Friday, March 29, 2013

The Caretaker

This is yet another chapter of writing about a piece of who my mom was.....

This week I have been sick. Not deathly ill or even knock me out ill, but enough so that I have felt pretty yucky. In feeling that way, it has somehow taken me back to many childhood memories, which has, as always, taken me back to thinking about my mom. So here I write.

Mom's don't really get much of a break. I never really thought about it much until I became a mom myself, but it's true. And when we are sick, gets complicated. I was fortunate enough this week in my sickness, to have my husband take the reigns for a day while I essentially was able to sleep off the fever. That being said, it took me back to my childhood days. Days when my mom never got a break, and now that I am an adult, I see it more clearly even.

As a child, I was by no means a sickly little girl. I was healthy overall. That being said, of all my siblings, I was the one who always got the weird illnesses. I  had an odd sickness at age 3 or 4 called Trench Mouth. Who knows how or where I picked that one up, but it's probably the first time I remember being really sick. I also remember my mom's tender care given to me through that. I couldn't eat or drink anything much, but mom was by my side the entire time, taking care of me through it, nursing me through it all.  As I grew up a little, I became sick nearly every winter with Strep Throat. And it generally occurred more than one time a winter for me. I came to know the signs quite well. The doctor came to know me quite well, too. Living in a small town, we didn't have a doctor there in town, so mom would bundle me up well (remember, it was generally winter, and it was cold, and I usually had a fever of sorts), and she would get me in the car and we would go to the doctor. I remember mom reading to me in the waiting room on many of those visits. I can remember burying my face in moms side, trying to find some comfort while we waited.I remember mom sitting with me in the doctor's office, playing random games with me (or at me almost, to distract me) to pass the time while we waited for the doctor. And as the doctor entered, it became a familiar conversation between him and mom " Hello, Linda....back again, are we?"  In second grade, they talked about taking my tonsils out, only to decide for some reason not to. Fast forward to my senior year in high school, and they then decided it was time! All those years between then, my mom was my steadfast caretaker. She was up with me many nights soothing my fever, holding my head while I was sick, and giving me medicine in the middle of the night. I never had to ask twice. Sometimes I never even had to ask, she just knew and she was there. She never complained about doing that, although now as a mom myself, I am sure she had to be exhausted from it. Not to mention we didn't have insurance growing up, so there had to be a stress factor in there somewhere. But her faith and trust were also steadfast, and again, she never wavered in that aspect as far as I could see. Yes, those are things most moms do, but from my perspective, my mom was an amazing caretaker. I can't say I do it as well as her. And when I am sick even now as an adult, I miss my mom and I am taken back to those memories. Even as an adult, when we first moved here, I remember one winter getting pretty sick with something that just put me to bed for a day. Without even asking, my mom came over to take care of my kids all day so I could rest. She was always an amazing caretaker. When I had my tonsils taken out finally at age 17, it was rough on me. Those first couple of nights, my mom literally slept on my hard floor in my bedroom next to me to be assured I was ok and to be there for me when I would wake up so she could get me a drink and help me. I never asked....she just did.

