Thursday, December 23, 2010

As I wrote this poem I considered how remarkable it actually is that most of the world pauses to honor Christ one day each year. Granted, many wouldn't admit that this is what they are doing, but truly, in celebrating His birth, and keeping "the spirit of Christmas" alive, they are honoring, or at least acknowledging Jesus. It is still a far cry from what God expects of us, but it is a tiny, imperfect foretaste of the day when "...every knee shall bow ...and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord..." (Phil. 2:10-11)

Joy to the World, the Lord is come! Merry Christmas, my friends!

For Just One Day
By Sharlyn Guthrie

For just one day
we will not go
into the city
or the town.
I’m thinking, though,
we’ll light a fire
to sit around
with those we know
and love who will be home
…for just one day.

For just one day
we’ll tolerate
unbridled joy,
excessive noise,
squeals from children
unwrapping toys
with laser sounds
and high pitched squawks
…for just one day.

For just one day
we’ll disregard
high calories
and extra fat,
plus sugared things
we ought to shun.
Tomorrow we’ll go back to that,
but we’ll have candy,
pie, and fudge
…for just one day

For just one day
we’ll set aside
our differences,
our selfish pride.
We’ll do our best
to keep the peace
and not take sides.
We know we must
because it’s right
…for just one day

For just one day
we’ll light the wicks
of candles we
have never lit;
use fine china,
crystal too;
in merriment
wipe dust from games
we rarely play
…for just one day.

For just one day
the world will slow—
perhaps not kneel,
but genuflect;
pay homage to
our God and King,
show some respect.
This side of Heaven
it’s what we get
…for just one day

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Candy Capers

Today I am sharing another true story, this time from (ahem!) just a few years back. Catrina of A Work in Progress is the hostess of Fiction Friday this week, so be sure to pay her a visit.

Christmas Candy Capers
by Sharlyn Guthrie

Soon after school began the fall of my junior year, my chemistry teacher phoned me at home. “I know you like cats,” she began, “so I wondered if you would be up to a special challenge. My cat had kittens and she has a runt that needs more care than I can give. Are you interested?”

Of course I was interested! However, since my mother would need to help out with the care during the day, and would eventually take full responsibility for the cat when I went off to college, I had to consult her. Much to my surprise, she agreed.

The tiny limp bundle looked hopeless. She lay curled in the corner of a shoebox bed, unable to even lift her tiny head. We placed a crook-necked lamp above her to keep her warm and began hourly feedings with an eyedropper.

After several days our frail feline emitted a soft sound whenever we approached. Since her cry sounded a bit like bagpipes, we named her Musette. Soon she was standing, and a larger box was needed to contain her. We added a litter box, which she took to immediately.

After a couple of weeks I started carrying Musette on my shoulder. She was still tiny and maintained her parrot-like balance perfectly as I went about my everyday tasks. As time went on she learned to climb up my clothing in order to reach my shoulder. Fortunately, she remained a perpetual kitten size-wise, but her affinity for climbing knew no limits. She also climbed the couch, the curtains, and the hall tree. We found her in the basement rafters, on top of the refrigerator, and curled inside a hat on the closet shelf.

Christmas time came and Mother decorated the house as usual. In fact, even more than usual, since she planned to do some entertaining before the entire family came home for the holidays. In the center of the dining room table she placed a handmade centerpiece of wrapped hard candies, strictly forbidding my father and I to eat even one piece of candy until the centerpiece had served its decorative purpose.

A tall, narrow Christmas tree was erected in the living room, strung with colored lights and silver tinsel. The tree was purposely chosen for its full, close branches, and a quilt was wrapped around its base to prevent a certain kitten from climbing its trunk. Musette batted at the low strands of tinsel and catnapped on the quilt, but surprisingly left the tree alone.

It was my father who astounded me. Despite Mother’s stern warnings, pieces of candy began disappearing one-by-one from the centerpiece. When Mother chided us as she filled in the holes, my father feigned innocence. I hadn’t touched a single piece, so he was obviously the guilty one!

One late December day I returned home from school to a houseful of women -the members of my mother’s Bible study group. While I unloaded my books in my upstairs bedroom, Musette scampered up my pants leg and onto my shoulder where she remained until I descended the stairs a few minutes later.

