Graze: To feed on growing grasses.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

-Ps. 23:1-6

Growing up on a farm, I used to watch the cows, sheep & horses graze in the pasture. Each morning we would open the gate to the barnyard and they knew there was freedom from that small pen they were in. They also knew there was nice green grass beyond the barnyard. Once the gate was open, look out because those animals wanted to get where the tall, green grass grew – the pasture! They would take off sometimes even running up the old fenced lane that went up over the hill through the cornfield to the lush green pasture on the other side of the farm. There they would graze for a while then lay down and rest for a while then graze some more. They did this all day long. Come evening we would go over to the pasture’s edge and call the cows – 'come boss, 'come boss. They would gather at the pasture gate. Sometimes we would have to go round up a few stragglers and when all were accounted for, we’d open the lane gate and back over the hill they would go to the barnyard for the night. The next morning was the same routine, day after day.
What a life, huh?!

Oh that we could just graze and rest in shady green pastures all day long! But we can rest and graze in God’s green pastures and restore our souls . . . The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. (Ps. 23:1) I believe God wants us to slow down and “rest” and “graze” and “feed” on His Word. Life throws so many things our way and we are so busy – busy doing good things. But are we running on empty a good share of the time? Are we feeling stretched to extreme? Are we content with who we are in God’s divine providence? Slow down and take some time to just leisurely graze, rest a while, then graze and feed on the good things God has provided for you. Graze, rest, and enjoy the “shady green pastures” of God’s abundant love, grace, and mercy.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Aging - Getting Old!

Well, today is my birthday!!!  Happy Birthday to me!! I love "Maxine" and her "years" of practical advice!!   I'm sure she must have seen it all in her days!!!  Really though, she can get by with saying things the normal everyday person won't think of really saying!!  But I'll take her advise on "aging" as I pass on to this next year.  I realize that I am one year "older" but I truly hope I have also become one year "wiser"!  It really isn't the number of candles on the birthday cake but the number of lessons learned in life that really count. The number of people's lives that I have touched and offered encouragement, joy, and laughter to. It is not only the number of lives that I have touched . . . but the number of lives that have touched me and been there for me.  2012 was a unique year for me wrapping up with my "Christmas Miracle". A MRI showed I had two malignant tumors the size of tangerines embedded in my brain. My "Christmas Miracle" resulted in removal of both tumors from the lining of the brain - not embedded in the brain and no sign of cancer! I thank all who have been there to encourage me.  I am looking forward to 2013 with great anticipation of new things, new hopes and new dreams. No longer in the caterpillar/cocoon mode but that of the beautiful butterfly soaring high in the sky and stopping to smell the beauty of each colorful flower along the way!  

Another birthday . . . another candle . . . another day!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Think Before You Speak

Photo: Before you speak...

Type, "Me" if you'll commit to do this!

"May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing unto you, O Lord, my Rock and my Salvation". (Psalms 19:14)

Since my Brain Surgery to remove the two tumors back in December 2012, I have had go to Speech Therapy.  I have been working to reprogram some of my vocabulary to connect in the cognitive thinking area of my brain so I can communicate those words that are blocked and not connecting.  I may know the word and sometimes it is right on the tip of my tongue but I just can't communicate it. It is like it is just blocked out of my verbal communication.  So in Speech Therapy, I work on hundreds of words, their meanings, their opposites, I try to list as many synonyms as I can for a certain word and attempt to do all this within 5 seconds!  It is really quite challenging as I try to think of these words.  Some are really a struggle for me, others are a real breeze, and some of the words I just have to pass over and come back to them later.

Since I am working with all of these "words", I have started taking note, in a different light, of the many words and phrases people use and also those that are in what I read.  There are so many words - some I have never attempted to use! I must say that I am almost fascinated by them. Many of these words have different meanings with the different context of use. Even "opposite" words and their meanings come in different degrees!

Through all of these word exercises I am having to do, I've come to realize how import our vocabulary is . . . it can build up or it can tear down; it can spread rumors or lies or it can speak volumes of truth; it can help or hinder; it can encourage and inspire or it can put down and belittle; it can be necessary to speak or it can be idle, course joking and of little use; it can be kind and understanding or it can be hurtful and harmful.  We choose what we want to come out of our mouths, what falls upon the ears of our children, families, friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers.  We choose with ever word.  Before you speak . . . THINK!  This is such good advice for all of us to remember.

