Saturday, February 27, 2010

Jim was right!

As the eldest sibling in my family, I always wanted to be the one that was right. Cancer changed that.

I remember my first Messiah solo audition shortly after neurosurgery and the beginning of chemotherapy. I knew that, statistically speaking, it looked like my last chance to sing my favorite oratorio, and so I was anxious for the opportunity to land a solo.

At that time my brother Jim scoffed and predicted that four years later, people would see me coming in and say, "Here comes Sister Oakes again, saying this may be her last Messiah!"

I knew that miracles were possible, and I smiled at his optimism. But I also knew that the odds weren't in my favor.

That's why I'm glad the odds aren't in charge. GOD is in charge. And for whatever reason He has seen fit to leave me here with the ability to do many things.

Today Jim's prediction became reality. I have done other Messiah performances since then, mostly at other venues, but this morning was the "four years later" solo audition. The director is a cancer survivor, too, now, so we both rejoiced in the miracles that allowed us both to be here, celebrating the Messiah through music.

This year the program is short, and there is only one aria in the performance. It's my favorite one: "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion." There was a room full of women waiting to audition. I don't know if I will land the part, and I won't know for a few more weeks. But coming in for the audition and proving my brother right was a delicious experience!

Friday, February 12, 2010


In Texas, we don't often get a foot of snow in one night -- but we did! Another ordinary miracle that closed offices and schools and let us enjoy the day together. Jacob and Emma made a snowman and a snow fort, and after warming up with hot chocolate, engaged in a neighborhood-wide snowball fight. A day to treasure!

Today I am "golden!" FIFTY months of survival since my cancer diagnosis. GBM survivors don't always get to say that -- but I did! Another ordinary miracle that makes days like today even more delicious. This evening my husband and daughter are attending a daddy-daughter Valentine's party/fundraiser, and my son has asked me out on a dinner date to my favorite Italian restaurant. Tomorrow is a Sadie Hawkins dance at church, and I asked my husband to go with me. He said yes -- it's like our first date all over again! Life is good!

As my husband surveyed the splendor of our winter wonderland this morning, he noticed one stubborn, golden leaf dangling from the white-crusted oak tree in our front yard. Considering the Texas weather that has raged about since all the leaves turned golden last fall, this is one leaf that is determined to hang around.

It reminded me of one of my favorite O. Henry stories: "The Last Leaf," which is a tale of Christian charity and the power of the determination to hang in there:


I think I should frame this photograph and envision myself as that little golden leaf, hanging on with complete disregard for what might work against me. Of course, in my vision, I'll keep three other "Oakes" hanging there with me!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Ask and ye shall receive

Matthew 7:7-11:

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall fine; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

"For every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

"Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

I was pondering this passage today, knowing that some feel disappointed when they don't receive what they asked for. Some question God's love for them (or even His existence) because a prayer seemed to go unanswered. But I happen to know that all prayers are heard, recorded, and answered. I know that every one who asks will indeed receive.

As I pondered the idea of giving good gifts to my children, the remaining fragments of my mind recalled that we were almost out of bread. It's a common situation, because my daughter loves to make her own sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, and she also raids the bread box for snacks. If Emma came to me one evening and asked me for some bread after consuming half a loaf earlier in the day, I certainly would not give her a stone. But I probably wouldn't give her bread, either. I know that there are better things to give her in this situation. Maybe some string cheese. Maybe a piece of fruit. Maybe I'll surprise her with something she's never tried before, and it will become her favorite snack. Maybe it's almost dinnertime, and she should wait a little while so she can enjoy a good meal.

Somehow, some way, she is going to receive something good. She may not necessarily receive the same thing that she asked for, but it won't mean that I don't exist or that I don't love her. What she receives will be on my terms, as a parent who loves her and knows how to provide the best for her.

If I, being evil (or at least mortal and imperfect), know how to give good things to my children, how much more does my perfect Heavenly Father know how to give good things to His children when they ask Him! It may not be exactly what we asked for, which is completely understandable when we realize the limitations of our mortal perspective. What we receive might first require patience. But we will receive good things in response to our petitions. And it will be on His terms, as a parent who loves us and knows (far better than we do) how to provide the best for us.