Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankfulness in Times of Trial

When I started thinking about what I'm thankful for this year, I realize that going through the trial of my medical issues has actually made me more thankful than ever.  It seems like it would be the opposite, and while at the time of diagnosis a couple of months ago thankfulness was the furthest thing from my mind, now that I've had a little bit of time to reflect I can say that I am thankful for so many more things now than I was before this all started.  I think that's because I've been forced to see things in a new light, a more focused one, that illuminates the little things, which turns out is where thankfulness lies.  It's like when we were in the mountains a couple weeks ago and it was pitch black out and we needed to walk across to a neighbors house and all I had was my flashlight on my phone.  I was really concentrating on the area right in front of me, the next steps I needed to take.  I didn't have any distractions around me because I literally could barely see where I was going.  But I was focused.  I could see every pebble, rock, twig and rut in the road where the flashlight beam illuminated them.  When I walk that same road in the daytime I'm distracted by the view around me and I'm not concentrating on my steps.  And I miss the little things to be thankful for.  It's okay to be thankful for the normal stuff, like family and friends, but now that I have so many details to be thankful for it really adds up to an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness for it all.   You can really start to see God's mighty hand at work and for that I am thankful.  

In our weekly Bible study we've been going through the book of James and these verses have really stuck out to me for obvious reasons.  I can't say that most of going through cancer is a joy, but it most definitely can cause me to find reason for joy.  And I want this experience to cause me to grow in my faith and produce steadfastness.  So, I've been meditating on this: 

James 1:2-4  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Funny thing about cancer is how much lack of control you have over how it plays out.  I can't tell you how many times the doctors have made appointments for me and I'm just expected to show up.  They don't call me first to see if it works for my schedule...and that was really starting to make me annoyed!  Like my other plans aren't important.  Well, I guess when you think about it, they really aren't.  And I've come to realize that I've been wanting to control things with God too.  I used to try to plan out my life.  Where we would live, what we would do, things I wanted to do.  If I heard some nudging from God about something He wanted me to do, I'd check my calendar to see if it fit in my schedule.  How ridiculous of my plans are more important than His.  

What I really want to remember is to be thankful for the little things.  I think that thankfulness is what produces joy.  And the small moments added up is what produces true thankfulness.  So I'm going to make a list of some of the things I'm thankful for since starting this journey so that you can see that God is always there.  He's there in every detail and He cares so much.  If I learn nothing but that from this it will be enough. 
  1. That I was at my weekly Bible study surrounded by people who love me when I first received the phone call with my diagnosis.  
  2. They immediately prayed for me.
  3. That I have been able to get in quickly for almost every appointment.
  4. For modern medical technology
  5. That my mom just so happened to buy a house here close to me just months before my diagnosis and was able to be here for my surgeries and treatments.
  6. That one of my best friends from Ohio also just so happened to move here months before my diagnosis and is now able to help out and be a comfort to me.
  7. That I was starting to stress about how we were going to pay for all of the medical bills when a dear friend texted me and offered to research and set up a funding website for people to donate to without me even telling her of my worries.
  8. The fact that countless people have donated to our fund and we know that God always provides.  If I ever doubted that before, I don't now.
  9. My best friend from Ohio's husband received a bonus from work right as I was going through the most scary waiting for results part of this journey and he suggested she make a trip to Florida for the weekend to see me.
  10. That my cancer is treatable.
  11. That of the 6 page list of chemo side effects, I've only experienced 3 and they've been mild.
  12. My church family has set up countless meals for me so I don't have to cook when I'm not feeling well.
  13. I have friends who are willing to watch my children at a moments notice and I know they are loved and cared for.
  14. I met 2 new friends since I've been diagnosed and both have daughters my girl's age and they have offered and already helped out when I needed them.  And to think I thought it was an inconvenient time to meet new friends. :) Silly me.
  15. My mom's neighbors have become friends with us and their children are friends with mine.  So it takes some of the burden off of my mom since my kids can play with friends when they go to Grandmama's house.  
  16. That my Grandpa is here in Florida with my mom and my kids adore him and he can babysit them (or they can babysit him as he teases) when I need him to.
  17. My friends even made shopping for a wig fun by helping me turn it into a girl's night out.
  18. When I realized how expensive those hats people wear for chemo are, I remembered I have an aunt who is an amazing seamstress and she sewed me a whole assortment. 
  19. I've received a card or note of encouragement almost every single day since learning of this.  I have a stack almost 6 inches high that I'm saving.  
  20. My oncologist is caring and set up my treatments so I could have the week of Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas off.
  21. Hundreds of people are praying for me.  This almost brings me to tears.  I'm so grateful for all my brothers and sisters in Christ who care for me.
  22. My treatments fell in a way that I was able to take a trip to see my brother and his family in the midst of all this and I didn't feel sick at all.
  23. My surgeon who I picked from a recommendation of a friend turns out is a world class surgeon who helped invent one of the procedures that he performed on me.
  24. That I was able to get physical therapy for a side effect from surgery and it has improved so quickly I only have to go once more.
  25. The hospital where I've had my surgeries is less than 5 minutes from one of my friend's houses where she has been able to watch my kids for me each time, even keeping them overnight once when my daughter was sick with a virus.  
  26. My kids are old enough to do a lot of their homeschooling on their own and they have not fallen behind at all.  
  27. The flexibility of homeschooling has made things easier for us and I don't have to deal with school pick ups and drop offs or homework.
  28. My children are learning compassion and to trust God through all of this.
  29. My husband is amazing and we are learning what our wedding vows really meant when we said, 'in sickness and in health'.  
  30. I've learned that God never leaves us and His plans are always perfect even when I think they are crazy and don't like them.
I feel like I could go on forever, but I'm going to stop there.  If you think any part of this list is just a coincidence or just me being one of the lucky ones, I assure that couldn't be further from the truth.  Take a look at your life and you will start to see the blessings being illuminated and you will know there is no way that all of the intricacies of how things have gone for you could ever be chance.  I challenge you to look for thankfulness throughout whatever trials you are facing.  Then the joy will come.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Weekend of Fall

