The Step Up

The Step Up

With so much to grieve or be anxious about in our world, I want to offer a very real, encouraging story from my dear friend Fred Sieger. It looked for a while like he would lose the battle and many of us prayed like crazy for him. When the tide turned, or as he says, when the steps went up, his voice weak, Fred went to the front of the church to share his story. He was still so gaunt we could hardly recognize him and we all leaned in to hear.

Fred's Harley license plate

(All of the photos on this post are from Fred Sieger.)

The Step Down to the Step Up
The Step Down:
In October of 2014, I noticed a swollen gland on the left side of my neck, very small and no big deal. In November I woke up one night with what I thought was a toothache. I thought, oh yea, that’s what has been hurting a little. I went to the dentist and she said it wasn’t a tooth.
I went to a throat specialist. He took a biopsy and said, “Throat cancer. We can operate or do radiation and chemo, which is what I recommend.”

December 1st, I started radiation five times a week and chemo one time a week, for two months. The day after it began, the plumbing started to back up; one of the side effects of the treatment. They gave me a catheter bag to wear for the two months, at the end of which they would operate.

Two weeks into the treatments I could not eat any solid food. All that would go down was Ensure, only strawberry, vanilla, strawberry and vanilla, strawberry and vanilla, every day for two months. Towards the end, I was not getting anything down for days. By the time I finished the treatments I could not eat at all and had lost 50 lbs.

That’s when they put me in the hospital to operate on the plumbing. The doc called it the Roto-Reuter, up the front to clean out things. That was on Tuesday. Wednesday they brought me a pill and cut it up in small pieces, but I gagged on it. Nothing was going down.

sunrise w driftwood

The Step Up
That was Ash Wednesday. Father Rick, my favorite priest, stopped by after church that evening. He anointed my head with oil and prayed for healing, and also put ashes on my forehead, saying, “Oh man you are dust and to dust you shall return.” That gets your attention in a place like this. Then we prayed and had communion. Fr Rick took a small piece of the host (wafer) about the size of a baby aspirin and I put it under my tongue so it would dissolve.

The next day they woke me at 7 A.M. and I had breakfast, later lunch, then dinner and an evening snack. Just like that, it turned around and I could eat!

That night, after everyone left and the nurses were done poking around and taking blood, I was lying in bed, around 11 pm. I was wondering what in the world had happened. I was overcome by emotions and started to cry uncontrollably, for maybe fifteen minutes, knowing that I could eat and was slowly getting better.

A true miracle and healing.

The three things I learned from this are:
1. Enjoy your job. You spend many hours at it. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re in the wrong field.
2. Take time with friends. Don’t say, “Someday let’s do this or that.” Do it now. Take time with special people.
3. Help others. Make a difference in other people’s lives. Volunteer your time. Help neighbors.

Leave this place a better place.

Be blessed and be a blessing.

When you have a set back in life, look for what God is setting up for you to bless others. — Fred Sieger

We knew Fred was truly “back” when his sunrise and sunset pictures from bicycle rides started appearing again on Facebook

back on the bike again
The bike is back!

sunset w red puffy clouds

sunset over Sarasota

sunset w orange clouds


sea oat sunset

Fred's Harley, ready to celebrate the Fourth of July
Fred’s Harley, ready to celebrate the Fourth of July

Though Fred still struggles to swallow and makes regular use of his blender, he has regained weight and looks like himself again, and never complains. Happy to be alive, Fred isn’t asking for perfection. His license plate really is the way he lives, giving thanks. Fred quietly goes about his days doing all he can to make a difference.

And he does.

Do you have a story to share?

Some happy Mother’s Days are out of this world

As my girls and I made plans for Mother’s Day, I glanced at the photo under glass on my desk, family gathered around my Mom. Her sweet smile. The familiar ache built in my chest, pulling me into the dark place, wishing I could have one more Mother’s Day to shower love on her.Mother's Day joy

Then I realized that our little brother, Mac, who drowned when he was three, is in heaven celebrating with her.

little brother Mac
Malcom Bayard Foard III

And she is there with her dear mother, celebrating the life of a true servant-hearted woman.


And my grandmother, Eleanor, is celebrating with her mother, Maria, who died when Grandmom was a girl.

Maria Tschanin Zimmerman
Maria Zimmerman

And Maria is celebrating with her mother from her native Switzerland that she fled during an Anabaptist persecution.

That’s as far back as I know family history on Mom’s side.

Enough to give me perspective.

Would I really want to drag Mom back to this little world, when so much has been opened up to her? So much joy. So much celebration. So much connection. So much life.


I stroke the face in the picture, say ‘I love you’ again, and release her into the hands of Love who holds her forever.

Real love is like that, isn’t it? Loving, holding, and then releasing when necessary.

For the first time, I am truly ready to pick up the mantle my brother offered after Mom’s funeral—the matriarch of the family.

To continue to hold them all up in prayer, no matter how large the family grows.

To rejoice in their accomplishments and weep with their pain.

And to smile when my family is gathered around me.

Grammi love
Grammi love
grandchild fun at Easter
egg dying with grands
three generations at Christmas
three generations at Christmas
Siesta Key
Fun in the surf

The circle goes on.

So good. So good.

All things new, from whatever we bring to the table

My youngest daughter, YD, is asking me to write the story of my life. Why would anyone want to read all that depressing stuff? She says it could give hope to women going through dark valleys right now, to see how I have prevailed, how God has made goodness from my brokenness. I wasn’t convinced, until this past week, when I began a memory t-shirt quilt with my oldest daughter for my grandson’s birthday. OD had collected t-shirts spanning most of his life. We sorted through the shirts, looking for striking colors, interesting designs and logos, and outstanding memories.

I was uneasy cutting up perfectly good t-shirts. (I’m from the waste-not-want-not family. Of course, I saved the left-overs for rags.)

scraps from t shirts

Through most of my early life, I felt like those left-overs.

Torn, missing pieces, needing the impossible to be whole.


When we had enough, we cut and prepped the blocks, then lay them out to plan the design.

OD arranging blocks cropped
OD arranging blocks

As I cut and stitched, I felt the Lord showing me how he has snipped and stitched in my life, pressing and pinning and joining, during times I couldn’t feel his presence. Sometimes, only the pain.

But he was always there.

Always working.

Always creating.

After I sewed the blocks together the back was a mess.  Only threads and rough edges of seams, only snatches of color showing through.

quilt back
Quilt back

quilt back close up

I’m not a perfect quilter, by any means. But when I turned the fabric over, all those pieces of my grandson’s life came together, making what I hope he will enjoy.

I’d taken snippets of his life and stitched them together to make something altogether different. Cast-off shirts had become a beautiful quilt for his new room.

Quilt for Alex
Finished quilt

I cannot ignore the lesson whispered along with the whir of the sewing machine.

God is the perfect Creator, and his finished product, when I arrive before him in heaven, will be beautiful and whole. But even now, I bear the marks of the Creator, snatches of beauty, areas where I can bring blessing and love to others.

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. I Peter I:3-5 MSG 

I guess YD is right. I need to share it. Even those of us with memories we’d rather keep buried have a Creator ready to work us into something beautiful to bless those around us, as long as we’ll allow him to work. As long as we are willing to take up new thought patterns, trusting him with our lives.

Have you found that to be true for you?

Or do you think it’s better to let some things stay buried?