  On our way, I must have made some facial expressions, because I caught a glimpse of myself in the lady’s room mirror at the restaurant.  I leaned in closer and saw dried gel serum crackling in the lines around my eyes making me appear to have double the wrinkles.  Then I noticed flaking white stuff hanging from my skin.

I threw on some sun glasses.  We ate and ended up at Starbucks after lunch to talk about the experience and to search for reviews on our phones.

Never mind the reviews on the products.  I have to review the truth.

The truth is simple–we live in a culture caught up with outward appearance.  Aging is viewed as something to be ashamed of.  We can’t run from the anti-aging messages.  They’re all around us–telling us to tweak this, tuck that, shift this, improve that.  Anti-aging.  It insinuates that we have to be against aging and something must be done about it.  Stat!

Today I’m reviewing the real truth.  It’s found all through God’s word and it reveals what He thinks about us.  He knows we’re flawed.  He sees the creases, outwardly and inwardly and He loves us anyway, but he’s more concerned about our inward flaws.  Those are the flaws that nobody else can see but I’m reminded that they get shed slowly over time.  Those of us who are Christians are works in progress.

  • Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.   (1 Peter 3: 3-4)
  • Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  (2 Corinthians 4: 16)

Being renewed day by day means that our inner glow gets brighter the more we grow in our faith.  No matter what our circumstances are, or what our age is, we will radiate outwardly what is happening inwardly and that’s true beauty.

Written by:  Nancy Janiga ©2015

Along Right Paths

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Along Right Paths

Lord, let me hear You whisper
And recognize Your voice,
For I am at the crossroads
And need to make a choice.
There are so many pathways,
But only one is right.
Point me in Your way, Lord,
I’ll let You be my light.
Allow the path to shine
And illuminate with You,
As Your presence goes before me
And shows me what to do.
May each step I take be grounded
in the knowledge that You care,
And that I can have confidence
Because You’re always there.
No road is too long or hard
When it’s you who leads the way.
I’ll follow Your footsteps, Lord,
On the path I walk this day.

…He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:3

Nancy Janiga