A Quiet Time Do Over

It has become my routine.  Get up, make the bed, dress, and settle in my little corner of my bedroom and have my morning devotions.  My comfy chair is antique, a Banff Springs hotel cast off that I got on an online bidding site.  The circular table to the side of my chair is covered with family pictures of my three adult children when they were babies, my five grandchildren, with two of them wearing printed t-shirts, “My grandma is my hero”.  They honoured me with having these shirts made when I was going through treatments for endometrial cancer in 2019.  There is a picture of my husband holding our infant son, taken only a few months after our adoption of him was finalized.  A recent group picture of all three of our kids with their spouses, with their children posing in front of a big tree at our favourite camping site in British Columbia. The photo always makes me smile and brings back summer memories.  In front of the pictures laying on the table is my journal, a pen, highlighter pens, a daily devotional book and my Bible.  I switch devotional books each year; this year I am reading through Oswald Chamber’s “My Utmost for His Highest” for the fifth or sixth time.  The dormer type window beside my chair lets in the early morning light, and I pick up my pen to write in my journal.  I have written in journals for close to forty years.  They are filled with private thoughts, daily happenings, and God stories.  I now have over twenty of these filled-up journals in a file box.  Not sure what I will do with them. 

I chew on my pen, before I begin to write how I spent my weekend.  It was okay.  Not much to write about really.  Needing some inspiration, I turn back several pages in my journal and read about how memorable my birthday weekend was in August.  My kids had made me a special dinner.  My son, who loves to cook, made chicken fettuccine alfredo and mussels cooked in a tomato, white wine sauce.  Yum!  My younger daughter made individual strawberry shortcakes, and my oldest daughter, made a sweet broccoli salad.  My mouth waters recalling the tastes of each dish.  I giggle to myself, thinking about my grandbabies, sitting on my lap, with their sticky fingers, runny noses, and bear hugs aplenty.  It was such a precious time. My thoughts are flooded with precious recollections from that day.  I scowl at the few sentences I’ve jotted down listing how the weather was over this past weekend.  Pretty mundane stuff.  Guess not every weekend can be stellar.    

Feeling a little defeated, I read from my devotional, but my thoughts still scramble back to my birthday weekend celebrations.  I barely recall what I’m reading.  Flustered, I try to refocus on Oswald’s daily dose of wisdom.  Today, I admit, his words do not seem to impact me as they normally do.  I open my Bible.  I am immersed in Ezekiel.  The book of Ezekiel pronounces judgement on Israel and surrounding nations, but also provides by way of visions, the restoration of God’s people, and a prophetic look into the future after Christ’s return at the end times.  I know the intro to the Book but I will admit, I find myself reading half-heartedly the words of the prophet, not sure if his teachings apply to me at all.  It is taxing trying to concentrate on this particular book because I’m not as interested in it as I am with other parts of Scripture.  However, it follows a reading schedule I’m trying to adhere to read through the Bible in a year, so I press on.  Once again, my mind wanders.  Perhaps I’ll be more attentive reading the book of Daniel once I’ve finished slogging through Ezekiel.  I put a bookmark in my Bible and prepare for prayer time.

I am completely distracted now.  An errant spider web in the corner has caught my eye.  Immediately I feel the need to attend to dusting that cobweb aside.  I start to berate myself for not being a better housekeeper.  Surely, there must be other webs in the corners that I haven’t noticed before.  It requires a thorough inspection, and yet, I can’t interrupt my quiet time.  It’s prayer time!  Making a promise to myself to grab my dust cloth the instant I’m through, I close my eyes, but that pesky spider web is in my mind’s eye now and I can’t let it go. 

“Lord,” I say out loud, “help me.”

I am always amazed how patient the Lord is with me.  This morning’s “quiet time” has been anything but quiet.  I realize quickly that my heart is being pulled in many different directions.  My thoughts are scattered, I’m distracted, and I’m more intent on finishing my “routine” than being fully engaged in my daily dialogue with God.  I need a reboot, a do-over this morning. 

“Forgive me, Lord.” 