We don't really get fall here in Florida and I really miss it sometimes.  Not as much this year as I did last year.  I've really become quite the wimp when it comes to cold weather since moving here.  This year we were determined to go to the Smokies to experience fall and when my brother and his family decided to meet us there we knew we had to make it happen.  We were blessed to have all of my treatments scheduled around it and while we weren't quite ready for the level of cold we experienced (it snowed!), it was still tons of fun.  It was Halloween while we were there and we ended up trick or treating twice and visited a pumpkin farm.  I still have to go through the Halloween photos...I hate that it's Thanksgiving next week and I'm still talking about Halloween, but what can I say, I have a crazy life right now.  So, I'm going to share some of our other photos.  Here you go!

The cousins!  Back together again.  Can't wait til they move to Florida. :)  I've been on a mission to make that happen for over a year and it's still a work in progress.

Loved these flowers at the pumpkin farm we visited.

We did a corn maze.  It was fun...when I wasn't sneezing.

These are the colors I miss here.  Just minus the cold!

Glad they got so much cousin time in.  They have so much fun together.

Gorgeous tree!

Gorgeous kids! :)

A new family pic.  Not the best, but it's us. It was like 25 degrees out when we took this so I'm actually pretty happy with how it turned out!  Thanks to my sis-in-law for taking it.  We were freezing!

I'm going to try to be back tomorrow with some Halloween pics!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Photo Friday 2014 ~ Week 43 ~

This post is 5 weeks and 3 days late.  Just now I had to look up when my last Photo Friday post was and I didn't even realize that much time had passed.  I'm going to try to finish up the year now that I realize there are less than 10 weeks left!  What?  How is that even possible?!  I feel like I now need to start Christmas shopping.  I usually wait until the last minute and this year will probably be no different.  I know you are all probably wanting an update on my health and I will just let you know that I am going to start chemo soon, but I am feeling fantastic as of right now.  I'm sure that will change, but it's only temporary.  It will go fast (I hope) and then my hair will grow back slow (I hope not).  I hope I will learn some things from going through it and I will be able to touch people I come into contact with.  That's my prayer at least.  I'm not exactly looking forward to it, but I am looking forward to getting it over with, so there is kind of a weird sort of anticipation in the wait.  So far, I've just done a lot of reading about what to expect and I cut my hair.  I figured it would be good to get the kids used to seeing me with short hair so that it won't be so shocking to them later on.  I've had short hair before so it wasn't really that big of a deal and I actually really like it.  Go to my Instagram if you want to see a pic.  Everyone tells me it makes me look younger, so yay for that!  