 My mom herself was rarely sick. I can remember a few occassions growing up when she was; but it was rare. In December of 2006, when mom insisted on taking my sister and I to breakfast, I knew something was up, but never did I imagine what was coming. At that breakfast table, she told me and my sister she'd been diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Mom was upbeat about it....the one assuring us. The caretaker in a time she had ever right to be taken care of.  I'll never forget that location or that conversation or that long drive home to Florida after her telling me she had cancer. My mom's mom lived to be 96, and mom was the youngest of 7 kids. Never did I imagine that she would get cancer, especially because she had been always very healthy overall. But life is unpredictable. Mom had her first surgery in January 2007 to remove the cancer, at that time it was stage 2, so it was beatable, and mom always said that. The surgery was rough on her, but she held her upbeat attitude. I was in Florida at that time, but flew in a bit after the surgery to stay with mom for 2 weeks to help out her and to help out dad. Mom never complained. yet there were complications she had in that surgery that led to a second surgery just a few weeks later. During that time, there were nurses from the local university (Cedarville University) who came over and helped take care of mom. Yes, it was practice for them. But more than that, it was a blessing to mom and to me. They packed her incision (which had become infected), they took her vitals, they gave her medicines, they washed her, and they took care of her. For free. That is one of the many reasons we now have a scholarship in memory of mom which gives back to that same nursing department. Those nurses were great. And even though mom remained upbeat, it was quite a role reversal to be her caretaker for a while. I didn't mind, but it was a shift for me in life for sure.
 After mom's second surgery, fixing what had gone wrong the first time, she had radiation and then she was in remission until 2010. In 2010, she had chest pains, called her normal doctor (the very same doctor who always saw me growing up), and from there the line moved up all the way back to her oncologist. Cancer had shown its ugly head again in her lung. The caretaker became the one taken care of yet again. Only now, I was lucky to live right here, so I could better help out. Again, mom's attitude was amazing. After the surgery of removing part of the lung only to discover the cancer was in the lymph nodes and it was stage 4 cancer, mom remained upbeat. Always a fighter. Never giving up her faith. Always trusting God. One time she was in the hospital during the summer soon after her lung removal. She had fluid on the lungs and so it had to be drained. What was supposed to be a routine one night stay turned into a nightmare almost 2 weeks long. She once had 3 machines hooked up to her to drain the fluid. I would visit with her almost every day, and her sense of humor is making me chuckle just remembering the way she dealt with all that. She named her 3 machines the triplets and made jokes about how she needed a whole cart just to take a walk around the halls. We'd load up her 3 machines and go for walks, all the while, she was making jokes and smiling. Ever trusting. Even somehow remaining to be the caretaker (of my emotions) while she was being taken care of by many different nurses.
 Yes, my mom was always a caretaker. I hope I can be just as amazing as she was. One day at a time.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Mom, Linda Ann Nelson Ferguson

Vision Part 2 is being postponed a few days. Today is the anniversary of my mom's death. She has been home with the Lord now for 2 years. It's hard to believe the amount of life that has gone on in that time. As I sit here, memory after memory rushes over me like waves crashing over the rocks. last Year I spent time in the blog recalling what the days were like with her in those last days. If you are new to the blog, check out posts in March of 2011. Today, I want to rejoice. God has brought me very far in a year. So far, it is only work that He could do. I was in a dark place, unbeknownst to many around me, and as I allowed Him to pull me out of that, His light has grown so much brighter- around me as well as I hope in me, shining through to others. One day, I hope my story can encourage another and help them through dark times. Perhaps maybe it is....i was asked today why I blog. One of my reasons was simply  because maybe my story can help someone else in some way. And I hope it does that. Or perhaps it helps others understand me better. But ultimately, I do it to bring glory to God, and hope that my voice echoes His loudly enough that others see Him.
 Anyway, this is about my mom today. I could write a thousand words, or a thousand memories. But today I will simply capture her with some pictures over the years. Some are silly, others sentimental. But in all of them, she is is smiling...and that was my mom genuinely. I miss her with an ache. But at the same time, I remember her with such joy that I am blessed, and I pray I am carrying that out - carrying out all she taught me- to others. So, here is my mom.... just a small glimpse of her. I apologize if some of the photos are grainy (but photography has come a very long way! ) So many more I can add, but these are just a few...

Our Family, 1984 L-R Me, Dad, Mom, Tim, Becky, Steve

And this captures my mom and dad's relationship. This was them one Christmas, playing around with a new handkercheif and candy cane.



My wedding day. Mom pinning a broche on me that is a family heirloom from her side of the family.

Mom with Joseph

Mom and Elizabeth and Joseph, 2010

Mom :)  Always smiling

Mom and Elizabeth, 2002

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Vision...Part 1.

Be warned: This is a 2 Part blog, because it comes with a plethora of thoughts behind it.

  This word has been on my heart and mind a lot lately, and has prompted this 2 part blog. And just like God, when something is on my mind, He tends to bring along ways of showing me He is listening and He is right there with my thoughts on the whole process. Today's sermon at church happened to be on vision. So, this will be a long blog. Today, I want to share with you the vision for the 5K that takes place in memory of my mom. It's been on my heart to share this lately, partly because I have been asked about it by others, and partly because I just want you to know.

So, taken from the words of my pastor today, here's what he said about vision that fit into my thoughts perfectly.

Vision = A picture of what could (and perhaps should) be.

Vision gives significance to the otherwise meaningless details of our lives.

