Tortoise

I walked a lot this year.


In January I signed up to walk 100 miles with the Pine Pacer Challenge at the Morton Arboretum. I managed 88 miles, finishing 100 miles mid-February. I decided to keep going and added another 60 miles by early April. Connie introduced me to The Conquerors website and we began a virtual walk across the South Island of New Zealand, the Alps-to-Ocean challenge. Early on I worried that couldn’t keep up with Connie’s walking pace and added biking to my routine. First trip out I fell and broke my wrist 🙁 Fortunately it wasn’t a bad break. I couldn’t ride anymore, but I could keep walking.

In mid-May, we decided that if we pushed a bit, we could finish our walk together when she and Larry visited Memorial Day weekend. We both walked 4-5 miles a day to be accomplish this just before the beginning of the parade in Oswego. 180 miles in 50 days. That was fun, though I paid a price with sore feet and a trip the podiatrist. New shoes seemed to solve the problem.

In June we started off on the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia, once again virtually. I decided that a steady three miles a day would accomplish my goal and quickly learned to get the first two miles in early before the heat of the day. I usually finished the last mile or so in the evening.

I did well through June and then my knee began to hurt. At first I tried walking through the pain but eventually that wasn’t possible. I visited Dr. O’Rourke who diagnosed patellar tendonitis and recommended rest, NSAIDs and quadricep strengthening.

Meanwhile, the hare plunged ahead, outdistancing me by about 20 miles!
This week, I started walking 1 mile each morning and evening.

I am the tortoise*.

A tortoise might be a good metaphor for my cancer treatment as well. Every 4 weeks I have labs drawn, visit my oncologist and get a Prolia injection. My numbers are staying steady month after month, which means my medications are still working to keep the cancer at bay and hemoglobin in the normal range. I was recently told I was a boring patient. That’s okay by me; tortoises are pretty boring too.

*I won’t achieve my Cabot Trail (186 miles) goal by the end of July as planned, but I am okay with that. In August I only have a 60 mile trail (Kilimanjaro) as my goal. After that we are going for the 480 mile Camino de Santiago, which I’m guessing will take us me most of the fall, winter and spring.


This Old House

For the past five months a good part of my mental energy has been wrapped up in on old house in downtown Oswego. When Laura first invited us to see the house, I glanced through the Zillow pictures and decided not to go since I didn’t think they were going to like it. Was I ever wrong! “The Pillars” became the standard by which they evaluated every other home they visited.

When the Birkey’s started to look for a new home, I expected them to choose a slightly larger home with a full basement in an average Aurora neighborhood. It turned out that land was a higher value for them and then “old” started to charm them. After months of waiting and several negotiations, they moved in last Saturday.

This old house was built in 1902 and is situated on two acres of land that borders on the Fox River. Next door is another 3-4 acre undeveloped park that the kids are welcome to roam. It has 36-37 pillars in and around the house, which gives it a presidential look. Early on, when Laura hoped for a January move-in date she suggested we could have an inauguration, #Lauraforpresident. (One day during Laura’s senior year of high school she came home and declared that she wanted to become the President. She was frustrated by the three-year road construction process on the main route to her high school. She was sure she could have managed that better.)

The house is spacious–five bedrooms, three-and-a half baths, a library, two porches (one screened in and one all-season, two stairways up to the second floor) kitchen, dining room, family room and living room. It also has a port-cochére, a carriage house, and two butler bells 🙂 It has a full unfinished attic and an unfinished basement. The property is wooded, full of trees and flowers and a large old grape arbor. I’m really enjoying watching the flowering trees and perennials that keep blooming. The yard and neighborhood are perfect for the kids. Papa and Kellen are already designing a tree house.

It also has a history, which we are still learning. In the 1960s it was split into apartments. In the 80s, a family moved in and restored it to a family home with a kitchen that was featured in Better Homes and Gardens. The last family to own the home (2000-ish) remodeled it to preserve its historical heritage. It has “good bones” and a new roof, so we’re hoping Laura and Taylor will enjoy fixing it up without major expense.

