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.

daisies

There’s a sigh of relief

that winter has ended,

even the birds are aware

of all that is splendid.

woody

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.

clouds

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

Do what you love, love what you do and always remember why you do it

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When I was younger, I always dreamed of writing.  I couldn’t deny the desire that I had to put pen to paper.  I filled many journals and as my faith grew so did the desire.

Writing isn’t something that I picked.  It picked me.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.        Psalm 37:4

I can’t take credit for the desire either.  It came alive around the same time that my faith awakened. Words became my gift and as my soul reached higher that truth became brighter.

Writing wasn’t like deciding to go to the garden and pick a flower.

Oh, that is pretty.  I think I’ll pick that one.

No, the desire was firmly planted within me.

It was gently formed somewhere deep in those dark places where nobody else sees and it germinated, took root, grew and eventually blossomed.

God planted it, he watered it–like the dark earth of the soil that protects a seed or bulb until it’s ready to spring up–he protected the desire to write in me and when the conditions were just right it slowly unearthed.  Then he taught me how to nurture and care for my gift.

My very first article submission to a magazine was surprisingly accepted.  That had its advantages and disadvantages.  The advantage was that it confirmed to me that I was on the right track and writing was my calling.

I began a professional relationship with the editor that liked my writing voice and accepted most of my work.  If a piece that I wrote didn’t fit an upcoming publication, he’d make suggestions for revisions and I’d edit it and send it back for his approval.

The disadvantage of that initial accepted article and editorial relationship was that I thought it would always be that easy.  It was not.

That editor of that magazine eventually left his position, the magazine took a different direction and I was left writing and submitting to other publications.

Submissions, rejections, more submissions and once in a while an acceptance letter but, for the most part, it became a chore and I lost the spark.

The desire to write evaporated as I became more engrossed in the end result rather than enjoying the process.  As a result, for several years, I left the writing scene for other pastures.

In those other pastures, I found good things to do but sometimes good things aren’t always the best.

Something always felt missing and I tried to fill it with other work but, at the same time, I felt a tugging, a nudging, a calling back to where my gift was sown.

During those years in other pastures, I kept my pen and journal by my side.  I still jotted down personal entries, ideas and wrote poetry occasionally for a mission’s publications but that was about the extent of my writing.

In those other pastures where I roamed and where I ignored the calling back, I often rationalized it with thoughts like–but I’m not as good as that writer over there.  Their gift blooms more spectacular than mine.  As I played the comparison game, I stayed stuck right where I was. 

Most of us know what comparing ourselves to others will do and you don’t have to be a writer to experience it.

It’s like a thief in the night that digs into the rich soil of our hearts and tries to rip out the seeds that God has planted.  Tries is the key word here.  It can’t happen unless we allow it.

When we’re too busy examining others’ gifts we neglect our own.  Our soil becomes barren.

Even in the darkness when we can’t visualize the flower it is right there beneath the surface ready to bloom like a flower ready to emerge in the springtime.

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Once it blooms, we must care for it but we can’t do that when we’re roaming in other fields or pastures that look greener.

Eventually I listened to the voice calling me back and I started writing again–just for the sake of writing.  Now I write for an audience of ONE.  The ONE who planted the desire in me.

When I started to nurture and care for the gift that I was given instead of comparing my gift to others my passion returned.

It’s not about publication.  It’s about doing what I was born to do.  There’s joy, freedom and release in that.

Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the Swiss cheesy holes. It won’t, it can’t. But writing can. So can singing.                       Anne Lamott

I love that quote by Anne.  I might add–the likes, the comments, the applause, the stats, the followers you receive will never fill those Swiss cheesy holes either.  Only God can do that and a beautiful way to find wholeness is by using the gifts you you’re designed to use.

Just do it and always remember why you do it.

Blessings,

Nancy Janiga  ❤

Right on Time

spring blooms

When the azalea’s blossomed, when nature came alive, when surrounded by spring, something else sprung up–Bob’s allergies. That was the beginning of this new journey–when our path changed direction.

Bob’s allergies with his watery eyes and runny nose led to head congestion, chest congestion, cough and a fever.

After days of Claritin, Ibuprofen, and cough syrup, without much relief, he knew it was time to see the doctor.  It was a Friday afternoon.  He didn’t want to wait over the weekend so he decided to drive to the doctor’s office.

“Aren’t you going to call before you go”?  I asked.  “No, I’m just going to show up”, came his response.  Then off he went.  It was mid-day.  I had my doubts whether the doctor would be able to see him without a scheduled appointment.

