Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, June 29, 2012

Confessions of a Reluctant Herbivore

     I never wanted to be one of those health food nuts. Still don’t. But Naturopathic medicine was something I just had to try before jumping into 18 months of the serious drugs they told me I’d need to fight Mycobacterium Avium Complex (MAC Lung disease). It was either that or spend the rest of my life wondering what might have happened if I had. So, with my lung specialist’s blessing, I began treatments with Dr. Lisa.
     The first couple of weeks were a day at the spa. This remarkable young woman is so brilliant and so joy-filled, you’d walk out of there feeling better even if they did nothing. Her prayers, hugs, and wealth of knowledge earned my trust before the hard work began.
     The hard work I refer to was, for me, three days of fasting. Nothing but water. I naively suggested I should do this during the workweek so I’d be more distracted from my hunger. She laughed. Apparently, while there are a few fortunates who breeze through this type of fast, most do not.
     I was one of the do nots. The first day, Friday, I was merely hungry all day. Saturday I was hungry and weak all day. By Sunday, I wondered if I’d somehow coincidentally contracted the flu. Dr. Lisa assured me I had not. This was supposed to be as much a spiritual journey as a physical one, so I read most of the Psalms even while fantasies of pizza floated through my head. My prayers diminished into pathetic repetitions of “God help me.”
     Guess I’m just a rebel. After all, the Bible tells us to “fast in secret” and here I am blabbing about it to the world. But how could I allow such scrumptious blog material to slip by?
     I suppose it’s possible I’ve had worse weekends in my life. Actual flu. Labour and delivery. A houseful of in-laws. However, with God’s help I hung in there and when I could finally eat on Monday, the things I was allowed (ie, salad) held no appeal. Thankfully, we changed the game plan and for the rest of the week, here is what I ate:
Breakfast: Butternut squash sprinkled with walnuts, raisins, and cinnamon.
Mid-morning snack. OK, who could eat all this? You run it through the juicer and drink it.
Here's the juice. Yum, right?

Lunch: Spinach, Banana, and 2 dates
The finished smoothie. Surprisingly filling.
Afternoon snack: papaya and ginger root tea.

Supper: Steamed carrots, zucchini, asparagus, peas, onion & garlic

     The idea, if I understand it, is that after a fast one’s body becomes super absorbent to nutrients. So you pack in as many of the power-charged kind you can, leaving no room for meat, dairy, or bread. Of course sugar and caffeine are out, too. All to build up the immune system and teach your body to fight its own battles. And guess what? Already I am coughing much less, which gives me determination to keep going.
            The fast gave me a new way of looking at food. I thought a lot about the many on this planet for whom hunger is normal. I appreciated anew the fragility of my own body, my utter dependence on my daily bread and the One who provides it.
            But with all this greenery, I also have to say this: if you see me chewing my cud, just shoot me.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Honouring Adult Learners

     I felt privileged to witness the graduation ceremony of the Portage Learning and Literacy Centre last week as 25 earned their grade twelve diplomas. Another 41 students received Literacy completions.
     Graduation of any kind is cause for celebration. Finishing high school the regular way is tough enough. But to go back as an adult, resharpen your pencils, and tackle it takes a special brand of courage. Adult responsibilities multiply the challenge – earning a living, keeping house, in many cases caring for children. One grad had her one-month-old baby in attendance! The class’s married couple, Tim Peters and Janine Fagnan, posed for pictures with their three little girls—mom and dad in caps and gowns.
     Chantal Simard, Dean of Continuous Learning and Corporate Programs at the Winnipeg Technical College, was on hand to congratulate the grads. “Remember,” she said, “no one can ever take away your education.”
     Councillor Liz Driedger brought congratulations on behalf of the City. She reminded us of the story of the two wolves that live inside us. An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
     "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
     The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
     “You have fed the good wolf,” Councillor Driedger told the grads.
     Indeed, the Learning Centre assists its students to feed their good wolf every day through its wide variety of programs, its committed board, dedicated staff, and priceless volunteers. But it’s the students who, in the end, must do the hard work to reach their goals. Many are the first in their family to graduate. Folks with that kind of chutzpah inspire me. I like to call them “cycle-breakers.”
     The tears of some as they received congratulatory hugs from staff members were a beautiful testimony to lives invested in others. “We’re here to honour people who have struggled a lot to get where they are,” said Computer Instructor Jon Todd when he presented the Strength of Character award to Timothy Peters. “Tomorrow will bring fresh battles, but today we say ‘yahoo, bravo, well-done!’”
     To all graduates of 2012, whatever the school and whatever the diploma, I add my heartfelt congratulations. May God bless you as you face the fresh battles of tomorrow, better armed and more fully equipped.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Three More Lessons from the Robins' Nest

