What We Bring to the Table

what-we-bring-to-the-tableRecently we had a couple of friends over for dinner. In the past, I might have made something special for their visit. Pecan Sandies or even homemade ice cream. But this time? I baked a pie fresh from the freezer.

The pie was good, if a little crumbly, but a part of me felt a bit bad about it. Sure, I’m going through cancer treatment, but still…

I suppose the question in the uppermost part of my life at the moment is what do I bring to the table?

Until recently, I could have answered that question easily. I worked and cleaned and blogged. I was a wife and mother of fur babies. I had a place and a purpose.

Now most of that part of my identity has fallen away. Cancer has taken my job and my sexuality. And even doing the most simple things, such as paying a bill or fixing dinner, can be quite an accomplishment. Blogging too has been more sporadic as the pain from the treatments has increased.

As the prognosis for my cancer has become worse and worse, I have struggled with my faith more and more. The comfort that is so often spoken about among Christians seemed far away. And with each loss, I wondered why all of this was happening.

Reading the upcoming book from Katie Ganshert, Life After, I could so relate to Autumn’s crisis of faith depicted in the book. Looking back on the traumatic event that had changed her life, she asked questions similar to mine. At one point, though, she thinks,

“Maybe comfort wasn’t to be found in the why.

Maybe comfort was to be found in the who.

A God who wept.”

I suppose I realized that night as we ate the crumbly pie that my life has changed dramatically and that I may never be able to do things I once accomplished with ease.

But perhaps I still have something to bring to the table, even if it’s a frozen pie. And blog posts that come less often but are maybe just a bit more meaningful. Days that aren’t centered around a work schedule, but about communicating with family.

In the novel, Autumn goes on to conclude,

“Maybe it was time to stop trying to make the puzzle pieces fit. Maybe it was time to let go of the why and remember the Who.”

I may never understand the why of all of this, but I’ve got to move on, keep trying to bring something to the table, even if it’s not what I would have wanted. Letting go of the why is what I need.

That and some time to remember the God who cares and comforts, the God who understands our struggles.

A Tail of Two Kitties

grant-and-ampere-for-blog
Grant (above) and Ampere (below)

(Yes, I did use “tail” intentionally.)

When we first rescued the kittens last year, I had just been diagnosed with cancer and was already overwhelmed. Taking in the two little street urchins–they had been abandoned in one of the parks here in our city–seemed too much at the time. But take them in we did, and they took over our hearts in the process.

We knew they would impact the already existing cat “culture” of our house, and it was certainly a long, extended introduction. There were many hissing fits at first, but with patience and time, those have lessened, with general acceptance and peace in the household.

One thing that was pleasantly surprising was the friendship between Grant and Ampere. Both are lovable and amiable, laid back in their approach to life. They just want to love and be loved.

And with each other they’ve found a kindred spirit of sorts, a haven from the bullying that they both receive from Ampere’s brother, Volta. (He has become the dominant cat even though he is the smallest of them all; he’s quite a force to be reckoned with.)

Even more happily, Ampere has brought out the kitten in Grant, who is about 5 years his senior. Grant and Ampere love to run and play together, creating quite a ruckus. Before Ampere, Grant had rarely played since his first year in our home, but now it’s a daily occurrence.

Both rescue kitties, Grant and Ampere have become fast friends, two kitties who have found happiness with each other.

Neighborhood Cats

Toby Likes to Sit in Pots
Toby Likes to Sit in Pots

Things settle down a bit when you get older. You enjoy small, quiet pleasures rather than big parties and find that music in bars is simply too loud. And, if you’re like me and my husband, you structure your walks through the neighborhood by the location of cats.

What? Cats? Why, yes!

When the weather is cool enough to take a walk around the neighborhood, we definitely take advantage of that time to get some exercise and see a bit of our area. As we have explored, we have met some of our feline neighbors and made fast friends among them. They provide us with some companionship along our walks and often liven up our days.