Upon his arrival, the receptionist informed him that they didn’t schedule any appointments that day, because the staff attended a conference.  They had just returned and were getting ready to lock up for the weekend.  The doctor was still there and was able to see him.  Bob couldn’t have asked for better timing.

The diagnosis — a secondary infection due to his allergies.  His physician prescribed antibiotics and an inhaler.  Then, out of the blue, the doctor ordered some routine blood work.  Bob wasn’t due to have blood work done for 7 months when he’d be back for his annual physical, but he followed the doctor’s orders.

The results came back indicating that Bob had an elevated white blood cell count.  “You had a respiratory infection when they did the test.  More than likely it’s from that”, I remarked.  The doctor also thought it could be from the infection but decided to check further.

After Bob fully recovered from his respiratory illness, he went to the lab for another blood test.  The result–an elevated white blood cell count.  Another blood test a week later confirmed the results.

At that point, the doctor became concerned and his concern led to our concern especially when he said, “I don’t want to worry you but this could be the beginning stages of something serious.  I’m referring you to a Hematologist”.

Several more blood tests were done.  Then came the appointment day with the Hematologist.  Then came the words, “You have Leukemia”

Leukemia?  Did the doctor just tell us that my husband has Leukemia?  I sat there trying to process the word.  L e u k e m i a.

The real world seemed distant.  What we heard and where we were sitting seemed surreal; almost dream like.  Reality set in with every question that we asked and with every answer from the doctor.  The Hematologist informed us that there were several different types of Leukemia–the acute Leukemia’s that are extremely aggressive and the chronic types, which grow slower.

Since Bob felt good and his white blood cell count stayed at the same level for several weeks, the doctor told us that there was a good chance that he had a chronic type.  Those words became our glimmer of hope.

We came home to process the news and to get ready for his bone marrow biopsy.  The bone marrow biopsy was necessary to confirm what type of Leukemia it was and to stage it.  They scheduled the biopsy for the following week and another trip to the lab to prepare for it.

Then a phone call from the Hematologist, “We can’t do the biopsy.  You’re testing positive for an autoimmune syndrome that affects blood clotting and we need to do some investigating before proceeding with the biopsy”.   More in-depth blood tests had to be done and sent out to several labs.  That meant more waiting.

While we waited, we did some research, prayed, and asked others to pray.

The results were back in a week and showed that the Leukemia was Chronic Myeloid Leukemia or CML, a type that will need treatment-more than likely an oral medication and strict monitoring of his blood.  A bone marrow biopsy would still be necessary to confirm the findings.

After his doctor conferred with other specialists, they determined that the autoimmune syndrome may or may not be caused by the Leukemia.  They couldn’t be certain.  There wasn’t a test that could be done to give us a concrete answer but his doctor assured us that it would be safe to go ahead with the biopsy.

Bob had the biopsy last week and now we’re in another waiting period.  We will receive the results in a few days.

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We are grateful and comforted by the outpouring of love and support from family and friends.  Each note, text, email, call and card confirms that many are thinking of us and praying.

During the weeks leading up to Bob’s diagnosis (even before we knew that he would be seeing a Hematologist) I was drawn to Lamentations 3: 21-24 in the Bible and focused on that passage for weeks.  I shared this scripture in earlier posts including, New Every Morning.

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A few days after we learned that Bob had Leukemia, I went to that familiar passage once again.  I sat there for some time reading the words and meditating on them.  Then I got up and went to my computer to check my email.  There was a message addressed to both myself and Bob from our pastor, David Wesin. Here’s some of what he wrote:

“The temptation in a circumstance like you’re experiencing is to let your mind race ahead to what the next thing might be.  In addition, we often fear that we will not be able to handle what comes next.  We are told that God gives us the grace we will need when we need it – not before.  My prayer for both of you will be that you focus on today and leave tomorrow in God’s hands.”

Then he shared the following scripture passage:

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

It was my go to verse.  The one I was reading, re-reading and sharing with Bob over several weeks.  It was the verse that I had just read before reading his email.

Some may call this a coincidence.  I call it God’s mercy.  His mercies never come to an end – they are new every morning; great is his faithfulness.  Bob and I will hope and trust in God who continues to confirm that his mercies will always come right on time. 

Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014

After the Winter

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As winter comes to an end, I can easily get absorbed in the renewal and beauty of the earth around me.

For most of us living in the snowy states of the Midwest and traversing through what I call, the wilderness of the winter months, springtime is like a rebirth, a new life, a time to enjoy the blooms, the birds, the sights, the sounds, the smells of this season that we call spring.