As predicted, the robins' nest outside my kitchen window continued to provide poignant reminders of life’s priorities. Here are three more.

Number One: Appreciate the brevity of childhood.
     A mere two weeks passed between the hatching of the three blue eggs and the nest needing a “Vacancy” sign. Those little guys grew so fast, I could see changes in them between breakfast and lunch time. I was glad I took pictures almost daily.
     Thankfully, humans take a little longer. But when the human nest once again reaches the “vacancy” stage, it may feel like only two weeks have passed.
     By the time I held my first grandson, I thought I had a handle on how swiftly childhood goes. I was wrong. How is it possible that he starts kindergarten in September? Last time I turned around, I was sending his daddy out the door, book bag in hand.
     But if childhood were not so temporary, it would not be so precious. Don’t let it slip by uncelebrated and unphotographed.

Number Two: Don’t let yourself get distracted from your purpose.
     A robin’s only real objective is to make more robins. This singularity of purpose carries the bird through its average two-year life span of mating, laying eggs, incubating, feeding, protecting, flight training, migration, and starting all over again. Robins don’t stop to consider whether or not they want to have a family. They don’t seek careers or hobbies. They’re never distracted from their purpose by the latest gadgets, relational conflicts, or politics.
     Do you know what your purpose in life is?
     In The Purpose Driven Life, author Rick Warren lays out a five-part purpose for life that makes sense to me. I encourage you to pick up a copy if you haven’t. It’s a useful tool for gauging whether your daily activities line up with your life purpose. And as we already know, life is too short to waste on things that don’t.

Number Three: Know when to let go.
     The day before the baby robins left the nest, tension surrounded them. They balanced on its edge, preened, and stretched as much as the cramped quarters would allow. When I got home from work the following day, only two babies remained in the nest. Another perched on our back fence, king of all he surveyed. Shortly afterwards, I had the privilege of watching the other two flutter off within 20 seconds of each other. (I suppose it’s slightly possible it had something to do with my opening the window in an attempt to capture them on video. But I figure they wouldn’t have gone for it if it hadn’t been the right time.)
     How sad would it be if those baby robins never let go of their nest? They’d never fly, never fend for themselves, and never fulfill their purpose.
     Whether it’s your children, your career, your independence—or a host of other things, there comes a time when you must let go. Recognizing that time takes great discernment, but often we know it’s time yet don’t act. Pride, fear, stubbornness, or our need for control take over.
     Is there something you need to let go of? Be honest. Then do it.
     And fly.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Little Red Dress

