Cancer, Hospice, Decisions – “A Storied Life”

A Storied Life quote

He was ready to make the call.

We weren’t. But it was his decision.

When my father got his diagnosis for incurable lung cancer, he shortly decided to call in hospice.

He didn’t want to suffer needlessly through futile treatments just to prolong a painful existence. So his choice was to stay at home and receive hospice care.

Such was reality. It was a hard season for all of us.

You don’t often read stories like that in novels. But for her debut novel, A Storied Life, Leigh Kramer gives us a story like this. About real life.

Leigh writes about real life as she has experienced it. She was once a hospice social worker. She’s familiar with the world of loss and death that eventually visits every family. She writes with depth and gives us a main character with heart.

The leading lady in her novel is Olivia Frasier, a young professional who is ambivalent about her family of origin and her own life choices as an adult. She’s established herself in a career as the owner of her own art gallery, but you sense early on that it doesn’t satisfy her. She is unsettled.

The story progresses quickly to a dysfunctional family scene. Gram gathers the family to share her life-changing news of being diagnosed with terminal cancer. The family doesn’t want to accept it.

But after Gram’s proclamation comes a second curveball. She throws her granddaughter Olivia into a new and unrequested position: Power of Attorney for Healthcare.

As the novel progresses, we walk with Olivia through the ups and downs of hospice and healthcare as she explores this new role, her old role, and a new love interest.

“Fine. What have you always told me? To live a storied life. Am I doing that? What do you think?”

The story isn’t light-hearted, naturally. It reveals the difficult decisions and emotions that accompany the dynamics of a family in life and death situations. But it is satisfying. Through it all we discover how Olivia grows into a greater knowledge of herself, her career, and her relationships.

“Gram’s teaching came to mind. Authentic people told the truth, even when there was no guarantee.”

I enjoyed the story and was impressed at Leigh’s venture into novel writing. I’m not surprised that she did well though; Leigh is a voracious reader, and one often leads to the other. I look forward to future works from Leigh.

“Nothing was set in stone, but it didn’t need to be. I would live this out one step at a time. Part of the adventure of life was not knowing exactly what it held. That’s what kept the story fresh. Each chapter had the potential to break your heart or lift your spirits.”

My father only lived a few short weeks under hospice care. That chapter in his and our lives ended quicker than we expected or wanted.

But because it was on his own terms, we respected him for it. If we’re each so blessed, we, too, will live out our stories, including our death stories, with care and grace. One step at a time.

* * *

Have you had experiences with hospice for yourself or a loved one? Please share in the comments.

You can read more from Leigh on her blog LeighKramer.com. Leigh is also the hostess of the monthly “What I’m Into” linkup, which I thoroughly enjoy participating in at the first of every month.

If you want to win a free signed annotated copy of A Storied Life, head over to Leigh’s Instagram. Giveaway ends June 27.

My thanks to Leigh Kramer
for the review copy of this book

sharing with Jaime, Kristin,
RonjaGaylAnita, Terri

 

 


Dinner for Dinos – Children’s Book

Dinner-for-Dinos

This delightful new board book, Dinner for Dinos: Gulf, Guzzle, Chomp, Chew, will help children want to eat healthy foods without a battle.

It will appeal to young children on several levels (target audience is ages 4-8). The colorful illustrations draw the eye, and the delightful rhymes appeal to the ear. Even the youngest hands can handle and turn the pages.

The message of the book is laid out in descriptive action words. It promotes healthy eating without being preachy. A spirit of cooperation and thankfulness to God for the special meal makes this book a delightful addition to any children’s library.

I’m adding it to my collection of children’s books to read with my granddaughter. This is one we will enjoy reading together.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers
for the review copy of this book.


White People Are Exhausting – Review of “I’m Still Here”

I'm Still Here_Austin Channing Brown

It’s Draining

“White people are exhausting.”

Maybe we hear statements like this, and react with, “Another white-bashing.

But maybe it’s because we just haven’t listened, really listened, before.

If we dare, we listen again. Or maybe really hear for the first time.

And then do something more than listen.

