A Report on Mary

As we’ve followed my sister Mary on her journey through cancer, we promised a report after her doctor’s appointment on July 19. Happily, the bottom line is still, “No news is good news.”

Still smilingNot much has changed for Mary in the three months since she last saw her oncologist, though the pesky symptoms of her cancer never leave her alone. At the appointment she asked questions about her occasional fevers, the increasing fatigue, abdominal discomfort, and intestinal upsets and was told what she already knew – that these are merely symptoms of her cancer. She says she has no actual pain anywhere, and doesn’t take any pills other than her pancreatic enzymes.

A while ago, Mary asked for prayer about signing off with her doctor and was told this week that it was up to her. For all practical purposes, then, she has done that – and is grateful for your prayer-help in making the decision.

Her doctor suggested she contact a palliative care organization in order to have a number to call in an emergency. Mary learned that palliative care isn’t just pain management or comfort measures as she thought but includes nutritional guidance, symptom control, and crisis response.

As for her weight, from January to April of this year, she lost six pounds, but from April to July, she’s only lost another half-pound, so she’s grateful for your prayers about that.

Cancer isn’t just about physical troubles, though. On the emotional side, it hangs overhead like a storm cloud that never blows through. Others with cancer have told Mary they feel like the general public is staring at them, knowing they have this dreaded disease. Of course strangers don’t really know. It just seems that way.

But Mary quoted a verse today that mentions “guarding our hearts and minds.” Although we should all be careful about what we think, this verse explains that God is the One who will do the guarding for us by way of supplying a supernatural peace big enough to stand guard over our thoughts…. as long as we don’t let ourselves obsess over our fears. (Philippians 4:6-7) Cancer may be a dark reality that God chooses not to remove, but he will never leave Mary without a way to mentally live above it.

She is ever-thankful for praying friends and mentioned an example. A church acquaintance who had met Mary’s seven-year-old granddaughter Ruby said, “I have a granddaughter that same age, so from now on, when I pray for her, I’ll also pray for you.” Since then she’s asked for the names and ages of Mary’s other grands and is now praying for them as well – all 11 of them.

Sunset timeGod answers prayer – often in unexpected, wonderful ways. And so Mary asks that we continue praying for weight gain and also for increased energy to help her fully participate when her children and grandchildren visit in these next few weeks. Also, she is scheduled for cataract surgery (one eye) on July 25 and would appreciate prayer to cover that day.

Most of all she is praising God for your faithful prayers, asking him to bless you in return.

“I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me.” (Philippians 4:13, Phillips)

Critter Gitters, Conclusion

After pest-pro Eric inspected my house and found all the spots where multiple animals were entering and exiting, he set traps to begin catching (and relocating) them. The very next day, several of the traps had bounty in them, so he came right over.

I knew he was pleased at our first catch when I heard his excitement high on the ladder. “Flying squirrels!” he said. “I didn’t know there were any in this area!”

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Remembering my ceiling stains, I couldn’t share his joy. But there they were, three grey squirrels with white “ruffles” on their sides, flaps that opened into wings allowing them to fly from tree-to-tree. “They’re practically tame,” he said. “My boss will want me to bring these to his property.”

“And how far away is that?” I said.

“Far enough. Seventeen miles.”

There were other catches as the week went on, and Eric also thinned our prolific chipmunk population, thwarting their repeated attempts to get into my house.

Critter Gitter.As he worked, I followed him around, watching him work and learning about his business. “People think we enjoy killing animals. One woman even called me a murderer. But we do our job with great care and as much kindness as possible.

“We keep a record of every animal we catch, whether we relocate or euthanize, and when, where, how. The Department of Natural Resources monitors everything we do, and if we make a mistake, we answer to them. And we have to be current on which animals are on the protected list, to be sure we release any caught by mistake.”

As he described how careful he was in ridding homes of critters, it made me wonder how careful I am in ridding myself of the negatives that tend to sneak into my life – things like a critical spirit, an exaggerated truth, or a complaining attitude.

Do I regularly examine my motives and emotions, inch by inch, to be sure nothing problematic is taking up residence within me? Do I hold a mirror up to myself, hunting for even the smallest sins with a desire to route them out?

Critter GetterIf not, I’d do well to remember Eric’s diligence. And once the offenders were out of my house, he was just as thorough in sealing everything up, which wasn’t easy. It meant repairing a broken window (left), buying a missing piece of siding and reinstalling it, tightening up other rows of siding, purchasing a new dryer vent-tube and putting a cage over the exterior vent, trimming trees to within 10 feet of the house, using stainless steel and other “non-chewables” to fill up holes, and doing it all on a series of ninety-degree days.

May I be just that thorough in blocking every opening where sin may try to enter my life.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

Critter Gitters

I live on the edge of a forest that’s alive with critters of all kinds, everything from ants to owls to fox to turkeys. Of course there are also deer, mice, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, gophers, ‘possums, coyotes, spiders, and raccoons. All of them were here before I was, so I try to give grace. But when they leave the forest and enter my house, all bets are off.

Though I would never harm even an ant when it’s outside, killing that same ant on my kitchen counter feels right. The same goes for any other critters who take up residence with me.

Last summer the situation reached a new low when I found chipmunk droppings scattered over my silverware and in my measuring cups.

IMG_3646Then winter came, with the pitter-patter of little feet in my attic, and this spring I noticed yellow urine stains on the white bedroom ceilings. Logic told me a crowd of critters was cohabitating with me, breaking house rules.

That’s when I called “Awesome Critter Gitters,” a local pest control service with a reputation for gentle but insistent removal. Eric arrived with a truck full of live-trap cages, all sizes, and the determination of man over beast.

“First off,” he said, “we’ll do a thorough inspection of your home’s exterior, inch-by-inch. That’ll tell us where they’re getting in. After that, we’ll set live traps at the exits to make sure everybody’s out. Then we’ll seal up the house.”

For the next few days, Eric was a steady presence on my property, crawling all over the roof, using a mirror on a stick to look up, under, and behind every inch, just as he’d promised.

Critter GitterHe was up and down his ladder dozens of times, inspecting every crevice, anything wider than a pinky finger. “They don’t need much space to get in,” he said. I watched as he pulled acorn caps and shredded nesting material out of some very strange places.

He put pieces of tissue in tubes connected to several of the holes. “If the tissue falls out, we know an animal exited. If it falls in, they entered.” He showed me evidence of active use next to loose siding pieces. “See that grey smudge? Oil from a squirrel’s fur as he pushed his way in.” Other gaps were clean at the edges, indicating they’d abandoned those.

After Eric left that first day, the very next morning the traps were full, so I called him.

(To be continued)

Even a…”spider skillfully grasps with its hands, and it is in kings’ palaces.” (Proverbs 30:28 NKJV)