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The hair haunt… I mean hunt

Since it’s almost Halloween, I thought I would share one of the creepiest experiences of my life.
The week of my first chemotherapy, Robbyn was still in the hospital, and Jordan still had some time off work. So, I decided I wanted to visit a wig shop that was highly recommended and not too far from the NICU. I had to add wig shopping to the list of things I never thought I would do. The ladies who owned the wig shop were so sweet and wanted to make the experience as enjoyable as could be. I think they were truly working in a field they were passionate about.
But let me tell you….
It. Was. Weird.
We walked in to this house that had been converted into a boutique that was room after room…of heads. It was very organized. The heads were cataloged by style. One room had all long hair, another had medium length, next to that was a room full of curly hair, one full of textured hair, and last but not least, the room full of hair older women. Inside each room, the styles were sorted into subcategories: hair color. Blonde, red, black, brunette, silver, and even blue. The sweet boutique owner walked me from room to room and introduced, yes, introduced, me to the heads that I might be interested in. “This is Chloe. She is a little flirty. Over here is Janet. She is a little more serious.”
After multiple awkward introductions, (I mean, I can’t shake hands with a head!) I picked out a few “gals” to start with. She sat me down and placed the first wig on my head. It was strange it didn’t look like my hair used to look before I chopped it off. Jordan was smiling but I caught a glimpse of pained look on his face but said I looked pretty. Have I mentioned what a sweet man he is? I tried on a curly wig that looked similar to my hair when it was on the foam head but once placed on my head, I looked like a brunette Dolly Parton, circa Steel Magnolias. It was atrocious. Jordan even said that one might not be his top choice. The owner said not many people can pull off the curly wigs. What exactly does that say of my real hair?
I finally settled on “Jamison” for my final choice of hair. She wasn’t too flirty or too serious. But she did make me look a teensy bit like my sister.

img_5512

Presenting the holly…I mean Jamison.


Do you know where my wig is at now?

It’s stuffed in the back of the linen closet in our bathroom because it really creeps Jordan and me out. Like a lot. It started on my dresser but I would catch a glimpse of it in the middle of the night and it would give me a heart attack. So, I moved it to our closet but it there mocking me every time I went to look for something to wear. It was always there as a reminder of one of the things that I had lost. My hair. Thinking on this made me grateful that my God is the God who erases our past sins and wipes our slate clean. Once we have realized we are sinners and repent of our sins. It has been forgotten. We don’t have to walk through life thinking about the mistakes we made in the past. The people we might have hurt. The stupid things we did. When you accept Christ into your life, He forgives you of all of your sins past, present, and future.

David says in psalms, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭103:11-12‬ ‭

Did you hear that? As far as the East is from the West. Well, I’m not great with geography but that is pretty dang far. Christ didn’t just say, “I’ll let it slide this time, but I have my eye on you.”
No.
If you truly repent of the sin in your life, then Christ has forgiven you. This kind of true repentance means that you truly intend to change your behavior not just go through the motions fully intending to repeat that sin the next opportunity you have. If you have wholeheartedly asked God for forgiveness of your sins that is that. It is forgotten.

We so often unnecessarily walk around with baggage and feel guilt for things we have done in the past that Christ has already forgiven us of. If you have a nagging guilt about a previous sin weighing you down after you have given it to God, then I don’t think it is God making you feel this way, but rather Satan trying to prevent you from enjoying the freedom that you have in Christ. Freedom from this guilt is a GIFT that was given to you when Jesus died on the cross for you. I read a commentary by Charles Stanley (Handbook for Christian Living) that said, we concentrate too much on the “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and miss the part in the very next verse that says, “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24) You are no longer a slave to your sinful ways or your selfish desires. You have the power of the Holy Spirit inside of you. So, fix your eyes on Jesus and let go of the guilt that Christ has already freed you from.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” We are all sinners. None of us is any better than the other.


Jesus loves all of us sinners. He proved this over and over again. One of the times he proved this was in chapter 4 in the book of John.
Jesus meets a woman at the well. She is, not only a woman, which was the far inferior sex in that day in age, but she was also a Samaritan, which was a mixed race that the Jews considered far inferior to themselves. She is drawing water out of the well in the middle of the day. Which may not seem odd to us, but it was odd in that culture. The middle of the day is hot, and most women went to the well at dawn or dusk. So, she clearly either didn’t want to be confronted by the other women at the regular well times or she was not welcome there by the other women. Jesus meets her where she is at. She is a sinner, looked down upon by her people. She doesn’t have the best marital track record either… Jesus says He know she has had five husbands and is currently living with a man who isn’t her husband. Instead of scorning her, he offers her a water that will quench her thirst forever. He is offering her the free gift of salvation. And she accepts.
And do you know what she does next?
I’ll tell you what she doesn’t do.
She does not go on to wallow in the guilt and shame of her sin. Instead, John says in verse 39 that “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony. ‘He told me everything I ever did.’” Rather than feeling guilty about “Everything she ever did” (which sounds like it might have been a long list of offenses, much like our lives), she was empowered by her new-found freedom in Christ. She shared her experience so that others could enjoy the same freedom she was enjoying. It could not have been easy for her to share her new-found freedom with those who knew about her shameful past.

Don’t let your past sin and shame haunt you like my wig haunts me every time I catch a glimpse of it. Know that Christ has forgiven your sins and live in such a way that others are envious of the Freedom that you have been given. Hopefully, they will be curious enough to ask you and you can share your story and share your Jesus.

