I found my cancer journal the other day. In the front pages I had a list of dates: (16) August 9 – first chemo treatment, (17) August 23 – hair started coming out, (18) August 25 – second chemo treatment, etc. It shocked me how much it still shocks me, if that makes sense. When I was diagnosed, there was so much to take in that I sometimes wonder if I am still taking it all in. Reading that journal, I felt simultaneously disconnected and profoundly affected. It seemed voyeuristic, as if I had stumbled upon someone else’s journal that I should not be reading and my heart broke for her. That girl. The one who had long dark hair and the sparkly smile. The girl who was in love with a guy whose character she thought she knew but had been feeding her lies. But she didn’t know that yet. Journal entry: (1) May 24, diagnosed with breast cancer, (2) May 27, he walked away.
I remembered that girl and I felt a rush of longing to see her again. I miss her life in London, her church community, the friendships, the trips to France, the ignorant bliss of not knowing something deadly was growing in her body. Those entries are not logged in the journal but I still have her memories and the pictures that prove they were not just a dream.
There is something about the Wild Goose festival that never ceases to amaze me.
I can’t quite put my finger on it but it is reminiscent of Fair Day from my childhood. For those of you who don’t know about this, I will attempt to explain. When I was a girl, the Mid-South Fair would come to town every autumn. We had a ½-day of school and were given the rest of the day off to go to the Fair. I. Could. Not. Wait. I was antsy leading up to it, desperate for it to arrive. (It was the ideal bargaining chip for my parents to ensure best behavior as well.) It was a struggle to get to sleep the night before and inevitably my dreams would be full of rides and fun houses and cotton candy. I can still remember that anticipation. It gives me goosebumps even now to think about it. Santa Claus had nothing on Fair Day. It was the anticipation for Fair Day that wraps up the feelings I have about the Wild Goose Festival. Because, let’s face it, as grown-ups, there are very few times that we get so keyed up for something that is approaching.
I can honestly say, hand on heart, that the lead up to Wild Goose brings about that same anticipation, and the goosebumps. And the planning, oh! I make lists, I start piles, I start checking the website daily for the countdown. I watch for the schedule to go up. There is also the anti-climax once the Goose has flown. I have waited over weeks to write my blog post because frankly, thinking about the Goose being over makes me terribly, terribly sad. Call me a softly, sentimental, silly, whatever you like for I am surely all of those. And yes, perhaps I romanticize it a bit much, but it makes my feelings no less genuine.
Like many, I grew up in a very conservative Christian church. Like many, I left. Like some, I returned.
But this faith is not the one I inherited from my parents; it is the faith I have found from going away and letting go of many of the trappings of well-intentioned-but-misguided evangelicals. It took a long time to get where I am. It took a while to find my tribe. And like all good things in life, it has been and will continue to be a journey.
Being a reader, I often find my spiritual food in authors, and as I was trying to find my way back to faith, there was one person who helped me more than any other — Philip Yancey. In What’s So Amazing About Grace?, I found someone who had wrestled with the same issues I was grappling with, only he was articulating them much more effectively than I ever could. And best of all, he wasn’t telling me what to do.
Little did I know that not too many years later, I would actually publish Philip and be fortunate enough to spend some time with him. Refreshingly, he lives his message. He is full of the grace he writes about. His generous spirit and his curious nature turned our visit into something much different than I had anticipated. Obviously, I was there to try and impress and be Miss Professional but I let go of that pretty quickly because, well, it just isn’t necessary with Philip (and his stunning, amazing, supportive, brilliant, charming wife, Janet). I realized that he, true to his writing, would never tell someone what to do. It is not his style. His ability to weave story and share experience was much gentler than that. More like, here’s something that I have been struggling with and here is how I dealt with it and, well, maybe it could help you too. There was no pontificating, no finger-wagging, either of which would have scared me off and set me back a few paces. There was grace.
There is a cartoon of Dennis the Menace sitting in the corner, his cat sprawled out on the floor behind him looking bored and the caption read: How come dumb stuff seems so smart when you are doing it? I must have been about 17 when I saw it in the paper and I cut it out and kept it with me for years. It has lived on mirrors and inside lockers and cupboards until my last move from London when it went missing. It always made me smile because it’s so true.
Something about Phil Madeira makes me think of Dennis the Menace. Not that he is menacing or that he is always in trouble. I am sure there are some times when Phil is not looking for trouble. But he just has that look in his eye. You know the one – the one that is just looking for something to get into, slightly naughty and cavalier and reckless. I suspect that Phil spent quite a bit of time in time out when he was little too.
As you read God on the Rocks, Phil’s new book, and you must by the way, you will see that he was indeed naughty sometimes. But it had more to do with bucking the system and challenging the rules that it did with looking for trouble. Before it was cool to rebel and question authority and doctrine and tradition, Phil was already there. Not a cynic, he just genuinely didn’t buy in to all the BS that had been thrown at him all those years. He is, in many ways, ahead of his time.
Not long after Phil signed with Jericho Books, he came into the office to talk shop and he brought with him an idea for the cover that we actually used. (DISCLAIMER: For any authors that might read this, I am not suggesting this option!) The image was a double old fashioned glass full of ice cubes that were made of scripture. For those of you who don’t know, the subtitle of Phil’s book is called Distilling Religion and Savoring Faith. The image was so significant and so perfect for Phil’s book that we all fell in love with it. You see, even in Phil’s rebellion, even in his rejection of religiosity, he managed to hold on to his faith. He hasn’t just made peace with it, he relishes it.
I suspect that unlike Dennis the Menace, Phil Madeira might just have enjoyed his time out.
I’m sitting in the airport, in a wheelchair. I had surgery a few days ago and I have to travel for work and I foolishly (and typically) thought I would be fine to fly this soon after my surgery. My doctor cleared me. But that’s not quite true. It took a little pleading and arm-twisting on my part, assuring her that I would be fine.
Since I am traveling so soon after surgery and still feeling a wee bit, umm, well, tender, shall we say, I thought it might be a good idea to ask for assistance. So my office called ahead and told them that I would need help. I thought this meant a ride on one of those fun little carts with the yellow light and the obnoxious beep we all have to dodge, but I was mistaken. Oh, was I mistaken! Had I thought it through a little more beforehand, I might have remembered that I’d never seen one of those carts in an airport as small as Nashville.
So, when I arrived, I gingerly pulled my suitcase out of my trunk. Actually, my cleaning lady was at the house this morning and she put it in the trunk for me and – with much loud and slow speaking and hand gestures on my part – she arranged it so that all I had to do was sort of push it out of trunk and not try to handle the weight. I managed this perfectly, pulled it up on its side, drew out the handle, and waddled off.
Now, I am legitimately in pain. However, there could be an argument that it is of my own making because I don’t like painkillers – I don’t like to feel loopy – and Tylenol ® only goes so far. So, this need for assistance is not a complete farce on my part but if I am really honest, I might have been hamming it up ever so slightly as I walked up to the lady at the counter. I had to wait a moment or two and made a couple of pained looks for good measure. When she checked me in, she called for the chair and it was then that I remembered the lack of carts and yellow lights. Oh gawwwd, not one of those chairs. But surely enough, within a matter of moments, a tiny man pushing a huge chair made his way in my direction. I thought, I’ll kill him before we make it to security. He could not have weighed more than my right bicep.