Sunday, June 19, 2016

Celebrate Together!

We celebrate all kind of milestones in our children's lives. We have birthday parties and invite friends, we have end of school parties and graduations with family to witness, we have sporting events with guests, and the list goes on and on.  We are people who like to celebrate!

Recently when Lydia was baptized, one of the parents of her friends who came said she was so glad that we'd asked them to celebrate with us. She expressed that often times we see our children take one of the biggest steps in their life and we forget to celebrate it properly. Brenda said to me, "we invite people to sporting events, talent shows, and birthday parties, why do we not think to invite people to baptisms?"  She's right, baptism is BIG, we should celebrate with everyone!

Lydia asked to be baptized, first on Easter Sunday, but wanted to invite everyone she knew. When I explained that most people like to be in their home church for Easter service she had to rethink her date.  She said, "baptism is an expression of my faith and I want everyone I know to see it!" 

Lydia chose June 5th to be baptized and excitedly gave me a list of names for invitations. 

She said, "it's one of the biggest days of my life, I want to share it with everyone I know!"  

I invited everyone on the list and some of them went to great lengths to be here and it touched my heart to see how much these people love my daughter and love our family!  We had friends that got up Sunday morning and drove 2-3 hours to be here and made it, on time, for the 9:30 service!  We had friends who came in the night before, from Indiana, and spent the night in town so they could be here. She had friends from several other churches around town who came!  The mom of two of her closest friends woke up early and snuck out of the house, leaving a sleeping toddler with dad, so she and her two daughters could be there!  One of Lydia's other close friends had been at camp all week and her mom was looking forward to resting up after a long week, but they were there bright and early!

Those kinds of sacrafices and that amount of dedication is moving. It's not easy to do any of those things!  The amount of planning and consideration, and altering of plans and days isn't lost on me. The coordination it takes to get kids ready, the dedication it takes to say you'll be there and show up, the covert operation that goes into sneaking away from a sleeping toddler when you'd rather have a day off, the time it takes to drive across state lines, giving up sleep when all you want to do is rest up, the sacrafice of missing your home church, and the dedication it takes to be willing to do those things are all testimonies of God's love here on earth. 

The baptism itself will be an entirely separate blog because it was one of the most amazing blessings that I've been given and I'm still processing the emotions from that. 

I've only got one child left to be baptized, but you can bet when he takes that step there will be a celebration!  Next time any of our kid's friends make that commitment we will be there too!  We may just be a face in the crowd but we will celebrate here on earth like the angels in heaven!  

Psalms 150:1-6

Let Everything Praise the Lord

150 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

That Mouth...My Mouth

That mouth, my mouth, got away from me again. This afternoon Kip fell off of one of the horses and got hurt. After calming him as much as possible, loving on him, and getting my freak out under control, I called the pediatrician on call...because we can never have drama on a weekday and all calls must be made after hours. 

The poor on call pediatrician, who clearly didn't know he had crazy on the phone, said to me "please explain to me how a three year old fall off of a horse..."  

BOOM!  I may have said, in a loud volume, "I realize you're questioning my parenting choices right now and I respect that you want to protect my child but we need to deal with that AFTER you tell me whether or not I need to get him to the ER!"  

Ugh, he was only trying to ask how Kip's body hit the ground so he could better evaluate his condtion. We worked through it, he explained himself, and naturally, I apologized. The on call Doctor also apologized and admitted that his words may have come off as judgey when in reality, we both were concerned for the same reason. He was right, I explained that I tend to run on hot and when I'm worried about one of my babies, my good judgement is gone!  He said he'd keep that in mind if we ever talk again...

Ultimately, Kip will be okay. His face is swollen, he's sore, I'm traumatized, and he may never ride a horse again. Thank God for helmets though, and for pediatricians who forgive and for my ability to apologize!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

They Gave Me Life, Saved My Life, and Made Me Live

Cancer is one of the worst things that has ever happened to me. It ranks up there with losing my grandma Ruth too soon and too unexpectedly and not having anyone to walk me down the isle at my wedding. Those are the things you don't quite recover from, you just patch up and move on.