I suddenly recall the weekend’s snippets of life that I had thought not even worthy of note before, but now seem special and memorable.  A phone call from a dear friend.  A drive in the country with my husband and spotting a moose standing tall by the side of the road.  A sunrise, a sunset, the sound of rain on the roof lulling me to sleep on Saturday night.  Texts throughout the day from my children.  Smiling at a picture posted on social media of my young grandsons meeting their newest baby cousin. Gathering with my church family for worship on Sunday morning.  Smiles, hugs, waves.  A feeling of belonging.  Going home, enjoying a meal, and having a cup of hot chai tea.  Spending some alone time immersed in a good book.  Watching a few original Star Trek episodes Sunday evening and making my husband laugh when I recite the dialogue word for word during the “Trouble with Tribbles” episode.  I praise God for the little, ordinary things I take for granted.  The everyday events, the mundane becoming memorable.   

I pick up “My Utmost for His Highest” and this time I carefully read through the devotion, asking God to give me insight that I did not have on first reading.  The message takes on new meaning.  The weekend events combined with the wisdom of Oswald, causes me to add several paragraphs to my journal entry.

When I pick up my Bible, I ask God to illuminate the message and meaning He would have me glean from the Book of Ezekiel.  How can I apply this prophetic Book to my own life?  A particular line almost seems to stand out from the page.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, I gain a clearer understanding of what I am reading.  I add the verse into my journal and underline the passage in my Bible with my highlighter pen. 

When I bow my head this time in prayer, although the industrious spider’s web still attempts to distract me, I can maintain focus.  My conversation with the Lord is lengthy, I forget time.  When I rise from my prayer corner, I feel rejuvenated for the day.  I speculate excitedly about the new memories I will make during the day.

But first…

I grab my dust cloth. 

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Running the Race Marked Out for Me

When I was in Grade 6, I loved to run the 4 by 100 race. It meant running 400 metres which was 2 times around our track at school. Although the object, according to my P.E. Teacher, was to win the race, I just wasn’t fast enough to beat the other competitors around the track. Instead, I had the mindset that slow and steady wins the race, and I was so thankful to get a “Participant” ribbon when I crossed the finish line, usually dead last.

When I was in high school, there was more pressure for me to compete and focus on winning rather than just competing. I tried different sports, but I just didn’t have the natural abilities or the competitive spirit needed to place first, second, or third on the podium. I was content being part of a team mostly cheering from the sidelines and encouraging my team mates in their pursuit of excellence on the sports field.

As an adult I have discovered a more competitive streak in me, especially when it comes to board games, and mini-golf. Just ask my son-in-law, Matt. Still, I don’t think I’m a poor sport if I lose. I just like winning better.

Over the past few months, I have been able to get back to the gym after a long hiatus. Truth be told, I’ve never really liked going to the gym. My husband loves to press weights, and I go with him to keep him company. While he’s power lifting, I walk around the indoor track at the sports complex we go to in Cochrane.

It has been a struggle to get into shape after a cancer battle, and then Covid hit and the gyms were shut down for well over a year. A lack of motivation especially hampered my return to the walking track. I am the queen of excuses, but my husband was determined to get back to the weight room once the gyms reopened, and I dutifully followed along. The first time at the track, I could barely get around the circuit two times. It was pitiful. It was also shocking. I never realized how run down my body was physically. I had been told by my doctors that recovery from surgery and cancer treatments would be a long road and could take a couple of years or more. Well, I’ve passed the two year mark, and I still have a few nagging, lasting side effects that tend to aggravate more than slow me down. Still, I was certain that once the treatments were behind me, I’d bounce back rather quickly.

I was wrong.

My second trip to the track, I was lapped by a man with a walker. I nearly burst into tears; I was so discouraged and humiliated. I barely spoke to my sweet husband that day, irrationally blaming him for my distress. It was easier to lay a guilt trip on him than face the fact that I was woefully out of shape and I lacked the desire and discipline to change.

My husband went to the gym alone the next day. I sat at home and brooded over the unfairness of life and threw a pity party for myself. Of course, what normally happens when I have those kinds of days, I cry out to God for help. Like a child, throwing a temper tantrum, I lay my requests (complaints) before God demanding His attention, and then proceed to hold my breath until He responds (gives in to my demands).

I should know better.

The patience of my Heavenly Father is overwhelming. He doesn’t scold me, or ignore me (as I deserve in this case) He leads me to Scripture and His Words leap off the page at me.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

That phrase, “going into strict training” makes me cringe.

“So what you’re telling me, Lord, laying exegesis aside, is that this getting into shape process is going to take some time and hard work.”