But before we can enjoy spring we have to make it through the barrenness of winter.

Every year some of us vow not only to exist in it but to enjoy it. In other words, we tell ourselves we are going to get out there and build a snow man, or snow fort, put on the snowshoes and walk through the woods, take up skiing, snowmobiling or whatever winter sport or activity we can find, and the list goes on and on, but we never do it.  We just grin and try to bear it.

When I was a child and young adult, it didn’t bother me as much as it does now. This is where my ancestors settled. This is where I grew up and so I built snowmen, ice skated and never thought much about winter being anything more than just another season.

That has changed somewhat for me now. Don’t get me wrong. I do love a little winter and can’t imagine myself living in a state without some snow.  I like to put the fireplace on, drink hot chocolate, or a cup of coffee topped with whip cream. I start making crocks of soup, stew and roasts. It’s a cozy time. I’ll even boot and bundle up to venture out for walks through the newly fallen snow. The first snowfall and what follows for a few weeks is pristine and pretty.

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Yes, I do enjoy a little winter but usually only until the end of December. In other words, only up to and shortly after Christmas. At Christmas, the lights adorning houses and tree branches glistening through the white backdrop is magical.  There truly is beauty in our winter wonderland.  Then January comes and, I’ll be truthful, I want to see green grass, trees full of leaves, hyacinths and other flowers blooming.  I want springtime.

So my husband and I took a break from winter this year and followed the snowbirds south for a while.

We warmed up for a bit and came back again to cooler temperatures with barren trees, brown grass and a longing for spring to bloom in Michigan.

The Calendar may have said it was spring but it still looked like winter in these parts. The trees were bare and there wasn’t even a hint of a flower bud anywhere.

It has been one of those years, probably one of the worst winters on record. Many people longed for spring to show up in Michigan.

We all have longings. There’s something deep within us that yearns for something better. I believe we’re searching for paradise. Like a place where we could live in perfect harmony with one another and the earth, sea, birds, animals and everything covering the earth would be in perfect balance. With fresh air, beautiful blooms and perfect peace.

In the beginning that was the intended purpose for creation and we want it back.

After the fall of humanity, we lost it and all of its perfectness.

So we try to seek it through temporary avenues. The problem is we can’t fill the void. As much as we try, we never stay full and it becomes a vicious cycle of trying to manufacture it again and again.

The wilderness of winter is like a tutor for life. We will walk through wilderness periods. Or what some call the deep night of the soul.

I refer to any loss whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a job, a relationship, health, or dreams as those wilderness times of life. It’s the unexpected call that comes at an unexpected hour with unexpected news and we are over wrought with unexpected emotions. We’re consumed and so begins our wilderness experience.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a Michigander, it’s that winters do end. We won’t walk through the wilderness forever. There’s hope ahead.

As the harsh winds give way to warm breezes, the snow piles lessen, sunshine warms the earth, the white evaporates, brown grass turns green, gray skies become blue, and flowers bud…relief finally comes.

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Trying to make it through the wilderness periods of life can seem daunting at times. Our hope seems gone, joy hard to find and our soul feels barren. Yet we will make it through. We do make it through.

God is faithful to see us through the wilderness, even as he did with the Israelites through the barren desert, even if our wilderness lasts longer than any Midwest winter.

Wait for him. The key is remembering that he is faithful and the only way out of it is through it. Not alone, but with him.

When we go through the wilderness, and can’t seem to see the end in sight, there is hope. There is always hope and even in the midst of horrible circumstances God is good.

Life is hard. The longing we have in our hearts is for paradise — for God.  I believe he put the unrest in us so we’d seek him in all things and in all seasons.  It’s the longing to live in perfect peace with a perfect God in a perfect place.  That day will come.  God will create a new earth…he will give paradise back to those who love him.  (Revelation 21).

Until that day, renewal happens within us.  Through Jesus.  Jesus’ strength for our weakness, his peace for our pain, his comfort for our grief, his perspective for our bad attitudes and hope to move forward again.  It often happens through prayer — his word — by being thankful for the simple pleasures in life — by taking the focus off of ourselves and placing it on him.

As we walk through our wilderness periods, the Lord’s presence goes with us.  It’s where we often learn that he is enough.  With him we’re not consumed.  Renewal, like spring, will come again.   Maybe not in a change of circumstances but with a change of heart.  Look for the beautiful in the messiness of life.  It’s there.  Sometimes pain masks it but it’s there.  Wait patiently and it will return.  I will leave you with these words from Jeremiah from the book of Lamentations:

Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3: 21-24

Written by: Nancy Janiga ©2014