The Linda A. Ferguson Memorial 5K is bred out of a vision. Our vision is to reach more people who are facing cancer, people I could never personally touch or reach, because we are spurring on students studying in that field, to care for those patients, by providing funds for their schooling.

Our vision includes providing more than one scholarship each year, to help more than one student. Our event is growing, and so our goal is to grow the scholarship in the process and to give more to each student, and more than one student. 

I began this event in the midst of a yucky, grief filled time. It started small, but the vision has grown, and it has given me great significance to the otherwise meaningless details...That doesn't mean my own family goes by the wayside or they aren't important or I didn't have purpose before that. It simply means that I have found some greater purpose in the midst of losing my mom to an ugly battle. 
  My mom lived her life with vision every day. Her vision was simple, but wow, did she ever touch hundreds of lives through her simple vision. Yet, God doesn't see any vision designed by Him as simple. And when we follow His visions for us, those visions are blessed. That is our prayer for this event.

Why is this my vision??

  Well, many reasons. Yes, to remember my mom and to honor her is one of the greater reasons I have this vision. However, it is a far greater reason than just being about my mom. This vision includes impacting the world, one nurse at a time, by their being equipped to learn about how to carry God's love to cancer patients. I can't even begin to touch as many patients as these nurses can. And thus, we want to help their educational needs and grow the scholarship fund so we can equip them more.

  Cancer was always around me growing up, in some way. It just didn't impact me so directly until mom was diagnosed. My grandfather had cancer before my mom, and that was hard, but it was different. Older people in the church while I was growing up had cancer, but again, it didn't impact me as it did with mom, seeing it first hand. That's when I began to understand the depth of cancer and the devastating effects it has on not only the patient, but the family walking through it, too.

 In my job, I have the rare priviledge of people sharing about their lives with me. I get crazy stories and sad stories; funny stories and interesting life stories. But lately, I've been struck by the many customers who have opened up to me that they have cancer. In the last couple of months alone, I have had 5 different customers cross my path with cancer-2 with breast cancer, one with prostate cancer, one with brain cancer, and one with thyroid cancer. Hearing these in depth stories of each individual, and watching them fight this battle, has only increased my vision for wanting to grow our scholarship to equip nurses who will help cancer patients. And also, gives deeper passion, purpose and motivation behind what we do. If I hadn't had the experience of walking through my mom fighting cancer, I couldn't have as much relation to what my customer friends who have cancer are going through. Ironically, 2 of them even have the same dr. my mom had. Their stories and their newfound battle and determination breed a deeper motivation in what we do with this 5K.I can't be the one to do it. And I can't do this scholarship alone. God is backing this vision and He is backing the growth of it. He is simply allowing me to use my passion for running and passion for fighting cancer to carry out His vision.

Vision breeds:

Passion. Wake up excited!


Direction. Practical advantage. Road maps for our lives. Helps with decisions and prioritized values.

Purpose. I matter! I am an important link! A reason to get up in the morning. 

As time goes along, my vision grows. As the vision grows, so does the event. As the event grows, so does the scholarship. And as the scholarship grows, so does the impact that God loving men and women are having in a world full of cancer. And that is a vision worth seeing and growing, one day at a time.
 Stay tuned for a deeper look into vision in my part 2 blog tomorrow. And if you care to hear more in depth thoughts on vision, feel free to listen to or check out Pastor Casey's message at
   for more information on our 5K and scholarship fund, check out our website at
 or email me, Rachael McKinney, at

One day at a time, as the vision grows, I desire to be a vessel of God in the process of growing this scholarship in memory of my beautiful mom.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Daddy's Girl

My mom was my best friend, but if I am honest, I have always been a daddy's girl. Not in the sense of a princess type daddy's girl, but in the farmer's daughter type daddy's girl (which is suiting, since dad was a farmer).
  Today is my dad's birthday, so I want this post to honor him. Just as it is hard to capture my mom in adequate words, so is it hard to capture my dad. He is so unique, so wonderful, I love him dearly.
   My dad is an example to me every day.

   ~He has worked hard his entire life, and I rarely have heard him complain about it.He is outside in all types of weather, working from sun up often times til sun down. It's not that work is his life, it's more that he strives to provide for his family. He always did and still does. He set an example for me and taught me about working hard and giving it your all. My dad is a true example of how a person should work.

