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Exploring the Beauty of Ohio and Beyond...

I promise you there is a cancer update in this blog. It just didn't' fit with putting it first, so keep reading...

When I first started with the cancer treatments last year and couldn't really plan with any level of confidence, I started saying "knock on wood", but after a while, I switched to this old saying that I remembered from childhood. The saying is certainly applicable to my family's roots in Northwest Ohio where the Blanchard River and its tributaries flood on a frequent basis.

Case in point, one of my sisters' college graduation day was affected by a flood. When my family went to leave the ceremony, they discovered the main roads home were flooded. I was only about 10 at the time and had stayed home with my older brother, but I remembered the stories. I recently had my sisters tell me a few more details.

Low head dam on the Blanchard River at Riverside Park, Findlay, OH.

My graduating sister remembered being in disbelief that a major interstate, I-75, could flood, especially given the flatness of the terrain in that area. At that time, they called it a 100-year flood, but there have been others since. My other sister remembered seeing a tour bus off the road half underwater with people getting out through the windows. She also remembered that the two cars my family were in got separated but somehow found each other in Bluffton. They then followed Dad through the backroads, as he knew which ones had low spots that flooded and which ones didn't, till they made it home. When I read that I got chills. We sometimes laughed about Daddy's meandering Sunday drives over the years, but those drives gave him the knowledge to get his family home safe. What a beautiful analogy for our journey on Earth being led by our heavenly Father.

Floods have often been used as an analogy for problems or times of trouble that overwhelm us. None of us has really been able to plan in this pandemic year. The looming threat of Covid-19, businesses closed, jobs lost, vacations canceled, dreams shattered, families separated, shortages, fires, storms, and the floods keep coming. There is a passage in the book of James that I think may have had just a bit of influence to this saying:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow...Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that." James 4:13-14a, 15 (NIV)

I don't think that God doesn't want us to plan. He's the ultimate planner and he's instilled that ability in us as we are in his image. Last year I wrote a blog post called "At Just the Right Time" Click here to read it. In it, I talk about a trip that had to be postponed due to a major side-effect from the immunotherapy drugs. However, I later find out that the earlier date would probably not given me the conditions I wanted for my photography. One sister reminded me there is another saying, "Come h*** or high water." I liked her take on the difference. She said one is “attitude” and one is “gratitude.” I could have barreled ahead and tried to do that trip at the time I planned it with that "Come h*** or high water." attitude. I would have been sorely disappointed when everything fell apart, came home with lousy photos, and made myself sicker. It was most likely this trip that changed me from saying "knock on wood" to "Lord willing...".

I think God really does want us to plan, but be open to his promptings. At the end of September, I made a decision to become a guest artist at 3060 ARTWORKS. It's been a long time in coming, and, as Kelly, the owner, said, "Welcome to the next level." This is a three-month commitment and I just kept getting the feeling it was the right time. I have always felt photography was given to me at "just the right time", I think this opportunity has too. I have watched this gallery go from a concept (because I'm friends with one of the founding artists), to opening, through the struggles on COVID-19, and a leadership change, and through it all, I've been a featured artist twice, participated in a group show, and sold in their holiday markets. All the while building friendships and professional relationships that reach beyond the art world. At the very least, my photos won't sit in boxes under my kitchen table for the rest of the year 😊.

About the same time as this, I made another decision to go ahead with surgery this fall. Again, after much prayer and research, I've come to believe the time is right. While this surgery will bring its own set of challenges, I also see it giving me some of my normal life back, especially the ability to get out of the house more and do more photography.

As I said at the beginning, cancer made it hard for this planner to plan, and now it and the results of the treatment has made it just a bit harder. So the scans from two weeks ago showed 2 of my 3 tumors shrank and 1 stayed the same, all of which is good because it means we have a treatment that is shrinking (or at least stabilizing) the tumors. However, the tumor that stayed the same has been causing some problems for the systems that it's near. I will be having 2, possibly 3, surgeries/procedures over the next few months. While initially frightening there is hope this will give me my life back, albeit a bit altered. I've been mostly homebound, only going to a few places close to home, especially in the last few weeks.

My oncologist wanted to see some of my work and I showed her "Diamond Waves", which I'm sure many of you have seen on Facebook. I told her I spent probably well over an hour on that little spit of land photographing that strange wave pattern. She said, "I want you to be able to do that again and I think we are on the right track." Interestingly enough, the trip this was taken on almost didn't happen either. I was supposed to go to a photography seminar in Pittsburgh in June of 2018 and it was canceled, so it freed up funds to go on this trip later that year.

Make plans but understand there is One who watches over them and sometimes says, "Yes", sometimes "No", and sometimes, "Not yet." And I have (finally) learned to be grateful for that.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future."

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

"Stormy Beach"

One of those photos from that trip, that might not have happened had my attitude been "Come h*** or high water" instead of "Lord willing...". As beautiful as our Great Lakes are, they can produce some savage storms. They had a storm the day before I arrived. Had I arrived much earlier than I did, I would not have been able to enter the park. The causeway into the park was flooded. As it was, there were places that were still flooded even on the second day of the trip.

"Light Will Always Find a Way to Shine Even in Darkness"

The area I was photographing, Mohawk Dam on the Walhonding River, was covered in close to 70 feet of water about 15 years ago. Nature forever changed but resilient none the less.

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