October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. This previously unpublished poem and reflection were written in 2014 when I had cancer, and pondered the various aspects of my diagnosis. I urge you not to neglect your own self-screening and medical exams… because, if it wasn’t for Ed’s insistence that I take care of myself for once, I planned to cancel that mammogram… because he was in the midst of several new health crises. I just didn’t think I had time in my hectic schedule of working full time and running nearly every afternoon for Ed’s appointments to go for an annoying annual mammogram… yet, it was that exam which found my cancer… so I share a few thoughts from those days…
The artist fills her palette with dabs of paint from among the dark and drab to the bright and colorful. I well remember laying out my paints years ago. I love the smell of the oils, mixing to find just the right shades… then gently brushing color onto the white surface, adding accents along the way, bringing the flat blank canvas to life. Come to think of it though, I haven’t picked up a brush since our youngest was a toddler, decades ago. Unless you count painting house walls and doors!
But I also remember how hesitant I was to make those first few brush strokes… fearing mistakes which would ruin the whole composition. Not that my work was ever that good. I simply enjoyed losing myself for hours in creating art… forgetting time, food, and sound. My heart and soul was totally involved in a world of joy of my own making.
And I can’t help but wonder how much pleasure our God, as Master Artist, must have enjoyed as He created this world for us to enjoy?
Our life’s palette is filled with so much good, so many blessings… the bright colors. But we often don’t like to think about, nor do we welcome, the dark and drab… those difficulties which confront us, and just might ruin our day, or a long string of days. I suspect I’m not alone with a tendency to take life, my family and friends, my surroundings… my blessings… just a little bit for granted.
Those were among the thoughts rambling around my mind when this poem was written in 2014, my summer of breast cancer, procedures and surgery. It was a time we were dealing with Ed’s new diagnoses added to multiple others, nearly losing him to a severe bout of pancreatitis (he did not drink), with his own daily procedures, and surgery, seeking time and space for us as a couple to handle the weight of our concerns…
My thoughts since those days have come to echo a book given to me by my daughter, Emily. The author, Ann Voskamp, of “One Thousand Gifts” wrote on pg.90: “Who would ever know the greater graces of comfort and perseverance, mercy and forgiveness, patience and courage, if no shadows fell over a life?” A few pages later (p.97), she pens, “And emptiness itself can birth the fullness of grace because in the emptiness we have the opportunity to turn to God, the only begetter of grace, and there find all the fullness of joy.”
The scare which a cancer diagnosis brings can haunt you to the core… for it’s then you come face to face with the brevity of life in a world that continues to hum around you… when more often than not life would whiz on by without a second glance. This poem began as I sat on our deck, taking in the sun’s rays, observing a gorgeous tiny hummingbird swooping in to drink. This little bird reminded me how much more thankful I was for every second of life… every waking moment… every minute blessing… as I paid closer attention to nature’s beauty around me…
For here, surrounding me, but taken for granted, were blessings of joy found in the simplest pleasures… like the voice of God speaking in those moments of solitude and quiet as birds sang melodies of praise … as dawn emerged to overtake the darkness with its brilliance… and as something so tiny and delicate as a hummingbird echoed its Creator’s joy in the art of creation.
And with those thoughts came the realization that all of life brings a joy to my soul… whether the dark and drab or the bright and colorful. Each and every experience is a chance to slow down, to welcome the new day, to appreciate what God has allowed me, and you, to journey through… by finding we’re in the midst of His palette of life… His will, and all that He has planned for us to experience and learn from as we draw closer to Him and His great love.
The Palette of Life
Linda A. Roorda
There’s joy in my soul as the sun warms bright
And colors of dawn announce a new day
Birds stir in nests while I stretch and yawn
With thankful heart as dawn awakens.
Solitude I seek, Your voice I would hear
In the early morn, the cool of the day
As light emerges from its slumber dark
Bathing our world in brilliant display.
So I sit still and listen closely
As birds arise to greet a new sun
With songs on the wing to gladden the heart,
No better way to start a new day.
Throughout the hours I hear their chorus
Songs from the heart lifting praise with mine
As sounds of life between these spruce walls
Gently beckon to slow my fast pace.
Hummingbirds feed, their wings beating fast
With a gentle buzz as they zoom on by
Tiny and frail, delicate beauty
Feathers glisten in their brilliant hues.
Sun shining bright in an azure sky
A gentle breeze as leaves flutter slow
Shades of all colors in plants surrounding
Endless beauty, the blessings of life.
These are the things that give joy to life
Though they be small, with them the heart sings
From morning sunrise to evening sunset
Treasures are found wherever we gaze.
And may all I do bring honor and praise
To creator God whose gifts are bestowed
Amid life’s frailty like colors bursting forth
With joy in my soul, the palette of life.
Linda writes from her home in Spencer