I can almost hear an audible, exasperated sigh from Heaven.

The next day, I reluctantly head to the gym. My husband, bless his heart, says I am walking a little faster from the car to the door of the sports complex. I resist the temptation to stick my tongue out at him. He heads towards the weight room and I head to the track. Thankfully, there are no runners or elderly men with walkers who impede my slow but steady pace around the circuit. I listen to worship music, trying to walk in time to the beat of each song. I really like “Amazing Grace” (for obvious reasons).

After I have done three laps, I feel a dewy, glow on my brow. (Polite talk for: I’ve broken out in a sweat), and my knees and ankles start to complain. Still, I chug on like the “Little Engine That Could”, and determinedly walk two more laps. It is only through sheer will power that I complete the laps, which according to my step counter is a little over two kilometres of walking. I feel like I’ve just completed the Boston Marathon!

That was two months ago, and I now walk between ten to fifteen laps and I’ve added cycling to my workout routine. I plan on adding a bit of weight training, just to keep my Sweetie company. On September 19th, I’ve signed up once again for the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope – “One Day, My Way” walk/run. Due to Covid-19 restrictions we can’t do a group event but runners/walkers must fundraise and set an individual goal that goes along with the theme: “Try Like Terry” (#TryLikeTerry). The Terry Fox Foundation has for the last 41 years, been raising money to go towards cancer research to find a cure for cancer in all its insidious forms. It is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. For those of you who do not know Terry’s story and accomplishments, I invite you to read a tribute I wrote several years ago: “Terry Fox – A Great Canadian

I’ve been training hard for the day. I’ve got my new “2021 Terry’s Team” t-shirt, given to participants who are cancer survivors, and I have set some personal goals of how many steps I want to walk that day. The idea is to push my physical fitness boundaries a little more each day leading up to the “marathon”, and my competitive nature is starting to come into play now. I like to see the step counter count a few more steps each day to my total…

At least I’m not getting lapped anymore by seniors with walkers 🙂

I would appreciate your prayers and support if you are able to donate to the cause. Just click on the link:

Lynn Dove’s “Try Like Terry” Sponsor Page

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Facing My Fear

I had to take deep breaths, hard to do under the obligatory Covid mask, but I forced myself to find an object to focus all my attention rather than on the nurse intent upon taking my blood pressure. As the cuff tightened and then released pressure and tightened again to cause bruising, I knew it was high.

“I have “white-coat” syndrome.” I told her as she readjusted the cuff and prepared to take my pressure again to confirm the high diastolic reading she got the first time.  “It’s okay at home.  I just get nervous in doctor offices.”  She mumbled an inaudible sound and proceeded to take my pressure again as if I hadn’t spoken to her.  It was all I could do to not cry out from the pain, but finally she acknowledged with a nod that she was done and left me alone in the examining room to sit like a wayward child waiting to see the principal (doctor), while she ratted me out for my high blood pressure infraction.

I am fidgeting waiting for him to come into the room. How many times have I been in that office over the years? The only changeable thing in that bleak, cold, examining room is the calendar. I’m sure I’ve seen that same mountain scene with a field of sunflowers in the foreground the last time I was here. The date and month are different, but the scene hasn’t changed. “Strange”, I think, mesmerized by the picture, “do they just recycle the calendar every year? Silly.” My thoughts are jumbled. Anything to keep my mind off what I have come here for.

I don’t want to be here. I have a minor complaint, surely nothing that would warrant this invasive “going-over” every time I come to see him. We have a history he and I. Over two decades of familiarity, my doctor knows me inside out, literally. Our relationship is not a friendship, it’s not adversarial either, but it’s comfortable, familial even in some aspects. I’d much rather avoid our scheduled meetings if I could, but I reluctantly call him in my times of need and put my trust in his skills, professionalism and knowledge. I dread our visits, while at the same time, I acknowledge this need to be reassured by him that all is or will be well no matter what. He has seen me through many little ailments, and has empathetically commiserated with me twice after telling me I had breast cancer in 2001 and endometrial cancer in 2019. He is well-acquainted with my medical history. In his mind, there are no “little” ailments anymore for me.

Hence my high blood pressure.