This post is all over the place, but I really just wanted to share some photos I took on Friday of my kids.  They have been amazing through all of this.  They are very sweet and caring with me and they get worried a little bit here and there but really all they need is a few words of reassurance and they are good.  I try to keep to their routine as much as possible because I think that's important for kids and for me, honestly.  I want us to still go to the park and do school and all the normal stuff because it really just helps us all to feel normal in a situation that is anything but.  So, I'm going to stop rambling now and just share the pics already.  

I feel like these photos are almost boring in their normalcy, but it's what I'm craving right now, so I guess it makes sense.  Here's my boy doing some schoolwork on the balcony.  He caught me taking pics which is why he covered his face.  Stinker.

My cutie.  She wasn't in the mood either!  Her mad face is actually pretty cute.  I love her eyelashes in that one on the left.

Her brother got her to smile again.  She's looking so grown up and pretty lately.  Or maybe I'm just being sentimental.

They posed themselves and requested I take this one.  I'm so grateful for these two and their silly antics and sweet smiles.  They make my days so full.

I'll be back next week but maybe not on Friday. We've got a big weekend planned. ;)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Beach Days are the Best Days

I know things have been a little quiet around this blog lately.  I have so much to say but it's so hard to put it into words.  I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and it has made my life crazier than normal.  I don't want to downplay it like it's no big deal, because obviously it is a big deal.  It's just not everything.  This isn't going to become a blog about cancer.  My life isn't going to become all about cancer.  It's something I'm going to fight and get through and I will look back on and reflect on how it changed me and my family (hopefully for the better).  Already in the few weeks that I've known about it I have experienced almost every emotion you can think of and I've learned a few things in the process.  First and foremost, that God is with me.  He is my strength and my refuge.  I have received countless texts and emails and Facebook messages from friends and family who are praying for me and I think I am finally beginning to realize the extent of the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is so overwhelming and I am so humbled to have so many praying for me and concerned for me.  To everyone who has reached out to me I want to say thank you, even if I may not have responded to you at the time, your messages and gifts and prayers and meals are so appreciated. I won't share all the medical details on this blog as I'd like to keep some things private, but know that I am healing already and your prayers are being answered.  I have gotten better news at every turn and though I still have a ways to go in this journey, I know I won't go it alone.  What a comforting thought.

I'm so glad we moved to the beach before all this happened (I know that wasn't an accident, but providential).  The beach is seriously the best place for me to go when I'm feeling down or in need of healing.  It relaxes me so much and I'm able to put things in perspective with the vastness of the ocean spreading out before me with it's steady rhythm.  These photos are from one of those healing days recently when I had doubts and fears overwhelming me.  It was just what I needed.  My favorite 3 people surrounding me with love at my favorite place.  What a blessing.  I hope you enjoy these photos of these precious moments even a fraction of the amount that I do.  I'll try to keep up with posting to this blog as I can.  I hope to get back to my normal Photo Friday posts soon.  In the meantime, keep praying for healing because one thing I've learned through all of this is that God truly does hear and answer our prayers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On Turning 8

So, I meant to post this last week but things have been crazy around here so I never got around to it.  I haven't forgotten about my sweet boy's birthday though and I wanted to share about it.  That kid brings me so much joy and I honestly don't want to ever imagine what life would be like without him.  He's going to never leave home and stay with me forever (at least that's what he says now) and I'm kinda okay with that.  I interviewed him on his birthday and here is what he said...

