A Place Prepared

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Alphie was a millet-brained little betta fish. What did he know? Even if some inborn instinct told him that there should be more than this, his one-gallon fish bowl was the only world he’d ever experienced and he was content to live there. He had no clue that there was a better environment being prepared for him.

I’d learned that betta fish deserve a better environment than an unfiltered fish bowl, so I was setting up a proper ten-gallon aquarium where he could enjoy life to the full. He was going to have a heater and filter to keep his water fresh and pure. Bliss, betta style.

This preparation couldn’t happen overnight. An aquarium needs to go through a nitrogen cycle to develop the right kind of bacteria in the filter so it will purify the water passing through. Alphie’s tank sat on the counter for over a month as it went through this cycle; during this time I added driftwood and various ornaments that would make his new world so much more interesting. Meanwhile he circled round and round in his fish bowl, cramped maybe, but relaxed in the world he knew.

Then one day his new home was ready for him. I set his bowl beside the tank, then scooped him out in a small ladle. Now he was really confined! And scared, too; he squirmed and fought this horrible new situation. He was only a little fish; he couldn’t comprehend the big picture.

Though the transfer was uncomfortable and confusing for him, it was accomplished quickly. I placed him in his new tank and his delight was obvious. So much room! So many interesting things to explore. Constant warmth and pure water. For a little fish this was paradise!

Most of us are fairly happy in this world. Some content, some not so content in our little lives, but it’s the only space we’ve ever known. Like my betta, we’re not very willing to leave it — and we’re not at all enthused about being carried out in a small box! Our comprehension of what waits on the other side is so limited.

Unlike my little fish, however, we can know God’s plans for us. Jesus has revealed them to His followers; by faith we can grasp His words:

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14: 2-3

And rejoice like the Psalm writer:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Psalm 23:6

My Little World

Well, I made a very quick trip through the Cancer Clinic yesterday, getting there about 10:20 and leaving at 10:40am. I’ve never had an appointment go that fast before; I was barely into the building before I was called into the examining room and the doctor was in a few moments later.

My oncologist had great news for me: my blood cell counts are all normal. Now I can get on with life again for the next six months. 🙂

The more difficult diagnosis: she doesn’t think bouncing ideas around in my brain and running my fingers across a keyboard is adequate exercise for someone my age. If I want to build up my energy, she says, I really need to be more active. So I’ve resolved to get out and walk more. And this is the season to start.

We live in a mobile home on what was once part of a pasture. The farmer’s son fenced off these few acres from the main pasture when he got engaged and wanted a place to set up his trailer. He later moved away and we bought the place ten years ago. So on our west and north side there was a narrow strip of pasture; it has since been converted into a grain field in which the farmer has been growing canola these past few years.

On the other side of the pasture there’s a train track, so we sometimes watch and count the cars as they rattle past on their way to country grain terminals and oil fields. Some are potash cars.

To the east of us there’s a narrow strip of mostly poplar and willow woods between us and the farmer’s yard. To the south is a gravel road with minimum traffic; south of that is a strip of cultivated land, a hedge row of chokecherries, then more pasture. We often hear from this hedgerow and the pasture beyond, the conversations of coyotes in the twilight.

We are avid bird watchers; we delight in this little woods that abounds with a number of local bird species for most of the year and various migrating birds during spring & fall. We are right on the flight lane of the sandhill cranes; spring and fall they stop over for several weeks at a slough just north of us, or in the pasture across the road to the south. Many fall evenings are filled with their funny “throbbing” or hoarse honking as they settle in for the night. And what a racket if the coyotes pester them!

We’re also on the flyway of the snow geese: at times flocks of a thousand or more passed over our heads. Coming home yesterday we saw a flock of easily a thousand birds milling around and settling in a field right beside the highway. At times we’ve seen 10-20 acres white with “snow” in the early mornings.

We see killdeer, meadow larks, the odd nighthawk, tree swallows, a dozen different native sparrows, robins, brown thrashers, catbirds, wrens, warblers, orioles, hummingbirds — even golden and bald eagles, and the Grand Duke (great-horned owl) who lives in the woods beside us. Great place to live!

To the west of us, across the train tracks, there are large sloughs north and south of the highway, with their waters lapping away at both road edges. To the east of us, past the farmyard, there are a couple of other smaller sloughs. Ducks and Canada geese paddle around these bodies of water until they dry up in summer, if they do. We often see a snipe on a fence post beside the road and redwing blackbirds clinging to the bull rushes. One day several ducks came waddling down our driveway as if on inspection, checking up on what the tenants are doing.

I should mention the muskrat homes dotting the sloughs. Sometimes I surprise one paddling in the water or sitting on the bank as I approach. Sometimes all I see is a ripple of water if the animal spots me first. And there are a zillion frogs that fill our evenings with their songs. These are the “wetlands” our Canadian prairies are noted for, sloughs of all sizes teeming with wildlife.

Yes, it’s a great place to get out for a walk. And my oncologist says none of us — even she in her busy practice — has a just excuse not to get enough exercise. So I’d best follow doctor’s orders. It’s a great time of year to be alive. 🙂

Six Drops of Sinister Sauce

Those of you who were children, or had children, around 1973, may remember Count Kook chanting his tried-and-true Monster recipe:
“Five drops of the essence of terror
six drops of sinister sauce…”

For some reason that little snippet popped into my head this morning, probably because I was searching for words to describe the tsunami rolling through my emotions. Too bad “opaque” wasn’t today’s Word Press prompt, because it fits so well.

As I awoke this morning, this wave threatened to submerge me. I detected a tinge of terror, certainly some sinister sauce — it goes so well with cancer scares! I’m getting a whiff of foreboding dissolved in a cup of anticipation, a handful of hope, a chunk of resignation. All in this boggling batter of suspended animation.

So what brought this on? I had a blood test yesterday in preparation for my check-up at the Cancer Clinic tomorrow. Up until now I haven’t given this visit too much anxious thought but the blood test somehow brought it all to the forefront again. What will the results be? Will I still be stabilized, or will my leukemic white cells be multiplying with gay abandon? How bad, how fast? Will I need more chemo before long, or will I be okay for a few more years?

Another cancer survivor, Stacey LePage, wrote in her blog about these same feelings, wanting to avoid the checkup-visit, not wanting to hear a verdict. Not wanting bad news to flood her plans for a happy summer. Read her article here.

Even though I’m not really fearing the visit or anticipating bad news, the impending arrival does something to my body chemistry. I saw this funny, numbing emotional wave of blue coming at me and I felt like crawling under the covers until I’ve heard the score. Then to top it all off I have a bothersome tooth, starting yesterday, and woke up from a nightmare this morning.

Thankfully the sun has come out, the birds are filling our morning with their songs, I’ve painted the swallow houses a friend built for me. Spring is my favorite time of year, especially when my swallow friends return to greet me — something I’ll write about more in another post. I’m happy to get their homes ready for them.

I have some blanket squares to sew together today, too. While I’m eager to put tomorrow’s visit behind me, come what may, I do have lots of cheerful things with which I can dispel this opaque feeling. And Stacey tells us in her recent post that she’s writing a memoir about her experiences as she battles stage-four ovarian cancer. She’s giving it the neat and very apt title: Overcoming Stage Fright.

Yes, something good really can come from life’s hardest, most painful lessons. That faith is what keeps us plodding on.