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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.

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    Even When it Hurts

    Growing up in the Barlow house you better have a bone sticking out of your arm if you wanted to get out of going church. Even then, we probably would have gone to the ER and made it to church by 9:05. As a teenager, it didn’t matter if you were out until 3 am, your butt had better be in that pew before the first song started. Whenever we went on vacation, we always found a church to go to nearby. It was embedded in my brain even as a small child. Probably not everyone’s experience as a child but I am so grateful this was my story.

    My parents didn’t give me a choice about brushing my teeth or going to school, so they definitely weren’t going to give me an option about something that would affect my eternity. They instilled in me from a very young age that church is important. And do you know what happened? It went from my parents making me go, to my own personal desire to worship the living God. It’s not just about being there and going through the motions because you think you have to. Sure, I want to be obedient to God, but it’s so much more than suffering through an hour of church while your mind is on where you are going to eat lunch.

    I go to church to hear the word of God preached and to worship the God of the universe collectively with other believers.

    Psalm 66 says

    “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the Earth! Sing out the honor of his name. Make his praise glorious…all the earth shall worship you and bring praise to you, they shall sing praises to your name.

    We had Robbyn the previous Sunday and the next Sunday we planned to go to church and then go up to the NICU. Some might think that seems nuts to not go to the NICU all day but to me going to church to praise God that Sunday was everything I needed. God had given me so many blessings over the past week I needed to be in a house of worship and give God my praise. Louie Giglio, a well-known pastor, said this about worship “We are acknowledging Him as the source of all things, gratefully give back to Him what He has already so graciously given to us.”


    In the New Testament in Acts 16, Paul and Silas are imprisoned for healing a demon-possessed slave girl. Her master is so mad he has lost his profit from the girl’s divination, he takes Paul and Silas to the officials where they are beaten and thrown in jail. While in shackles, Paul and Silas “were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening to them.” God then sent an earthquake that opened all of the prison doors and unshackled all of the prisoners. The jailer had fallen asleep, and when he awoke, he saw the door open and assumed all of the prisoners had escaped. Paul stops the jailer as he is about to kill himself with his sword for allowing the prisoners to escape by saying, “Do yourself no harm for we are all here.”

    Paul and Silas were beaten in front of a mob for healing a poor girl, wrongfully imprisoned and what are the seen doing? Praising God! I love worshipping God, but I am pretty sure I would not be seen doing that here. I would be grumbling about being wrongfully put in jail or nursing my wounds. But they praise God publicly in the middle of their trial. The outcome of such an act is that there is an earthquake and not one of the men in prison try to escape when they had every opportunity to.

    They were such a powerful witness to the prisoners in such a short amount of time. It goes on to tell that the jailer and his family also accept Christ because of the impact of Paul and Silas.

    If they can have this impact, it makes me what kind of impact, if any, I will have on someone because of how I react in times of great trial. I’m sure Paul and Silas wanted to be beaten and imprisoned about as much as I want to have cancer. But just as God allowed them to be imprisoned, He has allowed me to have cancer. Without them being in jail, the jailer never would have been saved nor would the prisoners have been witnessed too. I feel the platform God has given me to use to share my faith is my cancer diagnosis, so how can I not praise him for giving me this opportunity I otherwise would not have had.

    Jesus said in Luke 19:39 if we don’t praise God then even the rocks will cry out. Even creation knows who its creator is and longs to praise him. We are called to praise God, in all circumstances, not just when we feel like it. I love singing praise songs in my car or in my kitchen, but there is nothing better than singing to the God of the universe in thanksgiving with your brothers and sisters in Christ to the one who has given us everything.

    Jordan and I have been in our praise band at church for years. We are not professionals by any stretch but we enjoy getting the privilege to lead worship at our church. One of my favorite things in the world is to watch Jordan play the piano. At home and at church. This song is my battle cry for this season of my life. It’s an amazing song called Even when it Hurts by my favorite band, Hillsong United. You should really take a listen to the real song but Jordan and I gave it a go with my trusty iPhone.

    https://youtu.be/b8Yho_5dbYA

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    Handle with care

    I have never given much thought to the power that words and actions can have on one’s mental state. But as of recently, things that people have done for me or said to me have changed my outlook on my whole day (either good or bad). I know I need to depend on the hope that Christ gives and not let the words of others have such an effect on me, but I am human and they do. These are things that I would never have considered before, so I thought I would shed some light based on my recent experiences. Please don’t be offended! I am pretty skilled at putting my foot in my mouth myself, so I can relate!