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Idle time is not for the faint of heart

I have never liked to the feeling of being out of control. I will get multiple shots at the dentist to avoid having my conscious overtaken by that noxious gas. I don’t like not being able to stop myself from saying or doing stupid things. I am still so embarrassed remembering my dentist telling me,

“Kari, open your mouth wider.”

And I yelled “Uh-uh! No!”

I am a model patient. Something can hurt like the dickens, and I will not move or complain because I don’t want to be seen as uncooperative. Just give me a little nitrous, and I am literally yelling at my soft-spoken dentist.

Well, my first memory out of surgery is hearing the nurse say through the fog clouded my brain was that she is going to give another dose of Morphine. I was screaming in my head, “No more morphine! I hate this feeling!”

But I wasn’t actually talking, so no one heard my plea. I was having my thoughts impaired. I’m not a genius! I need to save all of the brain cells I have! Slowly the fog lifted and I could hold my eyes open for more than a few seconds at a time. Jordan was at my side, and I remember asking about my lymph nodes several times, but I couldn’t quite remember if I had already asked or if I had dreamed it. So who knows how many times I actually repeated myself. I remember Jordan, my mom, Holly, Adam, and my dad in my room all staring at me. Great.

I didn’t feel too awful. My pain was controlled with the anesthesia blocks and the aforementioned morphine. I can’t remember the conversations we had but I would be mid-sentence, and all of a sudden have the urge to empty what little contents were in my stomach. Four times that happened. I didn’t feel queasy in between; it would just hit me all of a sudden. And wouldn’t you know, every time my mom headed to the door to go home I vomited again. She was literally standing at the door the last time I threw up, and Holly said, “If you want mom to go home, you are going to have to stop vomiting.”

I didn’t trust my legs to work of their own accord, and I felt very dizzy even just sitting up. So, as badly as I wanted to be independent, the nurse half carried me to the bathroom the first time I got up that evening. I stayed in the same room that they had pre-opped me in and poor Jordan slept in a small recliner next to me. (Though he swears it was more comfortable than the pull out couch he slept on in the hospital when the kids were born)

The next morning, after I was visited by the plastic surgeon’s nurse and a physical therapist, we were free to go. I busted out of there as soon as possible, and we were back in Shelbyville by 8:45 am. We made it to my parents’ house where Jordan helped me set up camp in my parents’ recliner. (Where I was sentenced to for the next few days). Jordan left to go grab the kids and bring them over so I could love on them before they left to go camping.

My mom would not take her eyes off of me, and every time I moved an inch she asked me, “Are you ok? What do you need?”

In which I very lovingly replied, “I have to pee! Is that ok with you?”

Mom and I eventually made an agreement. She would not ask me if I needed anything; IF I promised to ask her for help when I did need it. She stopped asking, but I could feel her eyes burning a hole in the back of my head from the kitchen pass through. In the end, the contract was breached by both parties…

Have I mentioned that I am not very good at being idle. By 2:30 that afternoon at the Barlow prison camp I was granted outdoor privileges for good behavior. I was almost to the end of my parents’ driveway in sweatpants and a bathrobe when Holly came pulling in the driveway. As she slowed to a stop, she rolled her window down and asked if mom had already driven me nuts with her smothering…I mean mothering. (I love you mom). She thought I was escaping.

No, not yet. T- 72 hours.

So I walked 1/4 mile less than 24 hours after surgery. Not too shabby.

My surgery souvenirs:

  • I came home with 4 drains, and I had to record the output three times a day and strip the lines of the drains to make sure they were emptying properly.
  • I was given a tank top by the hospital that Velcro’s up the front since I couldn’t lift my arms above my head. I felt like a professional basketball player in tear away pants…or a Chippendale’s dancer. The tank also had a pocket on the inside to hold my drains.
  • The surgical bra I was given buckled in the front and had Velcro on the shoulder straps where I can hook the drain tubing to keep it from pulling.
  • The first few days I felt most comfortable in the surgical bra and an ace wrap snug around my chest. See exhibit A. Just a heads up before you scroll down. This is not the most flattering picture but I promised honesty, and that is what you are going to get. Plus I am more covered that most people at the beach.
  • The only real discomfort I had is from where the breast surgeon removed the lymph nodes under my left armpit. It really hurt to have my arm flat at my side. I was given a cushiony breast prosthetic with my post-surgical bra, and I was told to most people put it under their armpit to pad it. That by far the best advice I have received. It looked ridiculous but gave me so much relief.

  • My sister-in-law bought me a cute belt drain holder that I much preferred putting the drains in the tank top.
  • I was attached to 2 pain balls from the block in my back. They each came with a little black “purse” to carry them in. So if you are counting that is 6 lines coming out of my body. A clumsy person’s nightmare.
  • My pain was so well controlled by the OnQ pain balls that I didn’t have any need for narcotics. I took tramadol and ibuprofen 800mg around the clock for the first two days to stay ahead of the pain. After that, it was just ibuprofen here and there!
  • Believe it or not, ice packs were my best friend and the best pain reliever in my arsenal.

My incentive spirometer: as a nurse, I understand the the importance of the device, but as a patient who has had 2 surgeon digging around in her chest for 6 hours…this thing is AWFUL!

  • I slept in my parents’ recliner the first few nights. The recliner is the only place that was comfortable to sleep. It was 3.5 weeks before I slept in my bed or on my side due to the discomfort.
  • I slept (and am still sleeping) with a pillow one of my friends made for me. I actually have two of these pillows. My mother-in-law made one for me two that was awaiting my arrival at home.