I was halfway down the stairs when Musette took a flying leap toward the Christmas tree. Her scrawny legs scrambled and clawed, eventually snagging the lights, which wrapped around and held her dangling upside down between the tree and the wall. Her bagpipe cry wasn’t soft, but piercing just then. Worried that Musette was being electrocuted, my mother quickly unplugged the lights, which sent the kitten swinging. A desperate attempt to escape brought the tree crashing onto the floor, and the kitten dashing for safety.

My poor mother was mortified as her friends began scrambling after the scattered ornaments.

“What’s this?” one woman asked as she knelt at the base of the tree. “Do you normally hide candy under here?” Mother and I rushed to her side and there, under the quilt, was a pile of hard candies, still in wrappers. The mystery of the disappearing candy began unraveling as the identity of the candy thief became apparent, and across the room I glimpsed the twitching of a thin gray tail sticking out from underneath the drapes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bum's The Word

Debra is hosting Fiction Friday today. Pay her a visit and find more links to great fiction, or leave your link to your own story.

Brighter days are back and it's time to lighten up my blog a bit. For today's Friday Fiction I've chosen a story well-suited to this time of year. The story is actually true, having taken place last December. Hope it makes you smile.

Bum’s the Word
by Sharlyn Guthrie

My quest for blue jeans in my husband’s desired size, style, and shade landed me in a mall thirty miles from home one crazy December afternoon. Christmas was approaching, and said blue jeans were on the “gotta find ‘em “ list. So, when a phone call from our local store confirmed that the distant store did, in fact, have them in stock, I was on my way.

Since the jeans were on hold, I made my purchase quickly. Then, I reasoned that I should shop for a few other items on my list. After all, this mall was larger than our local mall, and I might be spared another trip or some last minute headaches.

Soon I found myself in the jewelry department of a fine department store, selecting some earrings. The rack I was searching reached nearly to the floor, and of course the most compelling colors hung enticingly near the bottom of the display. So there I was, bent over at the waist, with my posterior sticking out into the aisle. I knew it wasn’t the most flattering or lady-like pose, but it couldn’t be helped. “Hmmm, shall I buy the red chandelier earrings, or the purple sparkly ones?”

Whap! The slap to my derriere brought me immediately erect. Incredulous, I turned to see who had been so rude. To my right there was no one in sight; to my left a saleslady was walking briskly away. She glanced backward, however, and her face wore a mischievous grin.

The saleslady’s grin lasted only an instant. She froze when she saw me, and we stood staring at each other with matched expressions, both seeming to say, “Huh?” Finally, short, exclamatory sentences came tumbling from her lips.

“Oh my goodness! You’re not Susan! I’m so sorry! I thought you were Susan! You look just like her -at least that side of you did! Oh no! I can’t believe it! I just spanked a customer!” Her face had lost its color and the grin I had glimpsed for a moment had vanished. Her associates gathered around, and were no doubt trying to remember protocol for such an incident. Since they couldn’t come up with any, they all just stood there, watching and waiting to see how it played out. The poor woman was distraught.

I couldn’t think of any protocol either, so I did what came naturally. I laughed. Soon her co-workers joined in, and finally Saleslady, herself, cracked a feeble smile.

“I’ll probably lose my job over this,” she lamented as I handed her the earrings I had chosen to buy. “That was such a stupid thing for me to do. You have no idea how sorry I am. Let me buy these for you,” she said, taking them from my hand.

“Look, it was a mistake, and a funny one at that. I have no intention of reporting you,” I told her, “and I won’t let you buy my earrings; but if it makes you feel better, maybe you can give me the sale price that’s supposed to start tomorrow.”

“Really? You’re not going to report me? I can’t believe it.”

“Consider yourself forgiven,” I said, “but don’t expect me to forget this. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever experienced. What a great story! Don’t worry, though. Mum’s the word. I’ll never reveal your identity.”

We continued our banter while Saleslady rang up the earrings at the sale price, and I could tell she was feeling less threatened. Then she handed me the receipt. “Oh Ma’am,” she said, leaning in close across the counter, “Spank you very much!”

“Those who conceal their sins do not prosper, but those who confess and renounce them find mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 (Today’s NIV)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Praising God for Answered Prayer

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever!” Psalm 136:1

Wednesday, December 1st, was surgery day, and I am thankful it is over. I knew that many were praying for me. I, too, had prayed relentlessly as I awaited this day, and I approached with a positive attitude.