I want to think before I speak and know what the words I am speaking are really saying. Psalms 19:14 says this, "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing unto you, O Lord, my Rock and my Salvation".  During this time of speech recovery, I have claimed this scripture to stand upon. It is my hope and prayer that as my learned words reconnect to my verbal vocabulary they will communicate what is pleasing to my Lord.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Glazed Orange Bundt Cake

1 white or yellow cake mix
1 small package instant vanilla pudding
1 c. orange juice (fresh or made from concentrate)
2 T. orange juice concentrate
1 T. orange zest
4 eggs
1/2 c. oil
2 T. dry orange gelatin powder

Combine ingredients together until smooth. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until cake is cooked through. Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes to cool. Pour bundt cake out onto a plate. Make glaze.

2 T. butter, softened
2 T. orange juice concentrate
1 t. lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
3 c. powdered sugar
Dash of salt
Zest & juice from one orange

Combine glaze ingredients together and whisk until completely smooth (can do this with an electric beater). Drizzle glaze all over bundt cake once it has been turned out onto a plate and allowed to cool for 5-10 minutes.

My Christmas Miracle - Dec. 12, 2012

~My Christmas Miracle~ 

Wherever we are and whatever we're doing, God wants to be a part of it. 
When prayer enters every aspect of our lives, who knows what God might 
do for His glory! ~Dennis Fisher

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God‘s will for you in Christ Jesus. 
(I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

I have been on a journey that I was not even aware of.  I’m not sure when it all began and I don’t fully understand why or even how I got to the point I was at in this journey.  It seemed that I was just there.  Looking back I can see tail-tail signs that this journey had begun at least a year ago (February 2012) and maybe even before that in 2011.  I have no real recollection of it beginning as this journey was so gradual

As this last year progressed I had good days and a few days I just did not feel myself but could not pin-point what was the matter. I was not really sick, so to speak, but just not quite myself. As the summer progressed into  fall I had friends that sensed I was not myself, either.  I was distant, unemotional, and could never decide where we should go to eat!! I did not realize that this was frustrating them, even making some of them mad at me and some even thought I was mad at them - when I was not. "In my mind", I saw no change in myself and thought everything was as usual.

They suggested I go to the doctor and that maybe I was just depressed. The doctor gave me a prescription for depression.  This really did not make any difference. I would sometimes have a bad day and then go two weeks feeling fine. At least that’s the way I saw it in my mind. Finally my girls noticed that I sometimes had difficulty expressing myself and communicating and was just not the same “mom“ they had grown up with. Not the mom I used to be!

On Wednesday, December 5, I got up to go to work and just did not feel well - I could not tell you what was wrong but I just did not feel right. I decided to call into work and let them know that I would not be in and was not feeling well. That is what I thought I said when I called the church and got the answering machine. Later I found out that what was recorded on the answering machine was, “Pastor, this is Diana and ah and ah - I want to - to leave a mes-message”.  That was not at all what I was thinking I was saying and I did not even realize that was the message I left until that was later shared with me.  About 11 AM the Pastor came over to the house to check on me and see if I was alright. I told him I was staying home, I did not feel well and wondered why he did not check the answering machine!!!  He said that was fine-take all the time I needed until I felt better.  What I did not realize was that the Pastor had also noticed a change in me. I usually answer the phone “1st Church of the Nazarene, this is Diana” but there were several times that week that I could not think of “1st Church of the Nazarene” - I was just a blank - so I wrote it on a piece of paper and put it beside the phone. My girls stopped by to check on me that same day that I stayed home and later told me I looked like I had been run over by a semi-truck! I was really out of it. I had a headache but didn’t bother to take any Ibuprofen until Liz told me to take some. I went to work the next day and must not have looked much better because the Pastor told me to go home at noon and rest. I did not understand because I felt fine . . . at least in my mind I felt just fine.  I went home and that afternoon my girls, Liz and Hannah, called the doctor and more or less forced me to go see him that same afternoon on Thursday, December 6. The girls told the doctor that I was having trouble talking and communicating. I would try to say something sometimes and then I would give up and just say “never mind”. The doctor perked up and immediately ordered a MRI for the next day. So on Friday, December 7, I had a MRI and was told to return to my Doctor and the three of us sat and waited in his office until the end of the day when he finally came in with the copy of the MRI in his hand.  He said I had brain cancer. There were two malignant tumors, each the size of a tangerine embedded in my brain and I was to go directly to the hospital and check in from his office.

None of us had eaten lunch or supper so we went to Burger King on our way to the hospital.  I rode with Liz and Hannah went home to get Noah, my son, and they met us at Burger King.  On the way, I called my mom to tell her. I was already pretty much out of it in that I was having trouble talking and could not really carry on much of a conversation.  Liz filled mom in on the details.  I guess I also called my two brothers but I don’t remember even talking to them. The three kids and I discussed the situation as best as I could while we ate and then headed directly to the hospital to be admitted - that was Friday, December 7.

