Gifts of Spirit

On a recent Sunday, I was moved by this reading:

1 COR 12:4-11

Brothers and sisters:

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom;
to another, the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
to another, faith by the same Spirit;
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
to another, mighty deeds;
to another, prophecy;
to another, discernment of spirits;
to another, varieties of tongues;
to another, interpretation of tongues.

But one and the same Spirit produces all of these,
distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.

When I learned that I needed to do chemotherapy, people who have traveled this road told me that I would need help. What kind of help? No one could say.

So in my fantasy world, I imagined teachers who were super compassionate with our children, or specific friends who would step in to provide logistical or emotional support.

Like most (if not all) of my fantasies, it bore no relation to reality. Teachers did their best but were not compassionate in the super-human way that I envisioned. The friends who I thought would be my rock either disappeared or needed more support than I did. Sometimes I felt disappointed or let down that people were not acting according to my expectations.

Fortunately, I was so ripped apart that I could not possibly direct anything in my life toward the way I thought it “should be.” As a result, I was wide open to anything. And people, amazingly, stepped into those openings in our lives in ways I would never have envisioned or directed on my own.

Friends, who I never knew could cook, crafted amazing meals and drove (sometimes long distances) to deliver them. Others, who lead completely booked lives, offered to drive me to appointments or chauffeur my children hither and yon. Old friends call, text, email or show up at the just the right time, and continue to include us in social invitations. Although I felt like a lost cause and not worthy of new friendships, some of my most treasured friends today are the ones who stepped into our lives after my diagnosis, who even visit me at home, encourage me to try new things, and lift me with their energy. The fact that they befriended someone who thought she was on her way out the door of this life constantly reminds me that life starts new every single minute.

People have done things for us that I never imagined we would need or want, but have made our lives infinitely better and our foundation more stable. They helped us to grow.

So when I read this part of Corinthians, all those people flooded into my heart. At some point long ago, I would have assumed that one action would be more helpful or important than another. But as time progressed, each action of our friends and family felt like the perfect workings of God through that individual. Gifts all, given and openly shared. Each unique, and each filled with Spirit.

With gratitude and love,




Living your best life

This recent blog post by my friend Tom powerfully describes one of the ways to “beat cancer.”

More than One Way to Beat Cancer: David Bowie 1947-2016

While I suggest you click on the link to get the full impact, in case you don’t, I want to highlight the two paragraphs below (from the blog):

Regardless of whether you are a fan of David Bowie’s music or not – this is an incredible act of beating cancer.  David Bowie used his cancer as a creative force channeled through his lifelong artistic vision.  He turned his death from cancer into yet another work of art, to spring onto an unsuspecting world like so many of his other career milestones throughout his life.  David Bowie’s career was one of constant reinvention, often in surprising and unsuspected ways.  This final transformation to the afterlife was his final signature artistic event.  An artist dying on his own terms, in a way that celebrated his own unique vision of life.  It was the furthest thing from being “beaten by cancer”.

Not all of us cancer survivors are international music superstars.  But we can take inspiration from David Bowie.  I hope as many of us as possible can be medically cured.  For those that can’t, we can beat cancer in many other ways.  By not allowing it to negatively change us.  To keep living the best life we can, on our own terms, for as physically long as we can.

Me again. Keep living your best life. Now.

And if you are part of the CRC crowd, Tom’s blog posts are a fantastic resource, so do check those out.

Sending love to you.


The skinny branches

Our second-story bedroom window looks out at a group of deciduous trees. (I’ll post a pic on-line at some point…)

Now that the leaves have fallen, I pass the time in bed by watching the squirrels run across the branches. The branches sway and the squirrel sometimes pauses. But I’m constantly awed at the ability of the squirrels to stay balanced on such skinny limbs, and the ability of the branches to stay strong and hold the squirrel.

This season, we’ve had many turkeys in our neighborhood. Up close, they are much larger than I imagined. From our kitchen window, I can see them nibbling on the kale and chard in our planter:

Turkeys eating kale and chard

The other day, I noticed a group of turkeys at our neighbor’s house and was amazed to see them walk across the top of on a fence.


And then, I saw one nesting in a tree!


Larger and heavier than a squirrel, I was even more in awe of their ability to balance, and of the tree’s ability to hold them.