On closing day, we were invited to join them for dessert to celebrate. I decided to try to make a cake that looked like the house. I bought pillars in the cake section at the craft store and went home to create a facsimile of the house. If any of you are familiar with Lamb Cakes, you may have seen this meme:

Here’s how my cake turned out. Definitely nailed it (Not!) but my grandkids still thought it was awesome.

I did a better job at Christmastime. Laura said the only thing she wanted for Christmas was a house. Here is my Lego version of The Pillars.

It’s also just 15 minutes away from us, either by back roads through farmland or across the mile-long main strip of big box stores where we do most of our shopping. Oswego is a great little and developing town. I’ve walked miles through its park and frequent its library, coffee shop, and the neighborhood of unique homes, many even older than the Pillars. I’m loving this!

Theodorable

Theodore Emmitt Bruce safely arrived on Friday morning, March 26. We were experiencing the drama of his birth from the other side of the International Date Line, so it felt like he was born in the afternoon of March 25, as it was late in the day when we finally got the text saying “Baby is here. Annie did awesome.”

I’ve been fortunate to be local for the births of each of my other grandchildren but Covid and the closed borders of New Zealand kept me away from this birth. It was a little maddening to be so far away and relegated to text messages. Fortunately, Facetime allowed us to chat with James and Anne a few hours later and then watch the girls meet their new baby brother later in the day. I’m so grateful for this technology.

I had four prayer requests for this birth: timing, safety, no c-section, and the arrival of the boxes we mailed three and five weeks in advance. Both packages arrived this week, just before Theo’s birthday. Anne was able to safely deliver the baby without intervention and without a c-section. Lastly, Theo arrived just a couple days after his Kiwi grandparents arrived to help out. (Both of them left aging ill parents back home so there has been a lot of concern about the timing of their trip and the baby’s arrival.)

Tucked in the packages was a baby quilt for Theo. When I decided I should get the quilt done and in the mail, I looked for ideas for a safari quilt. I found a pattern and made two lions, thinking one would be for a baby quilt and the other could be part of a larger bed quilt that I can take when I am able to travel to New Zealand. I cut out a zillion pieces without marking them and then really struggled to make the two lions–a confusing puzzle that wasn’t much fun. While I sewed I kept thinking that Simee ought to get the lion quilt since her middle name means “Lion of God.” Eventually I made an elephant piece for the new baby, in blue. This time I made one and marked the pieces carefully as I cut them. I was able to get it longarmed (quilted) in just a week and sent it off in the first box.

While Annie was in labor, I made a new elephant for the big quilt, channeling my tension into a creative project. I have finished a lion, an elephant, a rhino, a zebra, and a giraffe. It’s a lot more fun to make these one animals at a time. It’s nice to not be in a hurry and just make one every few days or weeks whenever I am motivated.

So here’s wee Theo on his quilt. He is being lovingly embraced by his family: Mum, Dad, Charlee, Simee, Granny and Grandad and cherished from afar by his American family as well.

And yes, he is adorable.

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One Year

One year ago, on March 20th, life changed dramatically for most of us. A global pandemic was officially announced; we were told to Shelter at Home and to wear masks, wash our hands and social distance if we had to be out. Appointments were cancelled and we all learned to Zoom for church, Bible study, school, and even work. People got sick and died, often alone without family to support them. Others tested positive but were able to heal (and isolate) at home. Who thought that a year later some of these restrictions would still be in place?

One year ago, also on March 20th, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer after having a CT earlier in the day. Within a week I saw two oncologists, had a bone marrow biopsy, a PET scan and began treatment, which fortunately was a simple change in my estrogen blocker. Within a three or four months, my numbers returned to near normal ranges and I felt much better. Over time they added monthly Prolia injections and a adjunctive medicine to block an enzyme to extend the efficacy of the estrogen blocker. Every month I have lab work and a visit to the oncologist to assess how well this treatment is working. When it stops working–and it will–there are a few more treatment regimens known to keep the cancer at bay. It won’t ever really go away, but it can be kept from growing and spreading (until it can’t.)