Perhaps I should back up and say that I had an ultrasound the previous Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving). The technician had a difficult time finding the tumor, partially because of a large hematoma that remained from the biopsy. When the radiologist came in, however, he repositioned me a couple of times and finally found what he pointed out as the mass. He said that it had been nearly out of range of the biopsy needle, but it looked to him like the tip of the needle had barely nicked the edge of it, which was probably why just a few cells showed up in the biopsy. I had a clear view of what he was pointing out, and it certainly looked and sounded reasonable. I was encouraged to know that it had been located. On Monday the surgeon’s office called and said that two tumors had actually been identified in the ultrasound, but they were side by side, and would be removed together.

My first procedure on the surgery day involved another ultrasound with a different radiologist. It was her job to insert a wire to locate the mass that would be removed. I could tell she was in a hurry, and she couldn’t find the tumors the other radiologist saw. I tried to tell her where they were in relation to the ceramic marker left behind to mark the biopsy area, but she didn’t want to hear it. In fact she retorted, “I don’t even know why your doctor ordered that other ultrasound. It was completely unnecessary. This one is the only one that matters!”

I told the radiologist that I wanted to be sure we had the right area because I didn’t want to go through all of this again, to which she replied, “Well, about twenty percent of our patients have to return to have more tissue removed at a later time. That’s just the way it is.” Of course this was not what I wanted to hear immediately before surgery. I was ready to back out of the whole thing! She then went ahead with the wire insertion -in a less than gentle manner- stopping at the ceramic marker. I endured several painful and anxious moments. Thankfully, John had insisted on coming in with me and was there to pat my feet and ask questions. This no doubt further annoyed the radiologist, but it was of great comfort to me!

The bright spot in that whole experience was my nurse, Terri, who took the time to tell me what a good job I was doing throughout a difficult procedure. She also told me she was praying for me, which meant a lot! She was like a cold drink of water in the middle of the desert.

Upon returning to my surgery room, my pastor and another church friend were waiting to pray with me –what a comfort it was to hear prayers spoken on my behalf, especially at a time when I was feeling so vulnerable.

I have been reading A Praying Life by Paul Miller. He speaks of helplessness as one of the most important doorways to prayer. “God wants us to come to him empty-handed, weary, and heavy-laden. Instinctively, we want to get rid of our helplessness before we come to God…Jesus isn’t asking us to do anything he isn’t already doing. He is inviting us into his life of helpless dependence on his heavenly Father.” It’s true. My pride causes me to try to get everything under control before I come to God in prayer, but in this situation it was completely beyond my ability to do so. I can testify that prayer is never more appreciated or more effective than when I am completely helpless, as I was in those moments before surgery.

I had a few minutes to speak with the surgeon, and John and I both shared some of our concerns from the needle localization experience. He did his best to calm us down and assure us that he felt confident that he would be able to get all of it, regardless of whether the specific spot was located, since he planned to take out a wider area. After the surgery, he described the area he removed as “golf ball sized.”

I came home the same evening and began my recovery.

Some friends had brought food to us, and I hadn’t eaten for 24 hours so I was hungry, but I found that my throat was extremely sore from the breathing tube insertion, so I couldn’t eat, or even drink, much. I soon learned as well that the pain medication I was given had the undesired effect of keeping me awake and wired. I didn’t sleep the first night or the next day. Finally, after the second night, I called and got a different prescription. Ah, how wonderful it felt to rest on Friday!

Late Friday afternoon I was surprised by a phone call from the surgeon’s office. The pathology report was in, and the surgery was successful! A Phyllodes tumor was removed with good margins all around it. What was seen the week before as two tumors was most likely just the unusual shape of the one. This was the best possible news! No more surgery will be required, and there is little likelihood of a recurrence, since they got a good margin around it. We are praising God for guiding the surgeon’s hand and for proving, once again, His faithfulness and love. Yes, I believe I had an excellent, skilled surgeon, as well, but his work was directed by my Father, the Great Physician.

I have a wonderful friend subbing for me in preschool until I get my strength back. In the mean time I am resting, listening to plenty of Christmas music, and doing some Christmas shopping online! My throat is still very sore, but otherwise I am healing nicely.

Thank you for your prayers and kind words. It is humbling to be the recipient of such kindness, but it is also a blessing beyond compare!