Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We were a bit of a motley crew, but we worked together like a well-oiled machine. The boys (and Lisa) hit the trails and the mountain pathways and helped make more than one person happy last week.

There were foundations to be laid and cupboards to be made. A deck was needed and a fence had to be replaced. By the end of the week, more than a few mountain boys and girls were grinning from ear to ear thanks to the grit and dogged determination of our strong and willing men (and Lisa!)

Meanwhile, I had the privilege of accompanying the other four gals to the distribution centre in town. What an eye opener. We worked at the foodbank distributing food and performing a myriad of tasks - the greatest benefit being our interaction with the locals. What an experience. What an amazing and hugely necessary ministry. After experiencing the many stories and witnessing the abject poverty that still prevails in the belly of the oft-termed affluent USA, I vowed to never complain about being hungry again. Nor would I moan and groan about having nothing to wear. I am also slightly guilt-ridden as I returned home to a new dwelling. Folks in Neon, Kentucky were over the hill grateful to have a trailer home or a simple roof over their heads. There was such a contrast in lifestyle, culture and the socio-economic deprivation was obvious.

As I took photographs of the East Letcher Ministry I made special note of the table outside the former grocery store. Piles of faded, thrice-worn clothing adorned two long tables on the sidewalk. Apparently these articles of clothing are available 24/7 to anyone in need. There is a sign asking people to be careful that items are not tossed haphazardly on the ground. I was informed that people who are too shy or embarassed to come during the day will come at all hours to sort through and take needed items of clothing.

I am ashamed to say that I have laughed at jokes about mountain people and their hillbillly ways, but to experience it first hand last week caused me to think. I also saw first hand the dirty little secret that remains virtually hidden, tucked away in this little mining community in the Appalacians - that wretched and seemingly never ending cycle of poverty.
But I was also so blessed to encounter some beautiful, faith-filled people on their own territory. Many just seemed to need someone to listen to their stories and to care about them, even if for a fleeting moment.

One girl, in particular, who came to the foodbank broke my heart. She was twenty years old. I asked her how she was. That was to be the segue to her story. Her divorce was just being finalized and she had a toddler at home who was not bearing up too well. She was on kidney dialysis and she was also just recently diagnosed with cervical cancer and possibly ovarian cancer. Because she has limited income and no benefits, she was unable to pay for her dialysis or chemotherapy which was scheduled to begin in a short while. She did say she might get a little help from Medicare but it was limited. I didn't know what to do for her. So I let her talk.

We cried together. Another gal who was with me shared in the conversation and the tears. I was wearing my survivor pin under my sweater (I wondered that morning why I felt led to wear it) so I gave it to the young mom. I told her I would pray and hope. She said her faith was strong and she relied on God each day. Then then this brave, young soul thanked us for listening and disappeared with her few bags of groceries as quickly as she appeared.

I can't get her out of my mind...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kentucky Bound!

I'm off to Neon, Kentucky with our church this week to help at the missions!
I'm sure I'll be back with many stories to share, many tears to shed and many thankful prayers to be said!
Blessings, Glynis

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why (Canadian Authored) Books Make Great Christmas Gifts

There's a few practical reasons why a book makes the perfect present.

1. It is easy to wrap
2. If you buy more than one, they stack nicely under the tree.
3. You don't have to buy batteries for a book
4. You don't have to plug a book in.
5. For under $25 you can travel around the world - or anywhere else you choose

Neil Gaiman, comic writer and novelist, when asked why books make great gifts said, " Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside them, and it's much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!"

That is so true. Walk into a bookstore - Christian or otherwise - and look around. Spell-binding journeys and exhilarating adventures abound. Prepare to be whisked off with reckless abandon to faraway lands and exotic locations. Journey back in time to the days of Jesus or travel to the future and experience life in a different galaxy, planet or realm. Tread on pathways where the noble and valiant stood sword to sword or step inside the palace and mingle with the courtiers and vie for the favour of the king.

A book can take a person to a place of hope, unveil the unknown and offer comfort and direction, love and support. What better way to escape the tyranny of the urgent than to tuck yourself in your favourite chair and nestle in with a novel? Sign me up!

Probably one of my favourite parts of the book store is the children's section. I love children's books. And I love reading to children. To me, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a child rapt as I relay the perils of the porcupine or the emotional roller coaster of Wilbur and Charlotte. Books for children make great gifts that last. I had a poster on my wall once that said, "Reading is like a young pup - it grows with you." Give a child a book and you give them an opportunity to grow in wisdom and imagination.

And why buy Canadian, you ask? Why wouldn't you? There are so many talented Canadian Authors. It is always a good idea to discover and support our own! From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Making Sense

When I was going through my chemotherapy I remember feeling so alone sometimes. Oh people were kind and sweet of tongue. Many of my friends and family found ways to cheer me and help out and for that I was so grateful and humbled. Accepting help was a biggie for this independent soul. So I learned much over the year.

But there were always moments of isolation and confusion. I suppose I was still trying to make sense of what was happening and why. I was not angry with God but my soul stirred with a million questions.

One of the best ways that I found solace, next to prayer, was when I went online and found my OC and other cancer friends. When I started blogging about my journey, it became apparent that I was not alone. Soon I had found sisters in Australia, US and in England as well as getting linked up with gals all over Canada. It's true about there being comfort in numbers. In my distraction I soon found myself grateful.

In the beginning when a body receives that hideous diagnosis of cancer, there is always that feeling of impending doom and life is cruel. But the more I spoke to others and the more I realized the fragility of life and how cancer shows no boundaries, the more thankful I became for every breath I took.

As I look back in my journal and read some of my sporadic poetry, I recall some of my emotion and then I look heavenward and give thanks for where I am today. My cancer may return, althought the powers that be tell me there is only a 20% chance. I never was much of a gambler, but I am leaning toward the 80% odds.

The following poem was written on June 30th, 2008, eleven days after my first chemotherapy treatment. In the prelude to the piece, I wrote about how I was waiting for my hair to fall out and how I had just joined an ovarian cancer support group online.

Embraceable me, reaching out
Sisters in the same canoe
Wishing we didn't have to meet
But - a necessary evil
Guilded in teal;
"A badge of honour," she said.
Wear it with dignity...
Holding chin in direct proportion to attitude
Defying the odds.