One year ago, on March 4th, I flew home from New Zealand. There were signs about coronavirus around the airport and some people were wearing masks, but it really wasn’t clear yet how big this was going to become. By early April, New Zealand closed its borders and went “early and hard” into lockdown. As of today, they have had only 25 deaths and have kept a lid on the pandemic, but they aren’t going to open their borders for many more months which means I can’t see my kids or grandkids any time in the near future. I’m hoping for late fall or Christmas. Facetime is wonderful but I miss being able to physically be with Charlee and Simee and will really miss out on being able to cuddle their new baby boy, due any day now.

One year. I don’t know how other people feel but with a sense that there is a very real expiration date on my life (even if I don’t know what it is) it seems unfair that one year has been spent this way. There have been many good things about the year–I’m not complaining about that–but I would have preferred to spend it differently. I’m sure that is particularly true for older people who have had to spend this year quarantined away from their families.

I don’t exactly have a bucket list, but I do have some priorities about what matters and how I want to fill the time I have left. Learning to number my days, has made some of my priorities more clear–and yet, circumstances have limited my choices (as well as yours.)

One year…but what a year!

Deep Roots

America is a nation of immigrants, of people who left their homes and came to a new country looking for opportunities, whether religious or financial. My Marshall and Bitcon grandparents came in the early 1900s to “find their fortune”, as Gramma Christie once told me at the end of her life. In the 1880s, the Freebergs and the Hurnis left Sweden and Switzerland and traveled with young families to America.
Three of John’s grandparents have much deeper roots in American soil. In fact, at least six of his family lines were here before the founding of the United States.

Theuniz Thomsen Quick emigrated from Holland in 1642 and settled in New Amsterdam, now New York City. Five generations later his ggg-grandaughter, Annatje married Benjamin Markle, whose grandfather, Frederick Merkel, had come from the Palatinate region of Germany in 1710. Earlier, Tomys Swartwout emigrated from Holland to New Amsterdam in 1651, part of a large and influential family that helped shape America through nine generations to Lila Lorea Swarthout, John’s paternal grandmother. They served as sheriffs, J.P.’s, soldiers, statesmen and community leaders. One (not directly ascendant) was a friend of Aaron Burr and helped him leave town after he shot Hamilton. Their friendship almost embroiled Swarthout in the charges of treason that Burr later faced. Another Swartwout family was massacred by the Delaware Indians in their home in New Jersey. Along our direct line, there were several Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers, including James J. Swarthout, whose picture looks surprisingly like John did in the 1970s. Aaron Swarthout served as a fifer in the New York Infantry.
Caspar Rieth emigrated with other family members in 1729, also from Germany. He settled in New York, first in the Hudson Valley and then moved to Pennsylvania, where conditions were more hospitable. Six generations of Reeds later, John’s maternal grandmother was born in Shamokin, PA. Jacob Fegley, another German, emigrated in 1733, settling in Berks County. PA. Five generations later, Flora Fegley married Charles Henry Reed and settled in Shamokin. Valentine Welker emigrated from Germany in 1772, also settling in Pennsylvania. The Rieth/Reeds, Fagleys and Welkers all served in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, which were fought in and around their new home turf.
August C. Herr was a relative latecomer, jumping ship in Hoboken, NJ, and staying in the United States in the early 1870s. He worked in the coal mines for many years and raised a large family in Shamokin with his wife, Minerva Milbrand (whose parents were “lost at sea” when she emigrated with her family. I haven’t been able to learn any more about them.)

Since Covid began last March, I have been working on our family genealogy. Last year I’d started a family tree wall of photographs, completing my side of the family. This year’s project was to work on John’s half of the tree. I started compiling information about the Hurnes, Reeds, and Maricles many years ago when I first was introduced to the family at a Hurne Reunion in 1976, The year after we were married, I took a trip with John’s parents to their hometowns in New York and Pennsylvania and met older relatives, saw gravesites and took pictures of pictures as I was able. I worked on genealogy throughout the years but that was back in the day when genealogy required visits to libraries, graveyards, and handwritten letters. The Internet has exploded the possibilities for genealogists but also made it more difficult to do careful research. Or maybe, the internet has made sloppy research much more accessible.