      Having two older sisters who sometimes wore matching outfits, I would grow first into the smaller and then into the larger, identical outfit of the eldest—essentially wearing the same ensemble for as long as that process took. This may explain why, with my sixth birthday approaching, I had my heart set on a little red dress. My dad, the eternal tease, kept asking if I was sure.
     “Wouldn’t you like a green dress instead?” he said, a twinkle in his eye.
     “Nope. Red.”
     “A nice green dress would look really pretty, don’t you think?”
     “Nope. Red.”
     His persistence convinced me a green dress had already been purchased. I prepared to look pleased when I saw the hideous green that would surely be this dress.
     Finally, the day arrived. I sat on the living room floor, its green carpet mocking me, my birthday gift unopened while the family sang Happy Birthday. Mentally, I practiced to conceal my disappointment when I opened the package. I was about to put my acting skills to the ultimate test.
     I should have known better. After all, this was the same character who, four years earlier, had smeared peanut butter on my dolly’s bottom while I wasn’t looking and then stood back to watch my reaction. Maybe I was a slow learner or maybe I was just born to a rascally joker bent on messing with a gullible little kid’s head.
     I peeled back the first bit of paper and released a gasp. Opening the package all the way, I feasted my eyes on the cutest little red dress in the history of the world, complete with lacy white detailing on the pockets. For years, Dad would retell the story of how I got so excited I went head over heels on the spot, and the delight in his eyes is as vivid to me today as the color of that little dress.
     Twenty years later, I lost my father to pancreatic cancer and the memory of his gift vaulted to the top of my list of things most cherished.
     Dad wasn’t a perfect father, but he sure was one of the best. Although six-year-old me couldn’t have articulated it, my father sent me an important message with that little red dress. His gift communicated what every girl’s heart longs to hear from her daddy: “You are beautiful. Your femininity is a treasure. I delight in you. You are loved.”
     Dads, you are important in your child’s life, at any age, whatever the circumstances. Find ways to speak your child’s language, to touch his or her heart in a way that only you can. If this is a new thought to you or if you have already blown it, you can start today.
     If you are a father who takes this privilege seriously, I salute you. Thank you for often laying aside your own comfort to fight for your family. Thank you for never giving up. For whether they’re in diapers or little red dresses or tailored business suits, your kids need you. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. I can think of no greater legacy than being able to say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, “My daddy loves me.”

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fleeting and Precious

Beautiful Crescent Lake at 8:00 a.m. in June
     In the winter months, I constantly ask “why do we live here?” But in June, I wonder why anyone would want to live anywhere else. Sunshine glistens on beautiful Crescent Lake. Goslings and ducklings fluff along after mommy and daddy. The fragrances of tree blossoms, freshly cut grass, and grilled burgers fill the air. A refreshing breeze keeps any mosquitoes at bay. The promise of long summer days ahead feels like a blank cheque. An evening stroll makes me wish June could last forever.
     But if June were not so fleeting, it would not be so precious.
     Like life.
     I always figured I could admirably handle being told I had three months to live. I could get my house in order, write wonderful revelations along my courageous journey, and share my faith boldly to a captive audience — all while enjoying the attention like any good drama queen. A few weeks of misery, and off I go—home to my Creator.
     Since doctors aren’t telling me any such thing, my theory remains untested. But I am still convinced I would do well in that scenario.
     Living with a chronic condition however, is something I always knew I’d stink at. I was right. Wonderful revelations prove scarce. Bravado scurries in the opposite direction and hides under the bed when it sees me coming. The compassion of friends wears thin, for good reason.
     You learn to do less, sleep more, and try not to whine when it hurts.
     After feeling like I’ve lugged two sandbags around in my chest for an entire year, it was a relief to learn I wasn’t entirely out of my mind. My doctors finally found an a-typical bacterial lung infection they can treat.
     Relief evolved into distress, however, when I learned the so-called treatment consists of a serious cocktail of medications for at least 18 months, and that they’d need to monitor my liver, kidneys, and eyes during that time. I came home and told my husband “I’m so happy I could cry and so scared I could cry.”
     With typical manly sympathy, he drawled “I guess the upshot is, you better cry.”
     So I did. And completed a pile of research. And learned how to pronounce and spell more big words like Mycobacterium Avium Complex. Seems the cure might prove more beastly than the disease and would do nothing to increase my resistance in the future.
     I’ve decided to seek help from a naturopath to boost my immune system with hopes that it will, at best, help my body fight this off on its own; or, at least, shore things up before I jump into an onslaught of powerful drugs. I’ll let you know how that goes. Meanwhile, I will try to remember . . .
     If good health were not so fleeting, it would not be so precious.