Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Getting Lost & Then Finding My Self

I was prompted by a blog post to look at this topic [*] differently and apply it to my true self getting lost in the process of dying to self. I came to faith in Jesus when I was a young teenager. At the time I was beginning to discover and develop into who I was as an individual. I was taking university level courses with the aim in mind of pursuing further education. I also took a creative writing course one semester since I desired to write.  I took interpretive dance classes for several years and I even had an opportunity to do interpretive dance in a Christian setting which I enjoyed. We moved and then life got busy with work and church restrictions lessened the importance and desirability of dance classes.

There were two decisive factors which led me to forgo pursuing further education. We came under a legalistic method of living which precluded further education for women at a secular university. The second omen-like factor was that the number assigned to me for my university application included the numbers 666, which is the number of the antichrist. We were convinced that Jesus was coming soon and I did not want to do anything that would make me unworthy of escaping the Great Tribulation.

 Well about thirty years passed and I fulfilled a longing I had for further education by taking a bridging course for women which was sponsored by York University Women’s Program.  While I did well in that course I did not decide to pursue further education at that time. It satisfied my longing and validated my ability which was further confirmed when I was asked to write an essay about my experience taking this course. The program was celebrating their 25th year with the publication of a book, which would contain essays by a few women from the hundreds who had taken this course. Taking this bridging course and doing well and then writing an essay for the book nudged me in the direction of pursuing writing; joining a writers’ group; and creating a blog.
Over the years I longed to have the opportunity to do creative dance again in the context of worship.  About seven years ago a young woman taught several dance workshops at my church. I enjoyed taking part and she invited me to be a part of a group of ladies who would do a liturgical dance at our church for the Christmas Eve service. I felt alive when I was taking part in this and while many people were surprised to see me dancing, they felt that I was good at it. One of the women in the group encouraged me to take adult ballet classes at a local dance studio where the young woman taught classes. After my first dance class some of the women commented that I was a natural and that they could tell that I once took dance. That was an encouragement to me and I continued to take the classes for another full year. I had the opportunity to perform in a special worship celebration service at a church the month before I was diagnosed with stage 3 Ovarian Cancer.

It has been a journey of discovering who I really am as an individual and what it means to deny myself as a follower of Christ. I now have a greater understanding that God created me to be creative, which includes the ability to write and to dance. I am still learning to deny myself by not giving in to selfishness and allowing the Holy Spirit to express the fruit of the Spirit in my life. I now realize that both statements are not in conflict nor do they contradict each other. So I can be a woman who writes, dances, and exhibits the fruit of the Spirit, all to the glory of God.

* ["Getting Lost" was this evening's topic for the writers' group.]

Monday, 16 September 2013

My Ovarian Cancer Journey

Ovarian Cancer has been described as "the disease that whispers".  Looking back I heard the whispers, but I did not know what they meant. The summer of 2007 I noticed that I had a small "pot" that was hard, but I did not do anything about it. I thought that I would mention it when I had my physical in the fall. Others had noticed my "pot", but at the time had only thought I had gained some weight. While we were at a cottage, I started to experience indigestion and bloating. I went to my family doctor when I returned home. She had initially thought that I might have a blocked intestine so she put me on stool softeners and a laxative; and she arranged for me to see a bowel specialist.
I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable as my abdomen increased in size. My husband took me to Emergency. The attending doctor was uninformed about Ovarian Cancer so he suggested that maybe I was pregnant and did not know it. When it was discovered that I had had ultrasounds earlier in the week, the staff were able to obtain the results, which recommended that I have a CAT scan.

On the following Monday my husband and I drove to Orillia. The bowel specialist told us that after looking at my ultrasounds I did not need his care as it was not a blocked intestine. We shared about our experience at Southlake and the recommendation for me to get a CAT scan. The doctor informed us that he was chief of staff at the Orillia hospital and he would personally arrange for me to have a CAT scan that day. He said he would also arrange to have the results immediately so he could personally direct us to the correct specialist. Finally we were getting somewhere!

My doctor obtained the written results the next day, and we met with her the following day to discuss the findings. By this time I was very uncomfortable and I was having trouble breathing. My husband insisted that something be done for me. My doctor arranged for me to go to Emergency at Southlake and the chief internist would examine me there. The specialist examined me and told me that they were going to admit me until they not only discovered what was causing this, but also began the appropriate treatment.

Several days later, I was visited by a nursing assistant from the oncology department and informed that I did have a tumour on my ovary. She talked in general terms and I did not expect that it would be serious. I thought that it might be only Stage I Ovarian Cancer. I asked her for information regarding Ovarian Cancer since I had never heard of it before that day.