Listen to Austin

One of the voices we need to hear is Austin Channing Brown’s voice. Austin isn’t a man. Or white. Austin is a black Christian woman who speaks from her heart in her new book, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. “White people are exhausting” is the opening line in the first chapter.

She speaks powerfully.

First, listen:

“In too many churches and organizations, listening to the hurt and pain of people of color is the end of the road, rather than the beginning.. . .

Too often, dialogue functions as a stall tactic, allowing white people to believe they’ve done something heroic when the real work is yet to come.”

Sometimes it hurts to hear her speak. She tells stories that are gut-wrenching about racial inequality. She speaks truths that we don’t want to swallow.

“In every previous classroom, I had been responsible for decoding teachers’ references to white, middle-class experiences. ‘It’s like when you’re sailing’ . . . or ‘You know how when you’re skiing, you have to’ . . . My white teachers had an unspoken commitment to the belief that we are all the same, a default setting that masked for them how often white culture bled into the curriculum.”

But our discomfort shouldn’t stop us from listening. It is holy work.

“Our only chance at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort. It’s not a comfortable conversation for any of us. It is risky and messy. It is haunting work to recall the sins of our past. But is this not the work we have been called to anyway? Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth and inspire transformation? It’s haunting. But it’s also holy.”

But just listening is not enough.

Do Differently

Austin relays a story about her field trip as a student visiting a history museum in the south. They saw the “happy slaves” who sang in the fields. Back on the bus afterwards, conversations grew heated between the black students and white students.

The next stop was at a lynching exhibit. Again, emotion was heavy when the students climbed back on the bus. Tensions were climbing high as white students defended their family histories and black students expressed how it felt seeing the photos of lynchings.

Finally, a white girl stood to speak. Instead of talking about not being responsible for the past, she said this:

“I don’t know what to do with what I’ve learned,” she said. “I can’t fix your pain, and I can’t take it away, but I can see it. And I can work for the rest of my life to make sure your children don’t have to experience the pain of racism.”

And then she said nine words that I’ve never forgotten: “Doing nothing is no longer an option for me.” Those words changed the air on that bus.

Doing nothing isn’t an option.

Austin talks about white people who use her as a confessional. They want her to tell them “it’s okay” and make them feel better about what they’ve said or done, a “self-indulgent desire for relief.”

But her comeback is a challenge instead: “So what are you going to do differently?

And what are we going to do differently?

“Reconciliation chooses sides, and the side is always justice.”

We have to keep working. For justice. For inclusion. For peace.

“But reconciliation is not about white feelings. It’s about diverting power and attention to the oppressed, toward the powerless. It’s not enough to dabble at diversity and inclusion while leaving the existing authority structure in place. Reconciliation demands more.”

I don’t know the answers.

But the problem is becoming clearer and clearer: Maybe we are exhausting. Let’s begin there.

* * *

sharing with Lyli, Maree, Deb,
DawnDebbie, Lori, Rachel

My thanks to Net Galley
for the review copy of this book


Are Your Words Bullets or Seeds?

Bullets or Seeds

The Grocery Store Mom

I was on the soup aisle when I first heard her.

She was yelling, yelling, yelling.

I turned the corner to see what was going on. It was a mom with two elementary-age kids beside the frozen foods.

Her tongue was shooting bullets of hurtful words into their young souls.

Both kids just stood there, frozen themselves. Taking it in. Not talking back. No expressions on their faces.

I felt like a witness. To a shooting without guns.

I was disturbed. Helpless. Wondering if I should do something.

If this is how the mother acts in public, how does she act in private, with nobody watching?

Bullets or Seeds?

We’ve all lashed out with hurtful words. They explode out of us. Uncontrollable. Uncontainable. We don’t care where they land or how deep they penetrate. In the moment, anyway.

My pastor shared a word metaphor a few weeks ago in his sermon. He said our words are either bullets or seeds. Gary Chapman spoke of it first in his book, Love as a Way of Life.

We use words as bullets when we:

  • Speak harshly
  • Criticize deeply
  • Spread lies

We leave hurt bodies in our wake. We become living cemeteries. We sow graveyards wherever we go.