I have a million amazing memories of the times I spent with Grandma Ruth that make it feel like she's here and someday I'll have a vow renewal where my sweet son will walk me down the isle and erase the pain of not having someone by my side in that first moment, but cancer has changed things forever. 

In an older post I said that I hoped someday cancer would become part of my testimony and it has. I hoped so much that I'd be able to talk about cancer with more than just fear, anxiety, and trauma but I never really believed I would. Tonight, I am. 

A couple of months ago I finally sat down with my girls and told them that I am a cencer survivor.  When I'd been diagnosed, I made it a point to keep it from them and I told everyone I knew that they couldn't tell them. Our church secretary went so far as to send an email to the entire church, explaining that we were NOT using the word "cancer" in front of our children. I was so overwhelmed with dealing with cancer, physically, mentally, and emotionally that I knew I couldn't navigate the parenting part of that too. I had to understand myself before I could help them understand. I stand by that decision, still today, because as hard as it was to keep it from them I had to take care of me first. I tell my kids that you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself and I had to do that.   

I sat the kids down and told them that when I'd been sick and had surgeries on "the icky stuff on my knee," that it was actually cancer. I explained to them that the oncologist was confident that I'd be okay.  I told them I am cancer free! Then I explained the part that each of them had played, not only in my recovery, but in my life. 

Hadley made me a mommy. I never understood love until she was born. After falling in love with her I've become a better Christian, a better wife, and a better human. She changed everything, I never knew love could be like this. If she hadn't paved the way, coming into this world six weeks early and weighing under five pounds, I don't know where I'd be now. I have watched her from a very early age show love. She wants to take care of everyone and she loves people and doesn't understand why some people don't love everyone. She showed me love and she gave me life. 

Lydia saved my life. When the Holy Spirit was calling and I didn't answer, God used Lydia. I will never forget sitting in the bath tub and her pushing on my tumor, that had repeatedly diagnosed as a cyst or lypoma, saying "mommy, you're so pretty, I wish you didn't have that because it's so ugly."  Boom!  I KNEW in that moment that I needed to see a new doctor who would take me seriously.  So I went to the doctor and I was persistent because God spoke to me through Lydia. The Holy Spirit moved me to leave my doctor who'd written it off as a cyst and see someone else. Lydia is the reason I asked (begged!) our friend, a surgeon, to operate. Thank goodness he is a good christian man who didn't think I was completely off my rocker when I said "I would never ask this favor, because it's wrong to ask this of a friend but something, I believe the Holy Spirit, is telling me I have to have this removed. It has to be gone!"  Thank God for my surgeon who listened to what the Holy Spirit was telling us. Lydia is the reason the oncologist walked into the room grinning and elated to share the good news that he so rarely gets to share. He said "I have good news. I don't get to share good news with this type of cancer. I usually tell people how long they have left, but I get to tell you that you're going to be okay." She saved my life.

And Kip is the reason I pushed through. When I found out I had cancer I was devastated. I had a new baby, and I was convinced I was going to die. A mix of post partum hormones and paralyzing anxiety is terrifyingly toxic. Baby Kip didn't care that mommy had a major health condition, he didn't care that emotionally I was destroyed, he didn't understand anyone's needs but his own. He cared that his diaper was wet and his belly was empty and that he felt better with mommy. I didn't have the will to push through, but he willed me to.  It would have been very easy to give up if I hadn't had such a demanding little human in my life. He made me live!

So cancer has become part of my testimony and I'm thankful for the changes its made in my life. I'm still working through the (now diagnosed) PTSD and the occasional anxiety attacks, but with God, my family, and my friends, I can do it.  I can talk about cancer, scary things, emotions, strengths and weaknesses.  My kids know how important they are in this life and they know that experiencing and feeling the entire gamut of emotions is okay.  Sometimes all at once!  And most importantly, they know that God hears our cries and we are strong because we are children of God. We are sons and daughters of the King.