I recently received the results of my CT scan, and was thrilled to hear that everything looks stable. I know that I am lucky to be alive this far out from my initial diagnosis, and at this time of year, I think back to the time I was initially diagnosed.

For me, the roughly 8 weeks between my diagnosis and start of chemo was unsettling (to say the least). It felt like I was facing a death sentence and unable to do anything about it.

During this time, though, one of my friends sent an article to me about a scientist named Stephen Jay Gould.

Stephen Jay Gould was a professor of zoology at Harvard University, and a specialist in the theory of evolution. In July 1982, at the age of 40, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and incurable cancer, with a median survival time of eight months after diagnosis.

The distribution curve looks like this (adapted from the graph on page 12 of the excellent book Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber):

This meant that half of the population diagnosed with mesothelioma died before eight months.

“But the other half, on the right, naturally spreads out beyond eight months, and the curve … always has a long tail that can extend to a considerable length of time.  … Stephen Jay Gould died twenty years later of another disease.”

He figured that someone’s got to be on that skinny end. It might as well be him.

I decided to adopt his mindset, and while I have wobbled on those skinny branches from time to time, I’m gratefully still here.

The squirrels and the turkeys remind me that although it might look crazy and impossible to balance on those skinny branches, they do it. They inspire me.

And it occurs to me, frequently, that you are helping to keep those branches strong, and to remind me that sometimes, they sway in the wind but it is all good. Thank you.

With love and gratitude,


Now is the time


When we got a piano, my grandfather asked me when I would start taking lessons.

“I’m not,” I told him.

“Oh, you are playing around on it then?” he asked.

“No. We got it for the kids.”

“And you aren’t learning to play?”

Though I have always wanted to learn to play, it just felt like an insurmountable thing to learn. We had one young son and were hoping for another. I had left my job and was struggling with forming a new identity. (“Keeping house” is not my forte.) I didn’t feel like I had the time for the luxury of piano lessons.

However, my grandfather was truly puzzled by why I wouldn’t take advantage of an opportunity, in my own home, to learn something new.


As a child, I was deathly afraid of the water and, despite sporadic lessons, didn’t learn to swim. When I was older, there was never a good time to learn to swim – too embarrassing to let anyone know, too inconvenient to get to lessons, etc.

I spent a lot of energy avoiding water-based activities. For example, I wanted to take a spring break trip to Florida with my friends, but panicked each time someone suggested renting a boat, going water skiing, or doing any water-based activity. Could I fake my way through? Or should I feign disinterest, stay back and read a book? When I started dating my husband, he loved going to Bermuda. When he invited me along, of course I jumped at the opportunity. We went boating and snorkeling and played in the waves, though I was often nervous that I would have some swimming mishap or die faking it.

In my mid-thirties, it was time, not only to conquer my fear, but also to live up to this glamorous image I held of myself possibly jumping off a boat into a lake, with the sun shining in the background…When I could finally swim comfortably, my husband booked a trip to Anguilla for us and some friends.

When we left for Anguilla, I was three months pregnant with twins. But the pregnancy was troubled from the start and, shortly after we arrived on the island, I miscarried. We called my doctor, who said, “Well, in case you didn’t actually miscarry, stay away from alcohol. And if you did miscarry, you shouldn’t have sex or go in the water because you could get an infection.”

I wondered what he does for fun on vacation. But mostly, I couldn’t believe I finally learned to swim and was surrounded by water, but I couldn’t go in!

That was over a decade ago. Now I am dealing with tumors and one of them seems to have ripped open my belly button. With an open wound that is taking its time to heal, I again cannot go into the water for fear of infection. I watch from the sidelines and take photos while the kids play in the ocean and the pool. Or I hang back and read a book or simply enjoy the sunshine.

I’m not complaining. I know that I am lucky to be enjoying some lovely weather and beautiful surroundings with my family. I am lucky to be able to travel at all. But I also finally realize that maybe I should take advantage of the opportunities in front of me at the time rather than assume they will always be available. Because the thing that I am not able to do inevitably becomes the thing I most want to do.

I continue to busy with the kids, chemo, energetic healing, writing, cooking, keeping the house somewhat organized (always the house), but maybe it is time for piano lessons?