  • The sweet girls from work pitched in and bought me a Brookestone wedge bed pillow system and that thing is snazzy! I have been able to sleep in a bed and not just a recliner and it is much easier than positioning with pillows.

  • The first week was I was not supposed to lift anything heavier than a paperback book. Weeks 2-4 I was not allowed to lift anything over a gallon of milk. Well my baby 5 month old is only a whopping 12 lbs but I was still not allowed to lift her. This made it impossible for me to be left alone with her and someone had to sit on her on my lap if I want to hold her. That was the absolute worst part of this whole recovery.
  • Along the same lines, the best part of my recovery was that my mom kept Robbyn while Jordan and the kids were camping. I just sat with her in my lap and watched her sleep for hours. Not that she is spoiled or anything. If you are having this surgery I recommend getting a cute 5 month old to keep you company the first few days. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have surgery the weekend before a Harry Potter movie marathon on tv.

I mean, COME ON, she pulled the blanket over her head while she was wiggling around! This is high quality entertainment!

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for me. This may sound silly or mystical but it is the honest truth:There have been moments where I can tell I have been lifted up in prayer. My burden lessened, I felt a peace, things just seemed easier for a moment, the pain subsided, I felt the comfort…all because of you prayers to our God in Heaven. The thought that people have taken the time out of their busy days to pray to God on my behalf, is so, so humbling. I know I have quoted this verse more than once but I think that we do often underestimate what God is capable of doing.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21

He has done immeasurably more than I could have asked for!

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God is good…all the time?

Comfort. We, as Americans, have it made. We have so many comforts to ease our difficult lives. We have heated seats in our cars. Shoot! We have heated steering wheels in our cars. We have koozies, so our precious hands don’t get cold while we hold our canned beverages. There is even a whole category of food dedicated to “comfort.” We buy sweaters for our pets, so heaven forbid they aren’t uncomfortable either! We exercise in an air-conditioned building so we won’t have to suffer while we burn calories.

Robbyn in this picture: the definition of comfort…milk coma

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think that it’s terrible to be comfortable. (I sit in workout pants that may never see a workout and a hoodie in my lazy boy recliner as I write this blog). But sometimes I think that our personal “milk coma” gets in the way of what God has planned for us. I think we can place too much importance on comfort and ignore God’s plan because what he wants us to do might make us uncomfortable. So the topic of this post might not be a very popular idea, but I think our suffering is part of God’s plan.

One of my favorite teachers to listen to is Matt Chandler; a well-known pastor of The Village Church in Texas. He proclaimed this bold statement, “Comfort is the god of our generation, so suffering is seen as a problem to be solved, not as a providence from God.”

Wow.

Did this statement slap you in the face?

It did me.

If you say no, I think you might be lying.

Is it possible that a good God would allow me to suffer?

Yes.

Do I know why?

No. Not for sure. But I have some guesses.

I think most of the time he allows suffering in our lives for three reasons.

(There may be many more reasons than that, but I have never claimed to be a theologian. These reasons are based on my personal observations).

1. God wants to get our attention

I think that many times God speaks softly into our hearts and minds and to guide us in the direction he wants us to go. I also think in today’s world we are so ruled by comfort that we don’t want to believe that God could be leading us toward a less comfortable path. So we may choose to ignore his urging causing God to have to shout to get our attention. His shouting may come in the form of suffering. I don’t know about you, but I have a much stronger prayer life and spend more time in my bible when things aren’t going the way I had planned in my life. When things are going great, and I am comfortable I get complacent and take for granted the things God has done and need a wake-up call to push me in the right direction.

2. God wants to grow us

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:10‬

Take a second and think about elementary school children who don’t see the point in learning proper punctuation. (This analogy is ironic because I still haven’t managed the proper punctuation thing yet…) They don’t see the need to learn this skill. It seems pointless. It’s not fun. Why must they spend countless hours feeling like a prisoner in class, wishing they were playing outside? The children might feel this painful lesson will never end and may just try to go through the motions forgetting what they heard once recess rolls around.

You know as a parent that even though they don’t understand it now, later they will thank you for making them learn this vital skill.

This skill will make them more successful and a more employable person someday. This skill may equip them to follow their passion later on in life. You also know as their parent, that what the child wants all the time is not what’s best for them. You know that this seemingly trivial skill to the child, is the building block for all of their future learning.

I think if we look at it from that perspective it helps us understand why God would allow suffering in our lives. He can see past the “here and now” and knows what we need to learn to equip us for his plan for our life. If I didn’t have this cancer, I would never have had the gumption to start this blog. I might not have the intimacy with God that I do now. I would not have developed the ability to depend on God with my whole being when my world seemed to be crumbling around me. I would not feel the connection with David’s raw emotion in the psalms.

This diagnosis has moved me out of my comfort zone, and I have grown in so many different areas of my life. Even though, like a child in school, I did not want to sit through the lesson.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:17-18‬

I hate to admit it, but if I had not been through this season of suffering, I probably would have never learned these skills. I believe all of this has served the purpose of molding me into the person that God wants. I have to remember to do what Paul says in 2nd Corinthians and fix my eyes on the eternal, not the temporary. This time of suffering is only temporary and I need to make the most of it so I can be ready to do whatever God has in store for me next.

3. God wants to use us

Another reason God may allow suffering is to use us as a tool for him. We need to be careful when we go through times of suffering, making sure we are not turning it into a pity party for ourselves. That can happen pretty quickly and serves no purpose. (I speak from experience). We need to move past the self-pity and the anger and see what purpose God has for this suffering. I do not think that is always easy to move past the anger and hurt and I also don’t think that God gets upset if we are angry with him. But at some point we have to move past these emotions and figure out how we can glorify God in the circumstances we have found ourselves in.