Psalms 143:1 Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Navigating Unfamiliar Holy Water

I was raised in a religious household.  I was raised in a church that uses the Bible as their only teaching tool and by a group of people who love the Lord, but I was also raised in a very legalistic religion.  Everything had rules and regulations surrounding it.  If a rule couldn't be found, specifically, in the Bible it was covered by saying there was no "Biblical authority."  There were rules surrounding everything from dancing to mission work and from instrumental music to co-ed swimming, NONE of which were allowed.

I look back on my upbringing with appreciation.  I'm thankful for the discipline that I learned and I'm thankful that I had hedges to protect my relationship with God when I was young and vulnerable.  I also look back in awe though.  I was telling a Christian friend about the rules I was raised with and he said, "sounds like it's harder to get into church than it is to get into heaven" and he was exactly right.  It was complicated and I always had a feeling of balancing on a tightrope.  I knew that one minor slip up could condemn me for eternity, it made me work harder but it also filled me with fear and insecurity, in the Lord, that I still battle.

Now that I've gotten older and I've spent a lot of time in the Word, I've changed the church I go to and, man!  Is it different! I didn't leave my former church with any hard feelings, I just found a different church where our family could thrive.  Change isn't always a bad thing and you have to change to grow, but that doesn't make change any easier!  We live in an ever changing universe but some changes are hard to adjust to, no matter what blessings they may provide. 

There are so many hot buttons in my old church and there are so many things you can talk about and things you can't, and I know the ins and outs of all of them.  Whether I agree or not, I know how to work the system.  I've spent my entire life in that branch of religion and I know the ropes.  There are tons of different degrees of the religion but (whether they'll admit it or not), they are all very similar.  I can flow in and out of any of those churches fluidly and fit in effortlessly in minutes. 

My new church is very different and although my grandparents went to a church similar to this one and I visited occasionally, its not my norm. I'm navigating completely new holy waters.  No one has made me feel anything other than loved and welcomed but I'm always just a little on edge.  I'm stay on pins and needles with every conversation and with every activity.  I'm waiting for the time I mess up and wondering if I'm being judged as a bad christian or a failure.

We do a Bible study on Monday nights and most of the time, I just keep quiet and listen because I worry that my perspective will raise eyebrows.  We meet with an incredible group of Christians who have made this church home, but I'm still not ready to let them all the way in.  I'm reluctant to jump into many activities until I familiarize myself with the church a little more for fear of alienating myself for my beliefs or for my heritage.  Maybe this says more about the church I grew up in than I'd like to believe, but it's ever present in my mind now.

I don't know when I've ever been involved in a congregation that loves each other and love the Lord the way this family of believers do and someday I'll be able to unpack my baggage a little more and jump in with both feet, but I'm not there yet.  I love this church and I feel more at home with these believers than I have with believers from my former tribe, since moving to Nashville.  I'm still getting my toes wet and watching from the banks.

I mourn for the loss of familiarity and my heritage.  I miss that feeling of of comfort and security.   I miss my former religious tribe but at this time in our lives, we are a part of a new tribe and I'm learning that that's okay.  The traditions are all that's changed, the Bible truth stays the same.  I'm serving the same God, I have the same Savior, and I'm learning from the same book, I'm just doing it a little different than I'm used to.  All the stuff that matters is right, and I'm adjusting to all of the other stuff and enjoying the ride.

I'm also learning that I had put entirely too much faith in my religion and not enough faith in God.  I felt such a strong allegiance to that religion and I loved being a part of it, but I need to feel that way about being a Christian, not a Christian at a specific religion.  My relationship with the Lord is growing stronger because I'm learning that my faith is in Him, not in a church.  I love my new church and I love my old church, but I love the Lord first and foremost.   