Alongside the wall of photos, I have made two notebooks to share my research and stories. I’m pretty sure no one in my family will want to dig through my old files so this will make the family stories more available to them and explain the pictures on the wall.
It has been fun to learn about the deep American roots on the Hurne* side of the family. We hoped to travel east this summer or fall to visit family and some of the locations where these stories took place and to do more research, but Covid has kept us home (as well as closing many of the repositories of information.) I’m still hoping that will happen in 2021.


* You may have noticed multiple spellings of the family names: Rieths became Reeds; Swartwout became—in some cases—Swarthout; Merkel was spelled multiple ways throughout the generations, as well as Fegley, Fagley, etc. We even contributed to this pattern when we legally changed our surname from Hurne to Hurni in 1981, the original spelling in Switzerland. It had been anglicized when Samuel Hurni came to New York in 1880, supposedly because the immigration personnel misunderstood his pronunciation of the German “i”. I talked John into changing it back, assuming that maybe some of the other Hurnes would follow suit. None of them did so now we are the “Hurni’s with the i” and have to write Hurne/i to include the whole family. One nephew got tired of correcting the pronunciation of his family name and has gone by the name Hurne with a silent e for many years.

Speaking of pronunciation, last winter in New Zealand, I met a young man from Bern, Switzerland, about 30 minutes from the small town of Gurbrü where the Hurnis lived. I told him our family name and he seemed very puzzled by it. A few minutes later, he realized that my pronunciation was way off and told me how it would be said there. I tried to video him saying it correctly but the sound didn’t pick up so I missed my opportunity. Let’s just say it had a much deeper German inflection.

Boden James Birkey

Boden James Birkey arrived early on June 6th, 2020; for us a bright ray of joy in troubled times.

His name means shelter or sheltered (or a whole list of other things depending on which baby name site you choose.) He is certainly being sheltered in his new home and family and he is reminding us of where we need to put our hope–in the God who offers us shelter “under his wings.” Psalm 91.

We have been so grateful for our home, our shelter-in-place venue for the last four months. We recognized the privilege that we’ve experienced to be able to stay home and feel protected. We know it has been much more difficult for others and the recent protests have made that even more evident. How do we appreciate all the good without ignoring injustice and compassion?

Not that everything is peaceful and sweet here within the walls of our home. We have allowed Johnny to shelter with us, which has been mostly a good thing, but not easy. There is a sense of taking two steps backwards in all the progress of the last year as he hasn’t been able to work during this time, a factor that normally gives structure and stability to his life. He hasn’t been particularly problematic, but he has slipped downward into increased depression, which is difficult to watch–and live with. Lizi has experienced more anxiety, missing the structure of work in her life as well. Cancer symptoms and treatment have added stress, worry and a lot of questions.

Still, we are sheltered, protected, and for the most part, we are trusting God as our Sovereign Lord over all the details of life. It’s just that there are so many details!

Like so many other grandparents, being “sheltered” away from our children and grandchildren has been an added sorrow. During the first few months, we had the local grandkids over a couple times to play (or swim) in our backyard, socially distancing with them from our high deck while they played in the yard. Sometimes they showed up on our doorstep with the groceries their parents faithfully delivered to us. Facetime phone calls to New Zealand have continued as always, but it is a hard to not know when we will be able to see them again.

When Taylor called us in the early morning hours of Boden’s birthday, we went to stay with the kids while Mom and Dad were at the hospital. Upon awakening, the kids snuggled up to us–our first hugs in 3 months–to await news of the baby’s birth. While we still are cautious when visiting their home and holding little Boden, his arrival opened up that part of our lives again. What a relief! For now, I’m focusing on being with my family and just a few close friends (outdoor deck dates or walks in the outdoor air.)

While sheltering, I’ve focused on quilting, genealogy, and completing a family scrapbook. I finished a bed quilt for Simee, who turned two this week, and a baby quilt for Boden. For once I dug into my quilt stash and decided to make a “bee” quilt out of fabric that I had previously bought to make a quilt for their “Bee School” homeschool several years ago. I kept telling Laura that they should name the baby with a “B” name to go with my quilt, never imagining that they were already thinking Boden. (She enjoyed chuckling over my suggestions.) The quilt also features six pieced bees–one for each of the Birkeys. Small things, but coincidences that make me happy 🙂

I really love his name for its meaning in the midst of a hard season of life (for practicably everybody.) I like that his middle names is James and that he was born on our James’ birthday. And I like my B/bee quilt for all the above reasons. But what I really enjoy are those moments of holding our sweet baby boy and resting with him in my arms.

hypomenē

Make every effort to add to your faith……..hypomenē. Huh?