I am convinced I now suffer from a form of PTSD because of the treatments I endured to combat those cancers. I now face the irrational, yet totally rational fear of hearing him say “you have cancer” again. He likely dreads saying it as much as I dread hearing it.

I lift a silent “help me” prayer to God while fixated still on the mountain and sunflower calendar picture. A tap on the door startles me and he pokes his head in and smiles. “So, Lynn, what can I do for you today?”

It’s nothing serious, I want to tell him, but I’ve worked myself up to believe that my minor complaint is now a major health crisis again. I’m not a hypochondriac, I don’t complain unless something is really “bugging” me. He knows that. I hesitantly relate my complaint. He nods and makes notes on the laptop computer that is affixed on a stand on the wall. “Well, we will run some tests and rule out…” He doesn’t finish the sentence. He doesn’t need to say it. I know. “Anything else?” He asks jovially. “You look well!” He says almost surprised.

I feel fine except for this minor complaint. He sends me off for blood work, and a routine ultrasound. Except nothing is routine for me anymore. Getting a cancer diagnosis twice means everything could be cancer until it’s ruled out.

Hence my high blood pressure.

“Your BP is a little high.” He says matter-of-factly. I know. “It’s normal at home?” I nod. “No worries.” He says. Easy for him to say, I think to myself. “When we get the results back from these tests, I’ll give you a call.” Just like that, I’m free to go and stew in my irrational-rational thoughts until the next time I see him.

It’s been two years since I went through endometrial cancer. Except for some nagging, long-lasting side effects from the treatments, I am doing quite well. I am thankful that I have once again battled and survived. When people ask how I’m doing, I say that God is good, and I whole-heartedly believe it. I wish I could just shed the doubt of my having another cancer reoccurrence, but every time I go to my doctor(s), it’s like a heavy weight around my neck. Fear.

Apparently, I’m not alone when it comes to this fear of cancer reoccurrence.

“Many people worry that their cancer will return. A study from the American Cancer Society found that a year after being diagnosed, around 2/3 of people were concerned about their disease coming back. Some cancers come back only once, while others reappear two or three times. But some recurrent cancers might never go away or be cured. This sounds scary, but many people can live months or years with the right treatment. For them, the cancer becomes more like a chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease. While it may be hard not to fret, try to stay positive and remember that your situation is unique. And as treatments improve, so does the outlook for recurrent cancer.”

I can’t say I think much about reoccurrence…until I have to go and see a doctor. Just walking into his office triggers my anxiety.

Hence my high blood pressure.

He phones me a week later, and my heart is palpitating wildly when I see the call display. He immediately says, “No worries, Lynn. Everything looks good. Test results are normal. No worries.” he repeats. My minor complaint is just that…minor. “Just monitor it and if it gets worse, call me.” I promise to do that, and thank him a bit profusely before hanging up.

Today, I’m finally able to write about the whole experience. I haven’t written in weeks. It’s hard to write when I’m weighted down by this irrational-rational fear.

I am reminded again that Scripture mentions “fear” well over 500 times. In addition to the 103 “Fear not” or “Be not afraid” verses there’s also the “fear of God” verses which speak of the reverence for God alone, and then many more verses that encourage us to not worry or to not to be anxious. For me, it’s relatively easy to not be fearful when I’m going about my daily activities, but going to the doctor has become a fear trigger for me.

I don’t know if I can completely get over my anxiety about going to see a doctor. I know for certain I cannot overcome it on my own, but it’s important I face my fear so it does not control or overwhelm me, and cause my BP to spike every time I have a doctor’s appointment.

I wrote a blog post years ago, and I have spent time going through all the scripture verses I listed in that particular posting. This past week I met with a young doctor who will be my new GP since my long-time family doctor is retiring. I expected this new change of doctor would cause me tremendous anxiety, but I was inexplicably calm at our first meeting. Certainly, it was odd sharing my complicated medical history with this young man; I felt like I was somehow “cheating” on my old doctor. I don’t know the future, but no doubt, I will need to forge a trusting relationship with this new doctor that may be fraught with some of my health ups and downs. One verse came to mind as I left his office after our first meeting. The verse may be a little out of context, but as I praised God for the many years of wonderful care I had received from my old doctor, and I was now willingly transferring my care to this new doctor, I was not fearful. I was at peace. I called him a “blessing”, and he said emphatically that he hoped to live up to that.

“For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal.” Job 5:18

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