    1. If you have a story about someone you know with cancer… and they died… Don’t tell it to me!

    Even if you find the story inspirational, (which it very well may be) I probably won’t see it that way at this point in my life. All I hear is that they had cancer and now they are gone. Maybe when I am further out from this disease, I can appreciate the story, but right now I am not in a place to hear it.

    My radiation oncologist gave me some constructive advice. He said, “Your story is not their story.” My experience is not the same as anyone else’s and should not be compared to others.

    He also told me that this is the one time in my life where it is acceptable to stop someone when they are telling me a story about their great aunt “what’s-her-name” who had a long journey with cancer that didn’t end well. He told me to tell them, “I’m sorry. I don’t need to listen to this at this time of my life.” I don’t know what it is about being bald, but everyone has a story about someone with cancer they want to share with me.

    “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” Proverbs 12:18

    I have found that cancer treatment has a huge mental component. I am fine 96% of the time, feeling calm and enjoying my life, but the other 4% of the time anxiety threatens to overtake me. Most of the time it is directly correlated to a well-meaning comment from someone. I would just encourage you to think twice before you share a story about someone else’s cancer journey.

    2. Don’t tell them you know EXACTLY what they are going through because you once had a suspicious looking mole…

    I’m not discounting that it was a scary experience, but I’m not sure you know the level of fear that comes from awaiting PET scan results to see if your cancer has overtaken your body.

    I don’t even claim to know what another person with cancer is going through. Every journey is different and has its own struggles. Also, every person is unique before they are diagnosed with cancer, so of course they are not going to handle their journey the exact same way as anyone else.

    3. Don’t ask what their prognosis is.

    Nothing makes me want to vomit quicker than thinking about the different direction my diagnosis could have taken. I have been given a pretty great prognosis and I hate being asked about it, so I can’t imagine how unsettling it must be for the people who don’t have the best news to give. If they bring it up, great! If not, I would strongly encourage you to leave it alone.

    4. SHARE your success stories!

    I want to hear stories of survivors! I want to know there is life after chemo. I think of death and illness so frequently. I crave to know that life will begin again. So often we hear of the lives that cancer has taken and I think that sometimes it overshadows the MANY who have battled and won. It boosts my spirit to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have had one lady who has been through a somewhat similar experience tell me that this is a season of my life and I will get through it. I know she doesn’t have a crystal ball but hearing these words empowers me to fight harder.

    5. Send cards, encouraging texts, little gifts, ask how they are doing, and support them

    “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:11‬ ‭

    There are 4 different women who send me a card every week, and I love getting them. Most of them say “still praying” which gives me such a mental boost.

    I also have a few friends that text me every so often telling me they are praying for me or send me scripture verses they find encouraging. They remember what days my treatments and appointments are and text me to let me know they are praying or telling me good luck!

    I have also received so many small pick-me-up gifts. Nothing extravagant. But it makes me feel loved and lifts my spirits knowing that I am being thought of. So, shower your friends or loved ones going through trials with these sorts of things.

    Adam and Alli have been so supportive every step of the way. They have offered their pool multiple times; saying I can come relax and enjoy it anytime I would like. Alli even set up their loft as “sanctuary” of sorts for me to escape should I need it. She bought comfy blankets and put encouraging quotes on the walls and stocked the room with things just for me.

    6. Don’t forget them

    Cancer is a long journey. Mine is not nearly as long as other people that I know. Some people have years of treatment. I am almost finished with chemotherapy which has lasted 16 weeks. I have surgery in August, next 2-5 weeks of radiation, then two more operations to follow that. The road is long. I have been blessed with a wonderful support system who has been with me every step of the way and will continue to be with me, but I can see how it would be easy to forget that people are struggling. Once the shock has worn off from finding out that someone has cancer peoples’ lives go back to normal, as they should.

    I would encourage you to check in on the people that you know with cancer and other chronic illnesses to make sure they feel loved and supported. This is an area that I have failed at in the past, but now I am more aware of it. My sister is very good at this. She calls me every day on her way home from clinicals to tell me about her day but I know her secret… she is checking up on me; making sure I’m ok. And I love her for that.

