A Lesson in Courage

20 June 2011

I have never considered myself to be a courageous person by any means.  In fact, fear is a powerful force in my life.  Fear has prompted me to do as many things in my life as it has prevented me from doing.  Still at forty-something I struggle with the "fear factor" on a daily basis. Courage hasn't come easy for me.  But last summer I observed it for several months in another and learned some powerful lessons.
In July 2010 my father-in-law was suffering with stomach problems that he could no longer ignore.  At eighty-nine he didn't panic about the health issue; feeling that his life here had been long and full.  He met with his doctor and scheduled a colonoscopy to determine the cause of his medical trouble.  Meanwhile, he spoke calmly with family and friends of the possible diagnosis.  When the day of the test came my father-in-law had some anxiety about the procedure so he was hospitalized for the colonoscopy.  Due to a mass in his colon the test could not be completed.
In August my husband and I drove down to be present for the surgery to remove the mass.  We arrived in time for father and son to visit prior to the surgery.  We were concerned about the procedure because my father-in- law recently had a heart stint placed.  But what happened next caught us off guard.  We didn't see it coming.  Only fifteen minutes into the surgery and the doctor came out to talk to the family.  The mass was cancer, it was large and it had spread throughout the abdomen.  Removing it was too risky.  How fast it was spreading was anybody's guess.  How long it had been there was also unknown.  Chemotherapy was out of the question at his age.
A few days following the surgery my husband and I arrived at the hospital early.  After much thought and discussion, my husband decided he would tell his dad the results of the surgery himself.  My father-in-law took the news with quiet strength.  Never once did he ask God why.  His faith didn't waiver.  And each day he was given he used it to glorify God in a quiet and humble way from a hospital bed.  Over the days that followed family and friends came to visit and offer encouragement.  One by one they left his bedside a better person for having been there.
Several of us who visited daily stayed until he was ready for sleep.  He reminded us on more than one occasion that when we prayed we were not to pray for healing.  "Save that prayer for someone who needed it", he would say.  Our instructions were to pray for rest, peace and comfort.  This was not because my father-in-law didn't believe in God's power to heal.  On the contrary, he knew that God could answer any petition if it was His will. My father-in-law had completely submitted to God's will and had spent years living  that mind set.
I don't recall hearing my father-in-law complain instead he displayed an attitude of contentment in situations that few knew about.
Before the sun rose on October 11th we got the phone call that we knew would come.
During those summer months I remember asking what should I be learning from this person, this situation.  How can I use this to my betterment?  What significance does this relationship have in my life.  How did God want me to use this?
Fast forward to January 2011... We were awaiting the results of my biopsy.  My husband calls and says meet me outside your office we'll take a drive.  As soon as I got into the car I knew the diagnosis.  I knew the word...cancer.  And I knew why the four summer months of the previous year were significant for me.  Everyone who was a part of that summer experience could choose to learn from it.  I don't think it was all about me.  I do think it was all up to me to look deeply into a relationship and find the lesson,  learn the hard part and then decide to use it.
There is not a day that has passed since that January morning that I haven't thought about my father-in-law, Joe.  And today, on father's day, I am thankful for the relationship and the lessons from him.  The lessons of courage lived by him and learned by me.


19 April 2010

I didn't read much as a child.  I don't really remember my parents saying "why don't you read" when I was looking for something to do.  Mom and Dad both read, but not voraciously.  My father read the newspaper daily.  And both my parents read their Bibles, dare I say religiously.  By that I mean a lot and not just enough to get by.  Whatever reading was required in school was just about all that I did.  Many classics that were required reading in high school, I didn't read.  Not because I didn't do my assignments, but because I wasn't assigned many of them.  Even in my AP English class.  The few classics I did read I don't remember.

A few years back I decided I wanted to make more time in my day for reading.  Ironically, but not surprisingly, I couldn't decide with which book to start.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, reading Dan Miller led me back to The Artist's Way.  So,  while working on that book (it's one of those read and do the assignment deals) I found a link to Dan Miller's reading list.  I thought that since he brought me back to The Artist's Way and I was at work on it, I might like other titles on his list.  Decisions make even the simplest task complicated.  Or in my case indecision makes a simple task difficult.

Since my reading journey began I have read some motivational, fiction, inspirational, fashion, health, lifestyle, sales, financial, art, antiques and even some childrens books.  I have probably completed only half of Dan Miller's reading list.  The really great thing is I've actually developed my own reading list.  I'm quite happy with it and look forward to my time with the book which ever one it is at the moment.  In addition, my reading list is growing and new titles are added often.

Here's the thing.  Reading is like writing is like most everything else in life.  Just get started.  Just do it (to borrow an old slogan).  It's not really so important where you start, but that you start.  Like me and many others who enjoy reading you'll find your favs.  You'll find what motivates and inspires you, what soothes and calms you, what challenges and intrigues you.  And you'll be on your way to filling your time and mind with much better stuff than television and googling. So, grab a book and get started.


13 April 2010

I don't remember ever thinking I would make a career of writing, although I wrote for the campus paper in  high school and college.  I also served on the yearbook staff in college and during my teaching career was on the writing team of a newsletter for educators.

A couple of years ago I began a quest for success.  Not the "I wanna make a million" kind of success, but the success that leads to happiness because you love your work, your relationships are good and you are leading a life of balance and harmony.  Although, if anyone has any ideas about the "I wanna make a million"  I'd be happy to listen. . . just 'cause.

I reread a book, The Creative Way, during this quest and was reminded of the significance of making time to write in one's life.  In my earlier post I mentioned my interest in beautiful journals which I never wrote in for fear of messing them up.  So, I bought some college notebooks at Staples http://www.staples.com/ and began the writing exercises as recommended in the Creative Way.

It took a while to get the hang of it, but soon I looked forward to my early morning ritual with a mug of coffee and the quiet as my only companions.   I believe the author dubbed her writing method as "stream of conscience" writing.  Just recording whatever thoughts were going through your mind when sitting down with pen and paper.  This took a little getting used to for me.  But, once I started the routine deciding what to write about was no longer the problem.

Funny, it was easy to begin and continue this practice on inexpensive college rule, but I couldn't use those nice journals.  And I couldn't bring myself to blog.  Until now.  Another dichotomy.  One really interesting thing about the whole process was that the morning ritual evolved into a meditation time and was a way of thinking, processing and evaluating stuff in my life.  It has been a helpful practice leading me to a heightened awareness about so many little things in life.  Little things that lead to success.  Not the money kind but the harmonious and happy kind.  All because of some college rule and an ink pen.

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