But we plants seeds with words when we:

  • Speak love
  • Encourage
  • Give grace

We nurture relationships. We grow people. We will eventually see good crops around us. And we will be encouraged ourselves.

Our words can grow people. Or our words can shoot them down.

God is glorified when we scatter his message of love, not hate, into the atmosphere around us. But he is disrespected when we disrespect others.

The Post Office Dad

I was later witness to another parent, another set of kids.

This time it was a father. I was in line at the post office. He was ahead of me with his three children, a set of triplets. Two girls and a boy, around 3 years old.

The kids would play between his legs, talk with each other, and generally look around. The dad would reach down and talk to them, gently, playfully. Their love for each other was obvious.

His words nurtured his kids. But his words to them nurtured me, too. I felt watered. The father’s kindness was contagious.

How we talk to other people matters. Not just to the people we’re talking to. It matters to others around us as well.

Be a planter, not a shooter.

We all are listening.

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.”
Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)

* * *

Where have you seen bullets and seeds? Please share your thoughts on the power of words.

sharing with Susan, Kelly,
RonjaKelly, Char, Meghan,
GaylAnita, Terri


When You Are Confused, Is God?

Even when you feel confused, remember God is not. When You Just Don't Get It

Things happen we don’t understand. We get confused. We get anxious.

What happens to our faith in these moments?

Sometimes we run from God. We don’t see Him coming to our rescue. So we get impatient and go outside the boundaries for help.

Or maybe we freeze up. If God isn’t giving us a clear answer, we become paralyzed into inaction. We want total clarity before we make any move at all.

But there is a third approach.

Read it all here – “When You Just Don’t Get It

* * *

I’m writing today at Do Not Depart. Will you join me there?

“When You Just Don’t Get It”

sharing with DebDawn, SusanDawn,
Rachel, Lori, Crystal, Debbie


Start in Private

Start-in-Private-Holy-Helps-Richard-Rogers

Invisible?

If nobody sees it, does it matter? Is it real?

We live in an era of publicly-groomed lives. We carefully manage the image we reveal to the world. We photoshop our portraits; we filter our Instagram pics; we tidy up our Facebook posts.

But what are we really like behind the face we put out into the world? Who are we in private?

We often undervalue the importance of our private practices.

  • If we won’t get public applause, do we want to do it?
  • If there is no outward reward, do we exercise self-discipline?
  • If we lack the desire to do it alone, do we forget it altogether?

What we often forget is this:

The outside stuff—the stuff that people see—is a direct result of our inner stuff.

What we think about and what we do and what we value when we’re alone will be reflected to the outside world when we’re together.

“And just as our bodies need daily refreshing, so do our souls.”
– Richard Rogers

Private Disciplines

Think about it spiritual terms. That’s what Rogers does in Holy Helps for a Godly Life. This week’s readings, chapters 4-6, begin focusing on the private spiritual disciplines as opposed to the public disciplines addressed in chapters 1-3.

“Therefore, without the private helps, the public are less profitable. For example, coming to church (the only way many know of serving God) cannot do that good to the best Christians which is to be looked for, if it is not accompanied with the private helps.”

To devote time to praying in private or meditating on truth, we first have to wake up to its value. Without a sense of its worth, we won’t do it.

Once we realize the importance of private practices, the more likely we’ll be to do them.

Make It Easier

Rogers suggests we can improve our private practices by making them easier.

  • Set a time for your meditation.
  • Read scripture or other spiritual books to prompt your thoughts.
  • Pray about real things happening right in front of you.

Outward improvement begins from the inside. When we take care of the inner self, our outward self will show it.

“Holy meditation on our estate and on God’s bounty toward us frames us after God’s image. And this works great things in our hearts.”

When we invest ourselves in God in our private world, we’re more apt to notice his grace in our public world. We’re then better equipped to help others and to spread peace.

If we want to better love others in public ways, let’s begin in private.

* * *

Do you have a favorite spiritual discipline you do in private? How does it prepare you for public service? Please share in the comments.

Tim Challies is walking us through this Puritan book, Holy Helps for a Godly Life, a few chapters each week. Read about it on his blog and on his Facebook page.