First and foremost is “Toby,” a cat who has adopted us as part of his inner circle. We first began seeing him last spring when he would stalk the birds in our yard. He would enjoy the morning sun and then disappear for several days. It has taken several months of patient coaxing to make friends with Toby, but he has finally come to trust us. Lately he will visit in the morning, excitedly squeaking for breakfast and showing his gratitude for our care. Although he appears to have a family, he has certainly begun spending much of his time with us, becoming a part of our family in the process.

A few blocks down from us, we happened across a gorgeous gray cat with medium hair. As we walked by her house, she ran to the curbside and demanded attention. She is a small kitty but big of heart. Each time we see her, she shows us some love, and we have come to look for her each time we go by.

And finally, there is Charlie, a handsome marmalade cat. Our first meeting with him was a little unusual in that we were simply walking down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street when he meowed loudly and crossed the street, running directly for us. He is quite friendly and outgoing and almost always gives us a hearty meow when we pass. He seems to be a local favorite among both adults and kids.

Indeed, our circle of family and friends has grown with our walks through the neighborhood. As we have gotten our exercise, we have had the privilege of meeting some of the most gorgeous, friendly, and independent cats. We have enjoyed our visits and appreciated their willingness to trust us. And our friends certainly make our walks more enjoyable.

New Little Friend

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Our New Little Friend

 

“A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money.” –John Ruskin

A few days ago, I hooked Anakin’s leash onto his harness in preparation for an afternoon walk. As we proceeded past my car, however, Anakin refused to move. I peered under the car, and there two eyes looked back at me. In the sun’s glare, I could see the face of a gray cat but little else. Thinking that the cat was one of our neighborhood cuties, I convinced Anakin to continue on with our jaunt.

The next morning my husband gasped in shock when he opened the door. There on the porch was the same cat, but he was better able to see the cat’s condition. Obviously a stray, the cat was extremely thin with a ragged coat. He or she was also understandably wary of people. My husband shared his experience when he returned inside, and we quickly figured out that it was the same cat. There was a new stray in the neighborhood.

Not knowing what else to do, we put out food and water for the cat. We watched out the window as the cat tentatively approached the bowls, eventually consuming everything that we had provided. Due to the cat’s emaciated body, we provided seconds and thirds that day. Our sleep was troubled that night thinking about our new little friend.

The next morning, I opened the door in order to take Anakin out into the yard. There, sitting calmly on the sidewalk, was the cat. He or she faced the house, seemingly waiting for us to appear. I took care of Anakin’s needs and then provided the stray with more food and water. This pattern has continued since then, with regular appearances of the cat at a watchful, but ever wary, distance.

I suppose that our little acts of kindness towards this one stray cat may pale in comparison to some of the larger charitable acts that I have witnessed. However, it has made two depressed people feel a bit more useful in this world. And most of all, I know that we’ve made a difference in this one cat’s life.

For more information on caring for stray cats, see this page from Alley Cat Allies.

Light

Original Photo by marjo on Morguefile.com
Original Photo by marjo on Morguefile.com

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” –Helen Keller

With a power outage tonight, light was on the minds of most of the residents of our neighborhood. It is easy to move along in our days, expecting everything to always be ok, to always remain the same. At an unexpected moment, though, the light in our lives can suddenly disappear. Then we are forced to see the possibilities of darkness surrounding us.

Before the outage hit our neighborhood, I saw an old friend tonight while on an evening walk with my husband. She has struggled with scleroderma for several years and is seemingly in the last stages of her disease. Tonight she admitted that she has given up on treatment in order to live whatever life she might have left. Not much older than myself, she could have many years left if not faced with this disease, and yet she lives her life with much more faith and light than I.

She is such a sweet person, and still she faces the encroaching darkness daily with a strength not seen in most people, at least not until they are challenged in some way. As with our power outage tonight, she was forced out of the flow of everyday life some time in the past, only to find her faith in the process. She experiences unimaginable pain each day, but I have never heard her complain. She only asks about others and is concerned for their welfare.

The darkness seems to be spreading in our world, but people like my friend can show us an alternative. When I saw her and heard about the progress of her disease, I grew ashamed at my lack of faith or appreciation for my own state of health. My friend’s faith helps her to see the light of this world and live her life to the fullest, loving each moment, along with her friends and family.

I would ask that you join me in prayer for my friend.