It is possible that you are so hurt, angry, and broken with your circumstances that you may not be able to see any possible way that God could use your situation for good. In that case, I would encourage you to ask the people around you for help.

  • Ask how they see God working in the situation.
  • Ask if they see a change in you.
  • Ask how they think you can use this as a platform to glorify God.
  • Ask if they see good things coming from the situation.

Those people around you may able to see the forest through the trees, and you may be so close that all you see is one giant tree blocking your way. I think it’s possible the only reason you may be going through a time of suffering is for the sake of bringing someone else to Christ.

(You know the plan for the salvation of the world really doesn’t revolve around our comfort. Ouch. I know, it hurts).

Here are some other questions I think you can ask yourself in times of suffering:

Can you use your experiences to help someone going through a similar situation?

Can you be an example of what it looks like to trust God when things aren’t sunshine and daisies?

Can you use this as a way to have sincere empathy for others who are struggling?

Can you show the light of God when things seem very dark?

Craig Groeschel, another one of my favorite teachers recently came out with a book called Hope in the Darkness. It’s a book about suffering and hope. As he says in the introduction of his book, it’s a book for people in a very particular season of their life. I’m not sure I would recommend it to everyone, but if you are struggling with suffering or your circumstances in life, I would encourage you to read it. I sat down and read it in two hours the day it came in the mail. This excerpt from his book that really hit home for me.

When we are suffering through hard times, we take God at his word and believe that He is still in control, with a specific purpose in mind. So we keep going. Relying on Him. As we keep going, hour to hour, day to day, week to week, we become stronger. Our faith grows, our maturity grows, our trust in God grows. When we’re stronger, then our hope is in God’s goodness, not our circumstances. We learn not to trust our senses but God’s promises.

I have definitely learned through my recent experiences that emotions are fickle and God’s goodness is not. We just have to keep trusting hour to hour even in our suffering that God is working in us or through us and He will strengthen us.

God is good, all the time.

All the time, God is good.

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Bon Voyage Boobs

We dropped the kids off at the babysitter early Wednesday morning. I was having flashbacks to April when we were going to all of my preliminary appointments. Before April, Jordan and I never dropped the kids off together. He went his way to work, and I went mine. It really made me see how far we have come in the last few months. But today was the day. The goal that we had been trying to reach. One more item to check off our list.

It was surgery day!

I had spent the last two weeks trying to get everything organized at our house. I told Jordan 15 times where I had put everything he should need. It had gotten to the point where he just nodded whenever I started telling him where I put something. I had outfits lined up on the kids’ dressers. I rearranged the diaper changing station so that everything had a clearly designated spot. I made sure all of the diapers and pull-ups were in place, and their backups were close by, and the backup to the backups were laying out upstairs. I may have a problem.

Jordan, Reed, and Ryanne would spend the weekend at Versailles State Park for his family reunion. I packed everything I could think they would ever possibly need for their trip but I still woke up at night thinking about what I might have forgotten.

After surgery, My mom would be babysitting Robbyn and myself. Jordan and I neither one felt very comfortable with tiny Robbyn being in the woods for four days without her monitor and oxygen. And the fact that she seems to catch every bug that comes our way. Two of our three children were on antibiotics for ear infections, so I bothered Jordan relentlessly asking if they had received the Medicine. I’m not sure if you have noticed, but I am a teensy bit of a control freak when it comes to my household. I want things done my way, and I usually prefer to just do them myself. These next few weeks were going to be a challenge for me.

Well, post surgery I would need help getting dressed, so I would be in no position to be dressing (more like wrestling) two toddlers and a baby. Things were going to be very much out of my hands.

With the house in order and the kids dropped off, it was time to make our way to the breast center…again. This place was turning into my home away from home.


I had to go to the breast center before heading to the surgery center. I needed to have an ultrasound, and a needle put into my lymph node so the surgeon could find it easier. Once that was completed, we made our way over to the surgery center where we were checked in, and the chaos began. The plastic surgeon came in and drew a mural on my chest with a permanent marker. She explained again what she would be doing and quadruple checked that I was 100% sure I wanted to go to a much smaller cup size than my original chest.

Ready for surgery with my trusty baseball cap!


The Room I successfully destroyed in less than 24 hours.


I had three nurses in the room getting me ready and one preparing my anesthesia block. It took 3 different people and an anesthesiologist to get my IV in since chemo has taken a toll on my veins and my left arm is off limits for the rest of my life. The anesthesiologist gave me some Versed and Fentanyl to relax me while he performed the nerve block. He actually did two. I had one either side of my spinal column on my upper back.

After my block, I was whisked away to nuclear medicine to have a tracer injected in my left breast. They used a probe in surgery to see if the tracer travels to the lymph nodes. Once I was returned to the surgery preop room, my breast surgeon came in to ask if I had any questions, but with the information overload of the day, no questions came to mind. My official surgery consent read: bilateral mastectomy, sentinel node, right port removal, bilateral breast reconstruction with tissue expanders. Whew. A mouthful for sure.

Before going back, we prayed as a family my parents, my in-laws, and Jordan. We prayed for the surgeons’ hands and skill. Prayed that God would carry me through the surgery just as he carried me through this journey thus far. Prayed that the lymph nodes would be negative. Prayed for a quick recovery. And as hard is it was, I prayed that God’s will, whatever that might be, be done. Knowing this was all in God’s hands, I had an overwhelming sense of peace as they wheeled to the operating room.

