Getting Smacked in the Face
Our friend John Crilly popped into the house after dropping off some
junk metal at a West Chicago metal-crushing enterprise. He was checking
to see how David and I were doing. Somewhere in the conversation,
Crilly quoted that living American philosopher, Mike Tyson, who said
something to the effect of, “Everyone has plans … until they get
smacked in the face.”
My plans last May 2013 were to use these Soulish Food e-newsletters as a natural means to begin writing a book on Listening Groups, Listening With My Fingertips.
Cancer, however, specifically mantle-cell lymphoma, smacked me in the
face when our son Jeremy Mains, age 41, was diagnosed with this
aggressive blood disease.
Since early June we have been in a
boxing match, not just for 13 rounds but what feels like 300. Just when
it seems that Jeremy has survived one blast—his kidneys failing in the
early stages of disease detection, for instance—we get another smack in
the face. Bilateral facial droop makes eating for Jeremy next to
impossible; consequently, he has received nutrition through a stomach
tube and liquid (to prevent dehydration) through his intravenous line.
This palsy, which the doctors surmise is a reaction to one of the
medicines in the chemo cocktails, and they assure us will eventually
disappear, also makes communication frustrating.
infections, falls, and the latest blow, the onset of sepsis shock
(sepsis is a bacterial infection in the bloodstream and quickly kills
some 258,000 Americans every year), has left David and me sitting in
our corner of the boxing rink, wondering how much fight we have, not to
mention our son and his wife Angela, to take the smacks in the face for
the days ahead.
Now, it is easy, when passing through long,
seemingly unending doomsday scenarios, to let dark thoughts inhabit
your mind. The old enemy of life, of goodness and beauty, loves to
whisper to our souls when we are weary, fraught with anxiety, and
enduring more stress than we know how to measure.
not going to make it … you’ll probably have a stroke yourself—you and
David are in your seventies, you know … What kind of a future do you
think any of you will have?
I’ve been able to fend
off those thoughts with the practice of writing out Scripture in my
prayer journal. This morning’s verses were from Psalm 91, verses 14-16:
“Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him,
I will be with him in trouble.
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”
also make myself notice the beauty in the hard days. I wrote a raw and
unfinished poem just to make myself remember one transcendent moment.
I saw a yellow finch
fly up to the oak,
where the leaves are turning
from green to brown-tipped citron.
It looked as though a yellow leaf was
propelling from earth to air.
Heart—sinking and dragging with the
weight of these long days—
consider the impossibilities;
beat your battered wings to the sky.
Health after a long illness and its battle for life is a yellow bird flying upward.
these smacks in the face have interrupted some of the crucial function
of our lives. I couldn’t get the Mainstay Ministries August donor
letter out the door. Due to the Labor Day holiday, it is still at the
printers with a new date, September. We have not received any donations
for the last seven days—this bodes ill for our operations and personal
The Global Bag Project has been neglected. We
owe Mary Ogalo, our Kenyan GBP Director, salary for July and August
because I had to cancel all my summer plans to travel and conduct home
bag parties. That means we are behind some $1600 in paying Mary. And
there has been no work for the women in Nairobi.
In addition to concerns for our son and his family, I have been wakeful with distress for these others who I love.
I look upward (face a little bloodied from the all the smacking),
spirit weary (but not bowed in the realization that there are more
battles ahead—one more brain drip this morning, another chemo cycle in
two-and-a-half weeks, then the tricky passage through stem-cell
implant, and the long recovery from it all), I whisper to the Lord:
Lord, with You, there are no interruptions.
No blows come our way that You are not genius in turning to the good.
Our plans are not Your plans. Rather, Your plans are our plans.
We choose to trust in You to provide:
Life and health for our son.
Sustenance for his family.
Financial provision for our ministry.
Salary for Mary Ogalo and work for the Global Bag Project friends.
We are waiting.
Finances and Global Bag Project
you would like to stand beside the Mains financially at this time in
the difficult journey ahead, donations can be made out by check and
notated for Hungry Souls or Global Bag Project and sent by snail mail
to Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60187.
Donations can also be made for Mary Ogalo’s salary through the Global Bag Project Web site, www.GlobalBagProject.org.
This is a PayPal account. We also have supplies of kanga-cloth bags, if
you would like to order some for gifts for the holidays, book bags or
as hostess gifts. Remember that bags can be ordered by color, but not
specific design. If you have questions, call Heather Ann at Mainstay
Ministries at 630-293-4500.
The Soulish Food e-mails are
posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web
site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to
register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might
want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.
is easy, when passing through long, seemingly unending doomsday
scenarios, to let dark thoughts inhabit your mind. The old enemy of
life, of goodness and beauty, loves to whisper to our souls when we are
weary, fraught with anxiety, and enduring more stress than we know how
Great Souls at Prayer:
Fourteen Centuries of Prayer, Praise and Aspiration
compiled by Mary Tileston
Perhaps one of the most well-loved devotional books through the decades has been My Utmost for His Highest.
Through the years, however, I have found exceptional solace in
these short prayers compiled in a little book, and written, as the
above title states, by great souls.
Sometimes I don’t have
the mental energy for deep theological readings. I’m busy or tired or
foggy-brained. These short nuggets of prayerful wisdom are often
exactly the thoughts and words I need for the day or for that moment.
prayer for September fourth was the reminder my heart needed. It
was written by a man named George Dawson: “Grant unto us, Almighty God,
by Thy good Spirit, that we feeling towards Thee as children, and
filled full of trust, and hope, and faith, may remain so fixed, that,
in the dark, we may trust where we cannot see, and hope where all seems
doubtful, ever looking unto Thee as our Father that doeth all things
well, our Father that ordereth all. Thus may we, knowing that all
things are in Thy hands, abide Thy time, patiently doing the work Thou
hast given us to do—Amen”
I’ve had this book so long it
probably is no longer in print, but I highly recommend finding
something similar, something with short passages of wisdom that require
little in the effort of reading but that reap richly from the fruits of
the souls who have gone before us and who have known their God deeply.