This has been a long season of waiting. I wouldn’t call it suffering and barely can call it a trial (even if it isn’t particularly fun.) I keep reminding myself of the privilege I have of being able to stay home. I know it is much harder for others–those working under stressful conditions; those juggling home and family; those who are financially struggling and most of all, those who have lost loved ones without the opportunity to say goodbye or grieve in normal ways.

One of my Zoom groups was studying 2 Peter last week, written to people who were really suffering persecution. In chapter 1: 5-8, Peter reminds his readers to “make every effort to add to your faith virtue, knowledge, self-control and hypomenē, translated “steadfastness” or perseverance. Karen introduced us to the meaning of the Greek word, hypomenē: choosing to remain under a trial. She related it to addictions, to the intense urge most people have to escape their pain by running to an addiction for relief. When Karen experienced the loss of her daughter, it helped her ‘stay under” the pain of loss, rather than falling back into old addictions.

I really thought her lesson was beautiful and meaningful. Everyday I watch my son manage his addictions to get through this this period of isolation and crisis. So many of the men John has worked with at Wayside easily fall into addictions when things get tough. Even those of us who wouldn’t consider ourselves addicted, can fall into habits and patterns when life disappoints or people hurt us.

When I finally had my lab work repeated and learned that the hemoglobin had only gone up 0.4 points. (8.8) I was really discouraged. I grumbled and complained for a couple days, calculating that at this rate, my whole summer would likely pass before I felt normal.

And then, I thought, hypomenē, just stay “under” what is. Persevere. Surrender. Steadfast.


Storyworth Question:


What was something you believed all through childhood and were surprised to find out was false?

I think the thing I believed all through my childhood–and later learned was false–was that faith was something I had to “do”, something for which I needed to strive.

I grew up in a conservative evangelical home and church in the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s. I was taught from my earliest days that Jesus loves me and that the Bible told me so! I learned that I needed to ask Jesus into my heart, and did so one night at Happy Nights at Dunning Park Chapel when I was 7 or 8. I was taught that I was a sinner and needed Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, but that the only way for that to actually “work” was for me to accept the gift that God was offering me. Later, I was taught how to have “quiet times”, to memorize scripture, and even later, taught how to do inductive Bible studies. I learned a LOT about the Bible over the years, having “walked through” it a few times and also reading it through in a year several times as well. I went to Christian college (Taylor University–my dorm nickname was “Rev”) and studied Bible courses there, and later to Moody Bible Institute for further biblical training.

Along the way I also picked up a few more false ideas. The Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, popular in the early 70s (and especially enjoyed by my Dad) encouraged me to vow to read God’s Word every single day (a vow I later broke.) Another message learned there was that if I did what I was supposed to do, God would surely bless me. If I honored my parents, kept myself pure until marriage, chose well, and stayed in the Word, I could expect a pretty good life. Focus on the Family, a popular Christian radio program in the 1980s taught me to well, focus on my family and expect God’s blessing with children who followed Jesus.

When life didn’t exactly turn out that way–when I didn’t feel blessed either generally or specifically in my family life; when the church fellowship that I committed myself to for 28 years pretty much blew up in our faces–I started to distance myself from my faith. I still went to church, participated, prayed and studied/read the Bible but emotionally I kept God at arm’s length for about ten years. I gradually learned that he never really promised what I thought He did, but I was still discouraged and distant for a long time.

In 2011, we sent Annie to a Capernwray Bible School in New Zealand. In October of that year I visited her for two weeks. We memorized Isaiah 43:1- together, with me inserting my name into the text. (Annie didn’t think I could/should do that.)

“Thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Chris,
He who formed you, O Christine.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you;
when you walked through fire, you shall not be burned;
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you…

(I added…I could already see where this friendship with James was headed)

Fear not for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east
and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold,
bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.”