The breast surgeon started on my left breast (the one that had the tumor). Took out the area where the tumor had been and had a pathologist look at it to see if the edges of the area she took out were free of cancer cells. Then she used the probe to check lymph nodes in the left side. The tracer traveled to the sixth lymph node, so the surgeon took all six of those out and had the pathologist look at them to see if they contained cancerous cells. And they were free of cancer cells as well.

Now, these specimens get sent to a lab where they undergo rigorous testing to see if there are cancer cells in them. This is called the permanent pathology and it more accurate than the test that was completed during the surgery. We would get the final results in 7 to 10 days.

Again with the waiting…

Next up was the plastic surgeon. She put in tissue expanders. Since the breast surgeon removed all of my breast tissue, my skin will need to be slowly stretched before I can have permanent implants. The tissue expanders are, I guess you can say, placeholders. They start off empty, but they have a port in them where saline can be injected into them in the office to slowly stretch my skin before the permanent implants can put in. (This sounds painful to me but who knows. I will have to get back to you all on that!) The plastic surgeon was able to use all of my own tissue since I had a larger chest, to begin with. She didn’t have to use an artificial graft but instead used MANY, MANY sutures.

The surgery took about six hours and all in all, was a success. Although, the last thing I remember is the nasty smelling gas and the nurse’s hand rubbing my shoulder telling me they would all take good care of me. After that, the next thing I knew I was back in my room with my family staring at me and my now very flat chest!

I will post more about recovery and the process of the tissue expanders in future posts! This is a pretty lengthy process and requires two surgeries to complete the reconstruction, and I don’t want to leave anything out!

Thanks for following along as I document my journey!!


Ready to break out! Can you spot my drains?

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Home Sweet Home

I love our home! We have a list a mile long of home improvement projects we want to start or finish. Some are small like painting or finally putting the trim up in our bathroom that has was “remodeled” two years ago. Other projects are much more significant, like knocking out walls, replacing windows, building a gigantic deck. And you can’t have a gigantic deck without a pergola. And we can’t have a gigantic deck and a pergola without a brick oven. And So on and so forth.

Jordan and I like to sit on our front porch and dream and plan about all of the projects we want to complete to make it the perfect home.

Our home sweet home

We love our pond!

Our girls: Sweetpea and Queenie

Lately, I have been thinking that I should be more of doing what Matthew says in chapter 6, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

My “heart” should be in sharing the love of God and making sure that every decision our family makes, is made with consideration to its impact on eternity. Decisions that impact our childrens’ eternal future not just their earthly future. Sure, I want them to get a good education and have successful careers; but at what cost? What good is any of that, if Jordan and I have not instilled a love for God into their hearts. What good is a successful career, if we have not made sure they have secured a place in heaven. I only have my children in the home for 18 years, and I should be using every opportunity I get to talk to my children about Jesus. I want to make that a normal part of conversation in our home. I want us to be a praying family. And no, not just at dinner and bedtime.

I should be spending at least as much time investing in our eternal future than in my physical home. I need to stop focusing on how to perfect our house because it is just my temporary lodging. I will live in our home for maybe 50 years. And what are 50 years in comparison to eternity? Not even a blink of an eye. I need to be investing in my eternal home. I should be studying my bible, teaching my kids, inviting the lost and hurting to church and sharing the love of God with them.

I have been given a new outlook on life. I have been reminded over and over again that this world is not my home. This life is temporary. I believe it is a good thing to have some sense of urgency about this. Not a paranoia; but an urgency that makes us want share the gospel with those who aren’t saved. We seem to think that we are going to live forever. You could die in a car wreck tomorrow, or Christ could come back next week. Are you in a place, where you know, you would go to heaven if something were to happen to you? What about your loved ones or your neighbors?

This falls on us. How are people going to hear the good news of Jesus Christ if we aren’t telling anyone? No, we can’t force feed them our beliefs but how can they be saved if they have never been told of or shown the love of God? The Bible is pretty clear on the conditions about getting into Heaven.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NKJV

“Jesus is ‘the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.’ Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.”

‭‭Acts‬ ‭4:8-12‬ ‭MSG‬‬

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Matthew 7:13 NKJV

I’m sorry if that offends you, but I feel I am doing you a disservice if I tell you it’s okay to be a good person, but not know Christ, and still have a place in Heaven. There is no such thing as a good person. We all are rotten to the core. None of us should be able to get to Heaven because we have all sinned and fallen short.

Enter Jesus: Jesus Christ came down from his throne in heaven, to live the perfect life that we couldn’t possibly live.

He committed no sins.

None. (I can’t seem to make it ten minutes without sinning)

He became a human sacrifice, a perfect sacrifice, to pay the penalty for all of our sins.

So we can get into Heaven.

Our list of sins has been blotted out permanently.

Talk about bargain!

He has made a way for you.

Yes, you.

Even if you think you are the worst of the worst of sinners and you think you don’t deserve salvation.

YOU DON’T deserve it; NONE OF US do!

AND STILL, Christ died willingly for each and everyone of us!

Here is how easy it is to secure your spot in Heaven.

1. Admit you are a sinner

  • I think if you are honest with yourself you can see that you are. We all are.
  • We are born little, tiny sinners.
  • You don’t have to teach a toddler to lie, or hit, or teach them the principle of “MINE!”

2. Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for your sin.

That’s it.

Seriously.