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Thirty Something...

Tonight Keith and I got home from Saint Simon's Island, Georgia after a weekend watching one of our dearest friends marry the love of his life.  I was tucking my girls into bed and we were saying our prayers and I started tearing up, a lot.

Hadley prayed for Jeff and Kelly and their marriage, she prayed for Mark and Tracy and Baby Clayton, she prayed for Jason and Jen.  Then I took my turn to pray and started crying because I am overwhelmed with how blessed we are by these incredible people!

We have the most amazing friends.  Oh my goodness!  God knew what he was doing when he brought this band of people together.  I was thinking about this group of friends and it struck me that we are all strong, opinionated, loud people and maybe even what some people might call jerks but every one of us would do anything for each other!  We love fiercely.

We have been through divorce, marriage, adoption, pregnancy, moves, cancer, new jobs, and everything in between.  We have cried together, we have yelled at each other, we have loved each other, and oh man have we laughed together!  We get each other.  

I've moved away and left my beautiful dysfunctional family of friends but they have never stopped being there for me.  Even as I'm typing this, the tears are flowing.(Yes Jeff, TEARS!)  I never knew I'd have friends like these people and I don't know how I got so lucky.  I miss them so much that sometimes my heart hurts but I know that we will always be together. I sat around with them this weekend and thought, "man, there should be a show about us!" Then I realized there had been...Thirty Something!  Ha Ha!

When Jeff and Kelly started building their relationship, I was so hard on her.  I refused to like her.  I was so protective of Jeff and by then, I'd moved away and wasn't there to witness their budding love.  I was never as kind to Kelly as I should have been but it never changed how she treated me.  Thank goodness she had the patience to tolerate me until I could see her for who she is.  She's pretty awesome!

On my birthday, when I screamed at Jeff and told Kelly to get in the car, no one blinked an eye.  When I went to the March Madness party and relentlessly talked about cancer, everyone rolled with me.  We have stuck together and enjoyed our lives together.  I am in awe of God for bringing me into this group of people.  I love them.  

I'm going to write more about the wedding later, but I just had to get my gratitude out there tonight!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Mom and Her Kids Walk Into A Bar...

My daughters love Natalie Stovall and the Drive!  I mean, they are fan girl, adorable, giddy, excited girl when it comes to her!  So, for Valentine's Day we got them tickets to see her in Nashville, the only catch was the show was at a place that is known as a bar. It was all ages, they don't smoke in there, and Natalie Stovall doesn't draw a rowdy crowd so we felt like it'd be okay to take them, and it was.  To be clear though, it was no different than any other restaurant that has a bar in it, and there were plenty of other kids there! 

The show was great, Natalie and her band were amazing, my daughters had the most amazing night, and I got to be the cool mom for awhile!  My girls sang along with every single song and despite the fact that they were exhausted from school and dance they had a blast!

Lydia got so sleepy, during the show, that we offered to take her home. Keith and I had driven separate cars so we told her we'd take her when she was ready. Bless her heart, she was so tired she could barely hold herself up. I took her out of the show to try to convince her to go home and she asked if she could just step outside in the cold air and see if she could wake herself up. She wanted to stay til the end of the show because she knew she'd get to meet Natalie if she could hang in there. 

She and I stepped outside, into the cold and rainy air and we were talking. I saw her looking so I wanted to see what caught her eye.  There was a homeless man standing nearby. She pleaded with her eyes for me to do something. I explained to her that I didn't have anything to give him because I'd left my stuff inside. 

That's when she said, "mommy, can we pray wth him?"

I sighed. I really didn't want to approach a homeless man and stand in the rain and cold with him, and I do know how horrible that sounds but I try to always be honest, and it's the truth. 

Again, she pleaded with those eyes!  I sighed again and said, half heartedly, "do you really want to?"

"Please mom, we need to."

I sighed again...and said yes. 