Later that evening the oncologist came and informed me that I had Stage III Ovarian Cancer and that I would need to have my ovaries removed as well as a hysterectomy. She told me that I needed chemotherapy and that I would lose my hair. My husband and I met with the surgeon on a Wednesday, two weeks after I was first admitted to Southlake, and I began chemotherapy the next day as an inpatient. I was then released from the hospital the following day and I had the remainder of my chemo as an outpatient.

When I had Ovarian Cancer and was undergoing treatment I felt as though I was a "prisoner" in my own body. I had no real control over my body or my life at that time. The cancer caused my body to react by producing fluid (ascites) in my abdomen, which I needed to have drained on several occasions. It was rather scary the first time, but I wanted relief. I also had lost a lot of weight - probably between 25 and 30 pounds. Many times right after receiving chemo I did not feel like eating for the first few days, or I was too nauseous to keep anything down. I was trying to regain weight in order to build up my strength to cope with the chemo treatments. These were times I would not want to repeat.

I had another CA125 blood test that showed a significant decrease in the levels after two rounds of chemo. The numbers went from 4095 down to 278; the normal range is 0-35. I knew that the cancer was not spreading, but was being destroyed! After my third round of chemo my CA125 was 58. I had a total of four rounds of chemo and then I had my surgery five weeks later followed by two more rounds of chemo.

When I was taken to the operating room my husband went to wait in the designated waiting room. There was a screen that displayed the patients' names, operating room numbers, starting time of surgery and when surgery finished. After an hour and a quarter my operation stated "closed", which meant that the operation was over. My husband asked the volunteer about that and she said it must be a mistake, but fifteen minutes later the surgeon appeared and called Dan's name. He met with the surgeon in a small room. The surgeon said "This was quite astounding; we were not able to find any cancer." My husband replied that there have been "hundreds of people praying” for me; to which the surgeon said "I think it was the chemo". One of the doctors present during surgery visited me and Dan asked her more details. She said that they didn't see any tumour on the ovary and they didn’t have to take any lymph nodes or do anything to other organs. The
pathology report did show cancer cells on the inside of the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

My CA 125 level after my fifth chemo treatment was 12 and after I had a sixth chemo treatment it was 8. I had follow-up appointments with my oncologist every 3 months for the first year after finishing my chemotherapy. The second year I saw the oncologist every 6 months and each time my CA125 was either 7 or 8, which is well within the normal range of 0-35. My third year follow-up appointment was a year later. The fourth year before my annual appointment I had CT scans of my chest, abdomen and pelvis to establish a baseline. The results were all clear and my blood tests also came back normal. I had my final fifth year annual appointment in April 2013. As you can imagine I am happy and relieved to be healthy.

 I want to share the possible symptoms of Ovarian Cancer which are:
- Swelling or bloating of the abdomen
- Back or abdominal pain
- Excessive fatigue
- Gas, nausea, indigestion
If any of these symptoms persist for more than 2 to 3 weeks, see your Physician and be persistent in obtaining tests if these symptoms don't go away. As you can realize, these symptoms are very vague; almost every woman has had one or all of them, and that it is why it is called the Whispering Disease.

If you would like more information about Ovarian Cancer please go to this website:


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Hope - Hanging Onto God with Patient Expectation

When I define hope I usually put it in the context of my faith in God. I may say "I hope so" when something is stated to possibly happen. But the underlying theme is my belief and confidence in God's ability and His sovereignty to accomplish the things I am trusting Him for.

I am learning how to hang onto God more patiently while still maintaining my expectations. God does have a time and a season for everything under the sun. That includes the things I hope for. I may not receive them in the way or form I expected, but my hopes are often realized when I get to the heart of the matter.

God knows my heart and the longings I have - to be known by Him; to be loved by Him; to be accepted by Him. Those are the needs that God addresses and meets. I may long for others to love and accept me, but I can be disappointed at times. That is when I can turn to God and find those needs met.