Now, granted this is the bare minimum to be a Christian. You will miss out on so many opportunities, and blessings if you only do these two things and never strive for sanctification (becoming more like Christ). If you are really saved and love God, you should want to do things that please Him. Just like you want to do things to please the people in your life that you love.

Now, I also feel that there are a lot of Christians that think that they are somehow “better” than other Christians because they volunteer at bible school, they don’t gossip, or attend church every Sunday while sitting the same pew. I do not believe there is such thing as a “better” Christian.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

It’s all about grace. Not good works. There is nothing we can do to repay what Christ did for us.

Anywhoo, My point is, we need to stop striving for the best things in this life, if we have not taken care of our eternal future. We need to ask what kind of impact are we having on other people? Will there be someone in heaven because you let God use you to witness to them? Do your children understand the importance of salvation? Are you showing people the love of God? Or are you spending all of my time and energy trying to perfect your earthly home?

All of this is just stuff. We put way to much stock in what other people will think of our stuff, so we want get nicer stuff. But when we die we won’t take any of this stuff with us.

I’m not saying you need to live in a shoebox. God has nothing against money. It becomes a problem when you love it and depend on it more than Christ.

I also need to do better job of using the earthly possessions God has blessed me with to do his work and bless other people. He has given us a great home and I need to open it up to others in hospitality. I need to make sure that I am holding on to my earthly possessions loosely and holding on to God with a firm grasp!

I am making it one of my goals to spend more time investing in my eternity and less time perfecting my temporary home.

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Chemo According to Kari: Part Deux

In part one, I shared my experience with the first four treatments of chemotherapy: Adriamycin and Cytoxin (affectionately called A/C in the oncology world). The second set of 4 treatments was a drug called Taxol. I can’t say that the second half of chemo was any easier, but I can say it was an entirely different set of side effects.

I would like to clarify that I’m not a pharmacist or an oncology nurse so I will explain this next part as best as I understand it… I think I have this correct… I did have a pretty impressive oncology nurse that explained it to me.

The drug Taxol was the second set of chemo for me. It is derived from the bark of the Yew Tree. It is a drug that has to be mixed in a different carrier that the human body can absorb. Many people have an allergic reaction while receiving Taxol and it turns out; the reaction is not from the Taxol itself but from the carrier used to help the body absorb the drug.

With the first round of chemo, the A/C, I received premedication that would help combat the nausea. With Taxol, extreme nausea isn’t a common side effect like it is with the A/C, so the pre-meds given are to help fight the allergic reactions it causes.

What this meant for me: the nurse stayed in the room for the first 15 minutes to make sure I didn’t have any flushing, heart palpitations, trouble breathing and probably many other side effects they didn’t want me to worry about. Being the nurse that I am, I asked; “So if I have an allergic reaction, will I not receive the Taxol anymore?”

No. They still give it to you. They just give you more premeds to offset the allergic reaction. Comforting right?

But the nurses are great and observed for a reaction. She watched me very closely. Probably because I had an allergic reaction to one of the anti-nausea medications my very first chemo and didn’t tell anyone I was having symptoms. But seriously! Wouldn’t it seem suspicious if I had a reaction on the very first day?! I had some “fullness” in my throat that later that evening turned into a more significant reaction. No big deal. Kind of.

So, long story short, my nurse didn’t trust me to tell her if I was experiencing any weird side effects. She wanted to have eyeballs on me. (Sorry Valerie).

But I was lucky and had no allergic reaction so chemo could continue accordingly.

The side effects:

I had no more nausea, no more mouth sores, no more fatigue… just kidding! I have three children three years old and under; OF COURSE I’M TIRED!

Bone pain

For real. My nurse navigator warned me I would probably have bone pain and if it got too bad, I could take some Tylenol and if that didn’t help to move to Norco. “Norco,” I asked, “How bad is this going to hurt?” Well, it hurt pretty dang badly. I didn’t have any pain for the first few days, but then I started to get more uncomfortable. And more uncomfortable. And you guessed it…more uncomfortable. I felt like I was 90 year old with awful arthritis. All of my joints hurt especially my shoulders, hips, wrists, and back. I couldn’t move very quickly, and no position was any more comfortable than another. My nurse navigator told me that the more I could tolerate moving the better I would be. So I got a membership to Planet Fitness and walked on the treadmill at a snail’s pace in my chemo cap (talk about cool).

I hit rock bottom one day and had to have my mom help me off the toilet. (Although, it was my fault for using the grandkid bathroom at my parents’ house with a really tiny toilet). Moral of the story: Don’t be a hero, use handicap toilets that sit high!

The good thing about Taxol is that it doesn’t affect the white blood cell count quite as significantly as the A/C so that I wouldn’t need the Neulasta injection (the white blood cell “booster”). This was excellent news because the Neulasta can also cause bone pain. So with their powers combined… could be quite painful.

Hand Foot Syndrome

This side effect started early so I can’t be sure if it was the Taxol or the A/C. I had blisters all over my feet. Giant blisters. Like the size of a tennis ball on the bottom of my feet. I also had them on every single toe. It was uncomfortable, but a sweet girl from work brought me some donut slippers, and I wore them proudly.

Low White Blood count

Hey, do you remember earlier when I said Taxol doesn’t usually drop white counts? Well, I have two snotty, germ covered toddlers at home and they infected Robbyn with Croup and me with a cold. So, I basically had the immune system of a 2-month-old premie. So for 2 out of the 4 treatments I had to receive Neulasta. Those were definitely the more uncomfortable cycles for me.