From that point, I hardly remember anything - just bits and pieces.  The Doctors came in and explained what they were going to do.  I expected to have my head shaved and go “wig shopping” but the surgeon just cut a nice little line 11 ½ inches long almost ear to ear up and over my head about an inch back from my hair line and left my incision concealed in my hair.  No wig was needed! 

I went into the hospital on December 7 and surgery was scheduled for December 10th. I was prepared and taken down for surgery and was in surgery for about an hour while the Doctor began “mapping” the surgery out with this “mapping machine” when the machine quit working.  So I was taken back to my room and the surgery was postponed until Wednesday, December 12. (12-12-12!)  I was glad that the “mapping machine” did not quit working half-way through the surgery - what would have happened then?!  Looking back now, I see that was a blessing or a miracle from God! So many people came and went as I laid there in that hospital bed and there were many prayers going up for me from my family, friends, church families from nine to ten different states and I know God was listening to them all! So many things were said and had happened leading up to this surgery but in spite of all of that there was a "peace" that passeth ALL UNDERSTANDING that had settled over me and I knew this situation was entirely in God's hands.

Wednesday, December 12, came around and I was once again prepped for surgery.  This time it was the real thing.  Somewhere between the MRI on Friday and surgery on Wednesday another “miracle” came from God in that the MRI stated that I had a malignant tumor embedded in my brain and when the Doctor got in there - yes, there were two tumors the size of tangerines but they were not embedded in my brain but just between the lining and they were NOT malignant!  Miracles do happen, don’t they?!

I came home from the hospital, December 18, just before Christmas and went to my parents to recuperate. I feel like I went into the hospital like a "Caterpillar" trapped in his cocoon but I came out of the hospital like a "Butterfly" in flight seeing the world in a whole different light!  We had a very “low-key” Christmas.  I had not done any shopping but the kids and everyone understood.  Everyone just said me coming through this was their best Christmas present!  WOW! My son wrote on Facebook that this was the best Christmas he had ever had . . . Because his mom came home from the hospital and was with him again!  (This is where I started crying! LOL!) My girls kept saying, "our mom is back - she’s back”! I remember right after my surgery everyone kept saying, “she’s back again”. What I did not realize was that everyone said my whole personality was back to the “real me” again! I did not realize how big the tumors were until I went back to the Doctor. The Doctor, nurse, and the PA each told me and showed me the size of each of the tumors. Each one really was the size of a tangerine! They also said if I had not went into the hospital and got started on the massive doses of steroids (to stop the swelling) right away that most cases like this were fatal.  That kind of made me think and realize how thankful I was for God’s “clock-work” - His perfect timing indeed!  I just call it my very own special  “Christmas Miracle”!  Even through my stuttering and stammering, it was the most “heart-felt” Christmas ever!  Truly “my” Christmas Miracle!

My recovery was just beginning.  I was not able to talk or make much sense or even able to express what I was "thinking" most of the rest of the time in the hospital.  I would think something and something entirely different would come out of my mouth . . . and some of it was absolutely hilarious!  My daughter said I was quite entertaining there for a while!!  I could see people trying not to laugh at the crazy things I said but some of it was so funny even I could not help but laugh. The old saying "laughter is the best medicine" is so true!! What I was thinking and trying to communicate was entirely different than what came out of my mouth!  Others must have thought it was permanent because they were so serious and did not know whether to laugh or cry!  Thank goodness it was not permanent!  By the time I left the hospital I was starting to communicate a little bit and everyday got just a little bit better and clearer.  I started Speech Therapy and they had originally told me I would probably need to continue for 6-9 months, so I started the therapy two times a week after I went home.  Another miracle is that in two months I am now going to therapy just one time a week. It is very challenging and hard work but God is helping make the improvements and adjustments I need to make.  Both the therapist and the surgeon are amazed at the progress I have made in just two months!  I just told them that I had a lot of prayers going up for me, I have a BIG GOD, and HE really is the GREAT PHYSICIAN!! I have learned to appreciate God’s handiwork as I have learned so much about the workings of the brain and it’s different “learning centers”. Truly we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”   

I can now communicate fairly well, drive, and am back to work part-time working towards being back full-time again.  The "communication blocks" (words that I know in my mind and am thinking and trying to say, are just blocked out of my vocabulary) are getting to be less and less of a struggle for me.  It is so encouraging to know that God does hear our prayers and answers in miraculous ways beyond our comprehension . . . even when we are not in the state of mind to pray for ourselves as was my situation!  All I can say is, “I have a Great-Big-Wonderful-God.”

Thank you to ALL of you that prayed and I want you to know that YOU had a huge part in “MY CHRISTMAS MIRACLE” sent straight down from God to me personally!