I also started reading Major Ian Thomas’ book, The Life of Christ, on the way home and for several weeks thereafter. His phrase, “I can’t, but You can” really struck a chord in my heart. I learned from him that I wasn’t even supposed to be striving so hard to live the Christian life.

In the years since, this message has been reiterated in many ways and times. Jesus told us that in this life we WOULD have trouble, not the message I learned early in life. And yes, in the 90s, and all the way through the first twenty years of 2000-2020, I’ve faced a good number of life challenges. I am still learning this truth: I cannot please God no matter how hard I try (He is already pleased with me, because he chose to love me.) I can’t earn salvation or blessing. I don’t need to “advise” God through my prayers. Instead, I need to trust him and lean not on my own understanding. I need to ask his Spirit to guide and empower me. I need to rest in Him and wait, knowing that he is a good, good Father and has everything in his sovereign control. Everything.

Recently, a friend told me she was “so glad that God had given her the gift of faith. She had never doubted God.” My first thought was that he certainly hadn’t given me the gift of faith–I am a natural doubter and have been all my life. I thought that was okay; God gives different people different gifts. But this spring when Covid-19 and Cancer coincided in my life, I found myself finding faith kind of easy. I knew that I had absolutely NO control over the cancer or the coronavirus and what either would mean for my life in the weeks ahead. I might as well trust God, who did know. (It turned out to be rather a blessing to have both hit at the same time as I was able to see doctors and get tests done quickly and my lack of energy fit well with the lockdown guidelines.) As I’ve gotten a little bit better, I started figuring out ways to “help” Johnny make better decisions, and then soon realized that I have no control over his choices either. I don’t think God has given me a lifetime pass on the gift of faith. I have a feeling I will still struggle with doubt at times. In the meantime, however, I want to rest in faith, trusting that he knows the number of my days and the hairs on my head (which I plan to keep this time around 😉

My (New) Life

I wanted to post my story about Annie’s life (see previous post) as a way of setting the stage for the next part of my story. I was waiting to include some cool videos of Annie chopping wood, but haven’t been able to transfer the files.

One of the reasons I was so impressed with Annie’s hard work is that I was feeling weak and tired most of the time I was there. I couldn’t walk up and down the road or neighbor’s driveway as I had in the past. I had to pace myself to do small tasks. I just didn’t have the energy that I was used to.

When I got home, I saw my PCP right away and began testing to see what was going on. I suspected that the cancer was back.

First we looked at blood disorders. My hemoglobin had dropped from 10.7 to 9.4 so we knew I was anemic but not why. Most of the blood tests came back within normal limits so the following week I had a CT of the chest, abdomen and pelvis. Along with the anemia I had lost weight. I lost ten pounds intentionally in November, but when I started eating normally, the pounds kept slipping down instead of up, as they always had in the past.

The CT scan showed lesions on my spine, the likelihood of metastasis to the bone. The next week I met with my oncologist from Rush on Monday, a new oncologist out here on Wednesday, and had a bone marrow biopsy on Thursday and a PET scan on Friday–all this in the midst of the Covid-19 quarantine. (I think the timing was a benefit as I was able to get all this done fairly quickly and with few other people around.) We are assuming that the bone marrow will show the same kind of estrogen positive receptors as were involved in my breast cancer seven years ago. If so, the treatment (already begun) is a simple change in my daily medication. I’ve been taking Tamoxifen for six years. Most breast cancer patients take it for five years and then stop. My oncologist told me from the beginning that because of my lymph node involvement I would need to be on one of these drugs for the rest of my life so they were stretching the Tamoxifen to see how long it would work before starting another. It probably stopped working sometime late fall, but the effects of it didn’t catch up with me until February.

She promised that this time around the treatment would be “slow and gentle” and optimistically told me I could live for a long time with it. Right now, I am waiting for the meds to kick in and do their job, hopefully reversing my anemia and allowing me to function more normally.

But hey–who’s life is normal these days anyways? Its easy to be quarantined with so little energy and I’m not having to do it “alone.” Everybody else is in the same boat. John and Lizi are taking good care of me. I am at peace knowing God is in control of all the details, even in the midst of of a world pandemic. My heart aches for all who are suffering as a result and I certainly understand that people are feeling anxious and stressed. I’m in one of those places in life when I can’t do anything to change the circumstances of my personal life or that of the world around me, so it’s fairly “easy” to trust God.