Neuropathy

Weakness, numbness, pain, or tingling in the hands and feet caused by irritation to the nerves is widespread with Taxol. It’s one of the side effects that the nurses and oncologist watch pretty carefully. They can’t guarantee that it will subside once chemo is over with, so if it becomes a problem they might have to adjust the dose to prevent permanent damage. Well, I did have quite a run in with this particular symptom. I had it in both of my feet and both thumbs and index fingers. It was a bizarre sensation. I felt like my feet were really swollen and like I was walking on pins and needles. I tripped quite frequently (I am not very coordinated to begin with), and I dropped plates, cups, and shattered my iPhone screen. I am almost four weeks out and still have some neuropathy off and on. It wasn’t a terrible side effect for me, just more of a nuisance.

Hair Thinning

What this meant for me since I was already bald, was that my hair actually started to come back in!! It is peach fuzz right now, and at the moment it looks white. My Grandaddy Bob had completely white hair by the time he was 30, so things aren’t looking good for me in the hair department. I have been rubbing every miracle ointment I can find on my head to make my hair come back. I have no idea if it actually works, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something.See those little baby hairs???

These toxic drugs are a funny thing because even though the hair on my head was starting to come back in, I lost a majority of my eyelashes and eyebrows while on the Taxol.

Chemo Brain

For someone who has had pregnancy brain for the past 4 years, chemo brain is like pregnancy brain… on steroids. I feel like I am in a fog most of the time. I have been mixing up words. I know that I am doing it, but I can’t help it. I feel like I am having a stroke. One day, I was trying to tell Jordan about the treadmill, but I kept calling it lawnmower. This has happened multiple times. I also cannot remember if I have just said something to someone; or if I only thought about saying it in my head. I have asked Jordan multiple times “Did I just tell you…”

Who knows, this may be exacerbated by a newborn who hasn’t quite figured out that the rest of us require more than 20 minutes of sleep at a time.


The Taxol was a 3 hour infusion, so my day was full. It took almost two hours to get checked in, labs drawn, examined by my oncologist, chemo mixed, and pre-meds given before the chemo was started. The pre-meds given are Benadryl and Decadron (steroid). Let me tell you; IV Benadryl is no joke. I was foggy about 15 seconds after it was delivered. I could feel my brain clouding, and it was hard to stay awake, much less carry on a conversation. I had planned on reading during my 3 hour tour, but the Benadryl made it so that I was seeing double. Instead of reading I binged Netflix and watched the entire BBC show Call the Midwife with my trusty Dunkin by my side.


Chemo #5Chemo #6
Chemo #7
Chemo #8

This was my last day of chemo! My awesome nurse gave me a card with the sweetest note. I have received the best care from every single person at the Community South Cancer Center. Everyone from the ladies at reception to the patient care techs, to the nurses and doctors who were all so kind and compassionate to my family and me. On the last chemo day, they gathered around the bell to hear me ring three times.

I am gearing up for surgery next week and I have still been feeling the residual effects of the chemotherapy. I still tire out pretty easily and physically I am weaker than I ever have been. (Not that I was cross fitter or anything to begin with!)

But I will not complain because God has been so faithful during my chemotherapy. I have not had horrible side effects. I didn’t get terribly sick. I never delayed or missed a dose and I got a full dose every single treatment. I appreciate the prayers that have upheld me so for and thank you in advance for the prayers during the next portion of my journey.

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Choosing Joy

Have you ever been fully engrossed in a tv show where your favorite character has something serious and irreversible happen to them. The plot takes a sharp turn, and you are left feeling… what now? At just when you think all is lost, the character wakes up and realizes it was all a dream. Their life hasn’t changed dramatically, and they can go on just as they were; just like you can…after you recover from the shock! I have to admit I hate this storyline. I don’t like spending a whole episode thinking things have changed just to find out it was a false alarm.

But I’m not sure I would complain if that happened to the storyline of my life. Some days I think this is all so unreal. Maybe it’s all a dream. Perhaps I will wake up to find I am still pregnant with Robbyn and we are both completely healthy. But that is not the case.

This summer has been a blur having absolutely flown by. When I look back and see all that has transpired since April, it is unbelievable. Our life is unrecognizable. If you had told me all of the things that we would endure in such a short time, I would not have thought it possible. But by the grace of God, we have persevered. We have taken it one step at a time. Step one is complete: Robbyn is here and healthy. Step two was completed two weeks ago: chemotherapy is finished!

Sure, my life would be much simpler if all of this really had been a dream. I was content in April. Our life was good. Our kids were good (most days. If you have toddlers you understand our love/hate relationship). Our jobs were good. No ripples in the pool that was our life. But I think that may have been part of the problem. We were so content with our life that we weren’t striving to do more. We weren’t looking to see what areas in our life where God could be using us. We were wasting the gifts that God had blessed us with. We weren’t striving toward sanctification with the fervor we should have been. (sanctification: a fancy word for becoming more like Jesus).

In many ways, this cancer has not only been a blessing, but also wake-up call. I have been able to see God’s handiwork in even the smallest corners of my life. I have decided to choose to have joy in every situation.

I’m notorious for nagging the daylights out of my husband and being upset that he has not completed my entire honey-do-list on my rigorous timetable. (Jordan, try to hide your surprised face.) But lately, I have not seen the need to be upset over things I would have blown my lid over a few short months ago. I’ve realized what things are worth getting upset about. When you think you are about to die, life gets put into perspective pretty quickly. I have realized the insignificance of things we tend to get upset about; the unimportance of the things we rant and rave about on social media or with our group of friends.