My greatest longing is to one day see Jesus; to be in God's presence and worship Him forever. That is my constant hope in this life which carries me through when my temporal hopes are not realized.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Alphabetical Farm Memories

Ambitions for growing corn
Bird in the woodstove
Clothes hanging on the long clothesline
Daddy's coming home song that began with "Where is Daddy?"
Eating our meals outside on the picnic table
Forts in the trees
Goat under the front stoop
Hot air balloon landed in our farm field
Ice rink formed by pooled water that froze
Jars of homemade jam, pickles and preserves
Kittens born to our cat Ginger
Long driveway that needed to be plowed often on account of snow drifts as well as snowfalls
Mouse in the kitchen
No water one winter
One hundred acre farm - the fields were rented to a local farmer
Plastic swimming pool for the children
Quiet much of the time
Rural route mailing address
Swing set with an attached slide
Toby, our golden retriever
Using our zucchini harvest in many different ways
Vegetable garden
Woodstove to keep us warm in the winter
X can stand for Christ - Catholic procession up our rural road from one church to another
Young children who were born while we lived on the farm
Zucchinis so big that they were shared

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

No Other Like Our God...

who can fully satisfy -
"You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Psalm 145:16 (NIV)
who can rescue us-
"...the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials..." 2 Peter 2:9 (NLT)
who can calm our fears-
"I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me, freeing me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 (NLT)
who can help-
"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 (NIV)
who can deliver-
"He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him." Psalm 91:10 (NIV)
who can know and understand-
"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." Psalm 103: 13,14 (NIV)
 who can restore-
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1Peter 5:10 (NIV)
who can keep-
"To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen." Jude 1:24 (NIV)
who can direct-
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths." (NLT)
who can counsel-
" You keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny." Psalm 73:24 (NLT)

Monday, 27 May 2013

A Time Apart

I want to continue sharing with you how God recently led me to a time apart for personal study and reflection. These insights and reflections are from my journaling and will be shared in present tense to convey more accurately my thought processes and the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

March 14 2013- "I sense that the reason God does not want me to take part in the next Bible study series is because I need to hear from God what He wants to say to me. I really sense that I am in a gathering, learning and exploring time. I do not know where it will end or what it will look like. God knows what I will do with what I learn; that is for Him to decide. Right now I need to be obedient to His leading for my life. I have to be obedient so He can trust me with the things He will show me and teach me."

March 15 2013 - "I see now that I am in a preparation time for the next phase of my life as an empty nester. I was thinking short-term, but I think that God has some long-term goals in mind for what He wants to do in my life and then how He wants to use me... God leads me on the path of His choosing. I may not want to go there at first because I cannot see where it will lead, but I know Who is leading me. I know God's heart is for me."

March 21 2013 "I was just thinking about spending time with the Lord and I sensed Him saying He wants to spend time with me."

March 25 2013 (I wrote an email to the other Bible study leaders explaining why I was not going to take part and how God was leading me to a time apart) "When I was writing the email my eyes filled with tears and my heart was overwhelmed by the goodness of God in how He is leading me. I could not make this up. I have just experienced first-hand how God orchestrates and leads and guides - even through human vessels. I know that there are changes coming - not just changes for a season, but changes for a lifetime. God is the one who does the transforming. I just have to step out in faith and obedience."

Monday, 15 April 2013

How God is Leading Me

It is only just recently that I am aware of how the many books, devotions, services and scriptures are all dove-tailing and showing me God's leading. I will share with you some of the various pieces:  

I do a daily devotional reading, Every Day With Jesus by Selwyn Hughes. My parents subscribe to it and then pass on their old copies to me. Each devotional covers a 2 month period and I have several back copies. How I usually choose one is often based on the day of the week the previous one I was doing finishes. The current one I chose was on spiritual disciplines. In one of the lessons it covered fasting and suggested reading a book on fasting. Immediately God brought to mind a book, God's Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis, that I had not yet read or studied. (This is something I am now reading and studying.)

My husband and I  attended the Lenten series services sponsored by the Bradford Ministerial. I recently attended a funeral service at Holland Marsh CRC and the first day of their catechism was recited. These services had liturgy that spoke to my spirit and awakened a desire to be more contemplative. I know that God is awakening something in me. I sense that I am to have a more disciplined time of seeking the Lord. I was reminded of a book I had read and I could picture it in my mind. I knew God was directing me to it - Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives For Spiritual Transformation. I have also been going through a devotional book, Contemplating The Cross: A Pilgrimage of Prayer. This is helping me to slow down and think about all that Jesus went through. (I just finished reading this book yesterday.) 

My mother and I attended the World Day of Prayer service at Holy Martyrs of Japan, which was sponsored by various churches in town. The Deacon gave a message on "You Did It For Me". He spoke about seeing Jesus in the people we help/serve. He spoke on the importance of Fasting, Prayer and Alms. He said that our alms or works will not be different from the United Way unless we pray before we give alms or do service, so that we see Jesus and we do it for Him. He said that our prayers will not have depth without fasting. He said that we cannot pick and choose, but rather all three disciplines are important. He said that fasting was more than abstaining from food it was also about denying ourselves. It was a good message for me to hear in light of my involvement with the clothing room of a local ministry.