~~Age 8~~
~How old are you? 8
~How does being 8 make you feel? Awesome!
~What do you want to learn this year? Science
~What was the best thing about being 7? Summer
~What did you do today?  Had a birthday party and got presents.
~What is your favorite color? turquoise blue
~What is your favorite food? ice cream and I like candy, I like food (what kind of food?) Candy and stuff.
~Who is your favorite person? Ben
~What grade are you in? 3rd
~What is your favorite thing to do at school? Science
~What is your favorite game to play? Poptropica
~What do you like to do with Daddy? Play games like chess and catch
~What do you like to do with Mommy? hug and cuddle her
~What do you like to do with your sister? Play with her. (like what?) Legos

~What’s your favorite thing to do with the whole family? family hug
~What’s your favorite store? Toys R Us
~What’s your favorite place to eat? Culvers
~What’s your favorite book? My Hero (an Uglydoll comic)
~What’s your favorite song? Dynamite
~What’s your favorite thing about God? Everything, I just love Him.
~What do you want to be when you grow up? I don't know. (Can you think of something?) I just don't know about that yet. A guy that works at a Lego factory maybe.

I took him out for a few photos as well. All we did was walk around our building, but that 5 minutes with him was precious and I got some great photo memories as well. Here are my favorites.

 He's always having a good time. :)

Sorry for the photo overload but I just love them all. He's my baby, what can I say? :)

I love this one! So him.

Haha, I love his mad face on the right. The kid has a temper...must be the red hair. ;)

Saved my favorite for last. That dimple. It kills me every time. I love this boy more than words can say.

Thanks for reading! Forgive me if I do another birthday post but I just realized I still have all his party photos to blog! Hey, it's my blog and I'll do birthday overload if I want, right?!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Photo Friday 2014 ~ Week 37

Today is my boy's birthday!  He's having a great day so far.  He woke up early, ran through the curtain of balloons, and opened a present before his Daddy went to work.  We skipped school for the day in honor of his holiday and he's played for more time on the computer than I care to share.  I just keep reminding myself that it's only one day a year!  Then when Daddy came home for lunch he opened another present.  I asked him if he wanted to go anywhere special for his birthday, but once again, my little homebody just wants to hang out here.  We are busy decorating for his friend party tomorrow and I still need to bake the cupcakes so this is gonna be a brief post.  I took a few pictures of him this morning and my favorites are from when he was eating his special breakfast...donuts!  He was very surprised to find those at the table this morning.  It's a sugar high and electronics overload kind of day. :)

 Double fisting the donuts. :)

Happy Birthday, my favorite boy!!

I'll be back next week with some photos from more birthday festivities and the traditional birthday survey. Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Photo Friday 2014 ~ Week 36

Our first week of school is over and we survived!  Not only did we just survive it, but I think it went amazingly well.  There were no tears and very little arguing.  We were able to complete all of our lessons in a reasonable amount of time and I didn't feel stressed at all.  We even did electives like Art and Spanish and we took a half day off to go to Bible study.  All in all it was a great success.  I hope every week is like this one!  I am very pleased with the curriculum we selected.  I think the ease of use is helping everything to go more smoothly.  I'll try to write a post about what we are using because I know I am always curious to see what has and hasn't worked for others.  Today it was raining again and I hadn't taken any photos for my post yet again, but it's okay because the kids were working on a project and they were very engrossed so I was able to snap a few shots without them even minding.  They were each doing a mural of a forest for their science class.  They are studying Environmental Science this year and I love that they are able to do the class together.  It makes it so much more fun.  And the murals turned out great.  I taped them to our sliding glass doors and it made the perfect spot for this project especially if they go off the edges of the paper I can just wipe the paint off the window.   I'm keeping them up because it's a project that they add to each week as we study how different things affect the environment.  Here are my little artists at work. :)

We are studying tone and shading in art class so she was able to incorporate that into her mural.  She did a great job at making it look realistic.

I just had to include this because whoa, check out my baby girl's biceps.  She looks like she works out!  Must be all that tree climbing. ;)

My boy is only in 3rd grade and art isn't really his thing so I don't expect his mural to look like his sister's.  I like how he has his own style and really does his own thing.  His forest has a snow capped mountain and a cave and poison ivy. :)

And then this happened...

Good thing we're not going anywhere today!  They are keeping on their disguises (yep, she did one on herself too) to see if they can trick their daddy.

Hope you have a great weekend!


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