When I thought my days were numbered with my husband, I didn’t want to spend all of my time being upset over things that really didn’t matter anyway. Does it matter that my Pinterest-inspired kitchen utensil holder was not completed by the deadline I had given him? No. He works hard all week and comes home and loves on our babies who are begging for his attention the instant he walks through the door. I want to show him love and compassion, and I have received the same things from him in return. Our house has been so full of love and joy since April, and it took a cancer diagnosis to move us from our complacency to a place filled with joy.

I can see what a blessing each day is, and I have felt genuinely joyful this summer.

No. I’m not happy all of the time, but that is the difference between joy and happiness. Joy is given by God and is not dependent on our circumstances. Happiness for me anyway, is controlled by my circumstances, emotions, hormones, or quality and quantity of food I have eaten. (If I have gone 24 hours without iced coffee you can bet I’m not a happy camper).

“Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” John‬ ‭16:22‬ ‭

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalms‬ ‭16:11‬

I can have joy because of the hope I have in Jesus Christ, and these circumstances have allowed me to experience the fullness of the hope and joy that only Jesus can give. I may never have gotten the opportunity to experience this otherwise.

Choosing joy. Not how I would ideally like to do yard work but trying to make the best of every situation.

If the world looks at Christians and sees how upset we get when life doesn’t go according to our plan, why would they want to trust our God? (Especially when it looks like we don’t even trust him!) If we can’t have joy in every circumstance and we know the ending of the story (we win! Christ has beaten death! And we will be with him in Heaven!), why would other people want to hand their lives over to Christ?

It is not hard to have joy when everything is going according to plan. It takes work to have joy when your world is upside down. I believe that we have a greater impact on nonbelievers if we have joy when our future looks uncertain to them. But we have a secret… we know the ending…our future cannot be too bleak when attain heaven at the end of this life.

Like it says in Philippians 1:21, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Meaning if I live, I get the opportunity and privilege to do Christ’s work here on Earth. How cool is that? The creator of the universe wants me to be a part of his plan for the salvation of the world (But God doesn’t promise we won’t suffer here on Earth). On the flip side, if I die, I gain Heaven and shouldn’t that be the ultimate goal of our life? I get to be in Heaven with Christ, where I FINALLY have COMPLETE sanctification (We are imperfect and we will not be completely Christ-like until we shed this sinful human flesh).

I’m a pretty practical person. I’m not huge on theory and I like to have concrete tools to work with. So here are some tools that I have found helpful in choosing joy in my life

Find the bright side in every situation.

I promise there is one. You might just have to look past your unhappiness to find it.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:3-4‬

If you think you can’t find the bright side in your situation, just know that you will one day be able to comfort and walk alongside someone going through a similar situation.

  • Meditate on the blessings in your life
  • God has blessed you with so many things: your health, your family, your friends, your job, your home and so much more. Take time to thank him for all that he has done for you. No blessing is too small to thank him for. He owes us nothing but chooses to give us so much. If you can’t think of any, then you are missing a BIG ONE! Christ already died on the cross for you.

    “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.” Isaiah‬ ‭12:4-5‬ ‬

    Don’t stoop to the negativity of others.

    Negativity can spread like wildfire in the workplace, with your group of friends, at home, and even in your church. It is so easy to jump on the bandwagon! Believe me, I know. But I promise you will have more joy in your life if you steer clear. If you aren’t brave enough to tell them to confront it head on then just remove yourself from the situation. It may mean unfollowing people on facebook.

    “Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.” Proverbs‬ ‭12:20‬

    Do something for someone else

    We are all selfish by nature. So if things aren’t going the way you had planned, or you feel like your life is lacking joy, then I would encourage you to stop throwing yourself a pity party and do something nice for someone. I think the quickest way to get out of a funk is to help someone in need. Do it secretly, or without expecting anything in return. I think the people who have the most joy in their lives are the ones who are focusing on others. It may be as easy as doing something kind or out of the ordinary for your spouse. Do a task around the house that is usually theirs just to lighten their load. It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering. Although, the most joyful times of my life have been serving on mission trips in Mexico; with no air conditioning, sleeping on the floor, sunburnt, trying to learn how to mix mortar by hand. And the people that we were serving were such a blessing to me.

  • Stop dwelling on the circumstances that are out of your control
  • Give those to God. I find in my life there is a direct correlation between dwelling on things out of my control and the level of my anxiety. It is tough for me to give it to God but it also makes me pray harder and more frequently. I try to move from thinking of those thing and shifting my focus to the things that I can do. I don’t think God wants us to use “let go and let God” as a way to sit on our rumps and do nothing. Maybe you lost your job and you may have had no control over that, but that doesn’t mean you don’t go looking for a job because you are “letting god.” God gave you two hands to write a resume with. So use the tools that God has given you to work on the aspects of your life that you have control over instead of dwelling on the things that you can’t.

    The more you choose joy, the easier it gets.

    I think the inverse is also true. The more you choose negativity, the easier it becomes to jump to that reaction in every situation. Make it a priority to choose joy. You will probably have to stop yourself when you start to head down a path of negative thoughts or feelings. Pray to God to help you see the blessings in your life, pray for the strength and the wisdom to overcome negativity, doubt, and worry. When you feel like you just can’t have joy… pull from your personal source of joy. The Holy Spirit. He will be your joy and sustain you when you have none.

    “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah‬ ‭8:10

    So, my life may not be a dream like so many tv episodes I have seen, but I can have joy because the creator of the universe has written my story.