So we walked over to this gentleman and I said, "sir, I don't have anything I can give you but we'd like to know if we could spend some time with you and pray."

He nodded, humbly, and said yes and I immediately knew why Lydia wanted us to approach him.

We all introduced ourselves, his name was Frank and I stood there nervous, knowing they were both expecting me to pray. 

In my head, I said "God, could you throw me a bone here?  I'm trying..."  

That's when I remembered reading an article, in The Guardian, the magazine written and sold by the homeless in Nashville. The man who wrote it was homeless and said that the part of being homeless that had been the hardest on him was not mattering anymore. He said people would ignore him, no one would speak to him, and people never made eye contact with him.  It was like he was no longer a human and he didn't exist. 

So, I stood in the cold rain holding hands with a homeless man and my 8 year old and I prayed, "Heavenly Father, please be with Frank and let him know that he matters. Please let him know that he's loved and he is important, he is a child of the King and whatever hardships this world may have, You are with him.  I ask that you wrap your loving arms around him and keep him warm on this cold night and help him always know he is LOVED, this we pray in Jesus holy name," then I hugged Frank and Lydia and I went back inside. 

Frank may never think of us again, but I hope he always remembers God's love, and I will never forget the night that Jesus met us outside of a bar in Nashville. 

Now, of course the story doesn't end there, in a sweet sentiments moment!  We went inside and Keith asked what was up, I gave him the cliff notes version and he said "did you wash your hands?"  Of course. 

Then he said, "how'd Frank take it?" 

I said, "well....I think he was surprised..."

Keith asked "Because you were praying outside of a bar, or because you had your 8 year old with you at the bar?"

"Both...maybe?" I shrugged?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dear Friends

Dear Friends,

Hang in there, I'm trying. 

I love you and I'm sorry I'm pushing you away. I appreciate you and I'm sorry I can't show it sometimes. I miss you but I can't be there right now. 

I struggle this time of year and I finally understand it. I didn't know why, for the first two years, but I'm starting to now. I'm trying to to figure out how to manage it but I haven't been able to yet. 

I'm in my own head right now and I'm searching for a way out. It takes all of me to hold it together for my babies and I just can't do that for anyone else yet. I'm exhausted. 

I wait for March 5th, yearly, so I can hit that cancer free milestone and each year I keep it together a little longer, before I fall apart. I'm getting stronger and cancer is getting weaker. I've been holding my breath for the past month and I'm trying to breath again. 

Please don't give up on me. I'm trying. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Cancer Hurts

I'm watching Mob Wives, the day after Big Ang died from cancer. I'm watching her tell her friends that she has cancer and I'm hit with a horrible familiar feeling. There is something so painful and humbling about the moment you say the words "I have cancer" to the people you love. 

Their reaction is always the same. They pause. Breathe in. Their voice drops and octave and they begin to say words as tears puddle in their eyes and they fight to hold them back.  The words they say don't matter because you can't hear them anyway. All you can hear is the pain in their voice that you're causing and the fear screaming in your head, because you have cancer. 

You want to push people away. You want to run. You want to hide. You want to be alone. But you can't, you need them and needing them hurts them more. It's a terrible cycle that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy but I forced it on the people I love the most. 

I don't know if I can ever forgive cancer for making me hurt the people I love so much. Most of the time I bury those feelings and hold on tight to the good ones. The thankfulness that I'm so honored that I have that many people who loved me through it. The gratitude that I'm cancer free now. The excitement that each new day brings. I'm so thankful for so many blessings but occasionally I go back to those dark feelings. 

So tonight, as I watch a convicted felon experience cancer and struggle with hurting people, not want to bother people with her problems, and be terrified, I relate a little too closely. Maybe she is a mobster, maybe she wasn't a great person, but we are the same at the core  we are terrified people who don't want to hurt the people we love. 

She lost her battle and I pray for the people who love her and for all the people who fight this battle and win and for their families when they lose and I thank God for the strength to persevere and the people who stand by fighters!