 

  • Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, You are my Lord, I have no good apart from you.” –Psalm 16:1
  • “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy one of God.” –Peter, in John 6:68
  • For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a Rock, except our God? The God who has equipped me with strength.” –Psalm 18: 31-32

tP. S. I’ve heard back from the doctor on my tests: The PET scan showed no new hot spots and the bone marrow biopsy showed that this is the same cancer from the breast, which means we are already on the right treatment path, not a new cancer. That’s actually good news. My hemoglobin went up tp 8.4, so the medicine seems to be working, though slowly. My doctor said it would take 3-4 weeks before I will start to feel better.

One last thing: Here I am with the “cancer quilt” my sister-in-law made for me seven years ago. Still wrapped in the encouragement from all who contributed. Also enjoying the sunshine 🙂

Annie’s Life

I am back home after my month long, now annual, visit to Cherry Lane Cottage iin New Zealand. James was busy with Adventure Bible School, Charlee had “kindy” (preschool) three mornings a week, and Simee needed a midday nap, so we mostly hung out and shared Annie’s life as mum and caretaker of their two acres. They are seriously considering buying this “lifestyle block” (for what seems like an astronomical price) so I have been thinking a lot about Annie’s life.

First of all, she loves it—and can think of few things better than owning this little piece of the world. Actually, she visited this house way before she was married and told me that was where she wanted to live. She loved the kitchen in particular, but thought the house was the best. It was/is owned by Peter & Elizabeth Thomas, then principal of Capernwray school. About five or six years ago, the Thomas’ moved to Australia to help with the work there. Their kids have grown and settled in the area, so they are considering selling the house and settling in Australia.

Cherry Lane Cottage is just off the main highway, the second house along a short road consisting of four or five farms and two or three ‘hobby farms. (The difference is whether the farmers also have a day job that supports their lifestyle.) Anne and James live on a narrow two acres, that includes the house, two or three paddocks, a chicken coop, a small hut, and a big shed. It is a bit overgrown, in spite of the fact that John arrived two weeks before me and worked hard clearing some of the overgrowth. Huge pineapple-type trees, hydrangeas, lillies, roses, fuchsia, a “truffula tree” (or Dr. Suess Tree) as well as a large vegetable garden and a small orchard (lemon, peach, apple, fig, avocado, fejoa and grapefruit trees.) There are currently about nine chickens, a rooster, and five ducks, as well as two horses (temporary) and eight sheep. Oh, and a cat and a 14 week old puppy dog.

The house is an old frame ranch with three bedrooms, two baths, a lovely kitchen and living room. It has a wrap around porch hosting a hammock at one end and swing at the other. It also has no insulation and had no screens until John started building magnetic screens a few years ago. I think he has built three or four so far. It also has five french doors to the out-of-doors, which is lovely in summer but hardly airtight the rest of the year. It is heated with a wood stove and a few room heaters as needed. The water comes from a couple cisterns which regularly run dry in the summer drought.

Although it sounds idyllic, it’s also a lot of work, especially with two small children and a puppy. Fortunately Anne loves physical labor, truly enjoying mowing, working in the garden, caring for her family and pets, and chopping wood. I’ve been impressed with how hard she works.

Some things just take longer. She does a couple loads of laundry most days that are pegged on the clothesline and then taken down later (on good sunny days.) Not quite like pushing a button on the dryer and having soft warm clothes as a result. The towels are rough, the clothes somewhat wrinkled and stiff. Dishes require hand washing. (They do have a broken dishwasher but probably wouldn’t use it much even if it worked because of the water/energy usage. Water needs to be conserved as well as electricity.)

But don’t feel sorry for Annie! She is young, strong, healthy and loves her life here. Her children are growing up with space to run and play, lots of fresh air and fresh food (and boy, are they ever cute!) She and James are supported by (and contributing to) great communities at church and at Capernwray.

I’m pretty proud of my Annie girl.

Below are some typical pictures of the house, land and a few of my beautiful granddaughters.