   ~Dad is a people person.He may not be open about his entire life, but he sure does love to talk. He loves knowing how people really are; He loves to talk in long conversations- even if sometimes they are simple conversations. When people talk about my dad, they say they love him. He has more of a quiet presence than mom did, but people love dad.

   ~My dad's faith is genuine and strong. His convictions stand. I've watched him teach kids all his life almost in church, even to this day, he teaches young primary school age kids the truths about Jesus. He is solid. I watched him give money in church when he had nothing to give. I watched him read his Bible in the quiet of the morning at the breakfast table. I have listened to his prayers. And I have heard him talk about God all my life. His faith is solid.

   ~ My dad faithfully loved mom. It was the hardest thing to watch him say goodbye, but I will tell you he has been my example through it all. He always says how much he misses mom, but following that you will hear him say how he wouldn't wish her back here because she was so sick and now she is perfectly well in heaven and much better off than any of us! He loved her every day. He provided and made many sacrifices so she could always be home with us. He was never big on communicative words, but you saw it always in his actions how much he loved her.

   ~Dad loves his grandkids. He is down on the floor playing with them, he tucks them in and tells them (literally sits at their bed and makes up) bedtime stories. He tells silly jokes and he even plays the wii with them. He teaches them truths from God's word and he prays for them. He is a great grandpa (Papa).

I could go on and on about the wonderful things about my dad. It is true that I am daddys girl. We are so much alike in so many ways, mom used to roll her eyes, shake her head and say "oh, brother!" because dad and I would be saying/doing the same exact things so much that we would even butt heads a few times. I used to make fun of my dad growing up because he would come in from working all day, turn on the evening news, and he'd be fast asleep in his chair within 5 minutes of the tv being on! Guess who does that now?? Yep, I do. Dad worked hard and he was tired, he deserved a few minutes of rest. I worry like my dad does. Dad wants every detail to be right, and he will talk about it and talk about it until its over, and all has gone perfectly well. Guess who else does that? Yep, I do.  Dad and I communicate the exact same way, in that it takes us 20 minutes to tell a 5 minute story! But I learned hard work ethics from my dad. I learned that when life throws yucky things your way, you take them and grow. My dad was a twin and lost his twin in a farming accident before I was born. He lost another brother in that same accident. He lost a son at birth. He's lost both his parents. And he's now lost his wife. Yet, through all that pain and heartache, you will find a deeper faith and a story that tells how God used those times to teach him to trust. I pray my children will be able to say the same of me.  My dad tells jokes that are so silly you can't help but laugh. Yep, my sense of humor is the same -so dumb it's funny. My dad loves life, and I hope that my attitude shows that I do too. My dad has weathered skin from being a farmer/ outside worker his whole life. But he has laugh lines around his eyes and mouth that are a clear picture of his joy.
 Only my dad could come out and run a 5K in jeans! I have been so proud to have him cross that finish line every year we've done the event in memory of mom. I have watched dad learn how to cook after mom passed away, and he has come a very long way. I have learned a lot from my dad. And I hope I will continue to do so.
 So, Happy Birthday , Dad. You are truly and example to me one day at a time, every day, and I love you!!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Not" just" anybody

In a recent blog I follow, it has been said that we should write from the heart and if we have to think too hard about what to write, then it's probably not what we are supposed to be writing anyway.
 I agree.
  Sometimes sharing from my heart is vulnerable and hard, and there have been moments I have backed away from it because of fear or because of who might read it. However, I like to be real. And though there are some who get to see or know the "real" me more deeply, it is good to be real here. All this to share that what I am learning in life right now is a lot of things, but one of which is that I am not "just" anybody. Nobody in life is "just" anybody.
   There have been many days when I struggle with this deeply.I have a tendency to be pretty insecure. Insecure about my body, insecure about my parenting, insecure about myself as a wife, insecure about who I am as a person... However, in the process of struggling with this, God has brought some really neat affirmations to my life to help confirm to me that I am more than "just" a barista or a mom or a wife or a runner or a woman. I am HIS creation, HIS daughter, HIS gift.  He's brought along new friends recently to help confirm this; He's brought along a really neat project at work to help confirm this; He's brought along simple things like words from my children or an embrace from my husband or an email from a friend; He has given me some beautiful moments in creation lately to remind me of His great presence-ranging from the sun shining to a gorgeous snow storm to remind me of His presence. (I'll be the first to say I am very tired of snow at this point in the year, however, in the quietness of the morning the other day when snow had fallen all night, the weight of it on the branches in the pine trees was absolutely breathtaking.) NOBODY is "Just" anything. We all have a significance.
   For me, while I thought perhaps at this point in life I'd be doing something totally different, it doesn't mean that what I am doing is insignifcant, though I had to recently really process through this. After all, I "just" make coffee. But, as I said in a previous blog, I have found purpose in polishing with it becoming prayer time.
 Ecclessiates says : (3:1-8) "For everything there is a season a time for every activity under Heaven
                   A time to be born, and a time to die
           A time to plant, and a time to harvest.
              A time to kill and a time to heal.  A time to tear down and a time to build up.
                A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
           A time to scatter stones and a tmie to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
         A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.
                  A time to tear and a time to men. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
      A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace. ....
           God has made everything beautiful for its own time. ..."

