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Issue 12-6

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.

Staph 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.

He’s 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.”

I 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.

            Yellow Bird
    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   
            flying up,
            darting high,
            propelling from earth to air.

        Heart—sinking and dragging with the
        weight of these long days—
                        consider the impossibilities;
            fly up,
            beat your battered wings to the sky.
            Eyes lifted—
Health after a long illness and its battle for life is a yellow bird flying upward.

Unfortunately, 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 livelihood.

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.

So 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.

Karen Mains


Finances and Global Bag Project

If 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, 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.


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Karen Mains

Karen Mains

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.”
Great Souls at Prayer
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.

One 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.

Copyright 2006-2013 Mainstay Ministries. All rights reserved.

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