I know that this is a time of preparation for the new season of life God has for me.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

A Grandmother's Love

When I think about “love”, my mind is immediately drawn to my paternal grandmother Reva Tomlinson.

I am the eldest of three girls, but not the eldest granddaughter on my father’s side of the family. Grandma Tomlinson always wanted to have a daughter but she only had two sons, my father being her youngest. I had a special place in my grandmother’s heart and she in mine. I enjoyed spending time with her even into my teenage years.

My high school, Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute, was located near the street my grandparents lived on. There were times when I would walk along Brookdale Avenue, toward their home and the burdens of the day would slip away. Grandma would welcome me in and of course I would be offered some milk and cookies. Grandma loved to bake and she would have at least three tins of different cookies. She stored her cookie tins in the back porch, which was unheated. Sometimes I would be invited to stay for supper and then later my grandfather would drive me home.

  One time I stayed at their home for two weeks while my parents went abroad since it was close to my high school. My younger sisters stayed at our home and were cared for by my maternal grandparents as they needed to be close to their elementary school. I even went to my uncle’s cottage with Grandma and Grandpa Tomlinson for a couple of days. I loved spending time with them and hearing their stories. Although, to my chagrin, I did complain to my dad on occasion that I had heard those stories repeated too many times. At the time I thought I would always remember every detail since I heard them so often. I wish that I had taken the time to record those stories in some form other than trying to rely solely on my memory.

I remember one time as a young preteen wanting to make Grandma beautiful for when Grandpa came home from work. For special occasions or when she was going out Reva wore rouge and face powder, which she allowed me to use on her. I also chose some clip-on earrings for her to wear with a matching necklace and even a broach. I can remember Grandpa playing along and commenting on how beautiful she looked, even if she was a tad overdressed!

Grandma loved to sew and when I was younger she sewed me and my dolls matching outfits. Reva made all her own clothes including her matching hats as she had once worked as a milliner. I loved to watch her sew and when I was old enough I asked her to teach me to sew. My mother had the same sewing machine and I was not allowed to touch it, but my grandmother took the time to teach me one-on-one. I also took sewing at school in junior high and later at summer school. I remember going to a fabric store with my grandparents to pick out some special polyester blend that I could use to make some outfits. That was in the seventies so that type of fabric was all the rage!

Grandma made each of the six grandchildren a traditional quilt and a yo-yo quilt. I remember one time my grandmother gave me some rather explicit advice to not let my husband love me on top of the yo-yo quilt as it would crush it. Grandma had a healthy view of the conjugal relationship and on occasion she did slip in some comments. She just said this so nonchalantly but as usual I was quite embarrassed.

My grandparents sold their home on Brookdale Avenue and moved to an apartment in Scarborough. We also moved from Willowdale to Downsview and I changed high schools for my final two years. If I wanted to visit my grandparents now I needed to take the TTC or get a drive with my parents. My grandfather passed away and Grandma stayed on in the apartment until she could no longer cook for herself. Reva was moved into the nursing home part of the complex, Shepherd Manor, where she could eat in a dining room with other seniors. Her move and further downsizing coincided with my family’s recent move to a bigger house and my upcoming marriage.

Grandma gave me her sewing machine and some money as a wedding gift. She had instructed me to trade in the sewing machine and add the money in order to purchase a newer fancier sewing machine. I could not bring myself to do it. I thought about all the clothes and other articles she had sewn with this machine and that if she was able to do all that with this machine then I would use it too. One time when I brought the machine in for service the serviceman said that it is a great machine and will keep working well as long as I maintain it. I have sewn many clothes for myself and my family as well as other items. I have used some of the attachments such as the buttonholer and the zipper foot but there are some fancier ones that I have yet to use.

The final item my grandmother gave me was her engagement ring. I didn’t receive it until after she had passed away. Grandma had noticed that I did not have an engagement ring and she told me that when she died she wanted me to have it. I had the ring resized as it was too big and now I wear that ring only on special occasions as I want to preserve it.

One day I thought about some of the items I have from Grandma Tomlinson and I was overwhelmed by the love that each item represented. Grandma passed on the love of a spouse; the love of family; the love of cooking and baking; the love of sewing; and the love of God. Grandma prayed for our family to come to know Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and she rejoiced when we did come to faith. I know that one day I will see her again and what a day of rejoicing that will be!
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