 Every season of life is different, but with each season comes new opportunities. New opportunities to grow in faith. New opportunities to draw closer to Him. New opportunities to touch different people's lives. New opportunities to be touched in ways we never knew could happen. God places people where they are because of who they are. We can be used in any area of life, if we allow God to do so. The case is not different with me.

  His timing is perfect. His plan is perfect. And I am not "just" anybody.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. He sees in me. He knows me. And THAT is what defines me. not a job, not a role, not a weight on the scale, not a style of clothing, not a friendship, not a stage in life. And because those are not the definitions of a person, NOBODY is just anybody.
    I am more than just a person who makes coffee.
        You are more than one who just cooks.
            You are more than a decision maker at the company.
               You are more than a mom.
                  You are more than a pastors wife. You are more than a homeschool teacher and mother.
                     You are more than what the world defines.

I am His creation, His daughter, His gift. And when I can embrace that, life is beautiful. I am learning this so much more lately, and when I embrace that truth, God shines so brightly in some beautiful ways, as if to say "See, I told you....You are unique and made for me and You are so much more than a title."

 Embrace it.  You are not "just anybody"!!
 One day at a time, I am learning to embrace and live this.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Perfect Run

The snow was falling light as feathers, but the wind was whipping wildly around our faces....but it was a perfect run.
 What makes a perfect run? I suppose every person would categorize that differently.

My definition, however, holds a range of answers.
 Sometimes a perfect run is hitting a new mileage mark.
   Sometimes a perfect run is feeling the burn in the lungs and the legs when it's over.
     Sometimes a perfect run is the company.
       And yet, sometimes, a perfect run is just simply getting out and feeling the fresh air on the face.

Yesterday was cold! I mean COLD ! I've done many cold runs, but the wind was really bad on this one. My times were absolutely horrible, to be honest. The terrain was different, making my muscles all move differently, so the run was not an easy jog in the park.
 But it was a perfect run. What made it perfect? The company. I was out with my "bestie" Alyssa. Alyssa will get up and run with me at 4:30 am. She will brave all temperatures and weather when not many others will. She pushes me to levels I thought unachievable, and she cheers me on like a real friend should. She also happens to be my sponsorship coordinator for the Linda A. Ferguson Memorial 5K. It was a perfect run because we were running the course for our event this year. Whenever we do that, we always find new ideas to put in place, new companies to contact and new ways to make our event better. We also gain a new perspective on the course and new ways to bring in more participants. We leave feeling energized, no matter how bad my (our) time was. It was a perfect run.
 We also ended it perfectly with a hot cup of coffee and hot French toast at the local Clifton Mill. Saturday's run definitely fell into the category of a perfect run.

Sometimes a perfect run is the weather being at the best temperature (that was not yesterday, by the way!)
  Sometimes a perfect run is the best time I've ever had. (also not yesterday)
     Sometimes a perfect run is time to think and pray and collect my thoughts.
        And yet, sometimes, a perfect run means realizing I'll never be perfect. My times will never be the fastest, my body will never be the slimmest, my ideas may never be the greatest, my miles may never be the longest, and I may not always be the most positive person on a run....A perfect run is often a run where I learn more about myself, and accepting that I will never be perfect :)  And that is ok.
  One day at a time, one run at a time, It's a great concept to grasp.

 Me and Alyssa after the run
The view we had during our warm breakfast!