    7. Be very careful about the phrase “I have some bad news.”

    Do you really have bad news? Is it life-changing news? I have heard that phrase before, and it ended with a cancer diagnosis. So yeah, I get a little panicky when someone says they have bad news and it turns out Walmart was out of the brand of yogurt that they like. DO NOT start a conversation that way unless it is really bad news. I’m not sure when this little quirk will fade, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets this way after the experiences that I have had.

    I also had about a month where the sound of my phone ringing sent me into a panic because it seemed every time I answered it someone was giving me bad news.

    8. Have a conversation with them that has nothing to do with cancer

    Talk of cancer, doctor’s appointments, treatment, and tests have overtaken my life. It is so nice to have a conversation with someone where they never mention cancer. I can have a conversation and escape my new normal. A few minutes when I can forget that I have no hair under my scarf or a port in my chest.

    9. Make sure they have something to look forward to or a project to work on

    This is more for a very close friend or relative. It helps knowing I have something fun to look forward to at the end of the week. Even if it is going out to eat, a concert, or getting a pedicure. I feel like it breaks up the monotony of dealing with the nausea, the bone pain, or the many of their side effects that accompany chemo.

    One of my most enjoyable times since this ordeal started was towards the beginning when Robbyn was still in the NICU. We had a spur of the moment evening at my sister’s house where my kids and hers watched Beat Bugs episodes in a pile of blankets. Holly and I just sat there not really talking but enjoying their company. It was absolutely nothing life-changing, but I felt that for a few hours, that my life had some semblance of normalcy.

    I have also found that working on projects helps to keep my mind off of stressors in my life of which I have no control. I have “remodeled” our mailbox and revived our front porch. Neither of these projects have cost very much or taken too much time, but they have served their purpose in keeping me sane! I like doing these projects and planning for the future. It helps me to see there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    10. Pray for them

    It’s the most important thing you can do.

    • Pray often.
    • Tell them you are praying for them.
    • Have others pray for them.
    • Ask specifically what you can pray for.

    I have friends who text or ask me in person what specifically they can be praying about for me. They pray for peace when I need peace or healing when I’m in pain. Knowing that they are continuing to pray to Jehovah-Rapha, “the God who heals,” on my behalf makes me feel so comforted.

    “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians‬ ‭6:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

    This list is not the gospel. Not everyone feels the same way I do, I’m sure. These are just some helpful hints from my experience, and if they can help someone else support a loved one with cancer or chronic illness, then it is all worth it.

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    In Sickness and in Health

    Do you take Kari to be your wife, to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish as long as you both shall live?

    On your wedding day, the happiest day of your life, you say your vows to the love of your life. And during those vows, you are probably only thinking of the better, the richer, and the health. No one is thinking of the worse, the poorer, or the sickness. I mean I assumed those times would eventually occur, but I certainly didn’t think we would be staring down the barrel of sickness five years and eleven months into our marriage.

    My favorite picture of the two of us and it was candid.


    Our wedding was perfect. I know most people think that theirs was but ours really was! I had it all planned. The bridesmaids’ dresses cost only $12 a piece, and I found my dress on clearance. (I refuse to buy things at full price) I had the ceremony configured that from the time I walked down the aisle to the time we were pronounced husband and wife was only 14 minutes (Jordan and I neither one are big fans of standing in front of people). For the Grande Finale, we had a s’mores bar; so yeah, it was pretty awesome.

    But as perfect as our wedding day was, our marriage has been that amazing and more. I swear Jordan treats me like the queen of England. If I ask for anything, he moves heaven and earth to make it possible. I can probably count on my hand the number of times Jordan has told me no. Granted, there are probably plenty of times he should have told me no and didn’t!

    I get all of these brilliant ideas from Pinterest or Joanna Gaines, and I usually get about 1/ 8th of the way through my project before Jordan has to come to bail me out. I have this extraordinary skill; I strip every screw I have ever put in. It’s one of Jordan’s favorite features of mine. He is the one who has to come in and figure out how to finish the project with only stripped screws to work with! Jordan especially likes it when I get the fever to paint, and more paint ends up on the floor and me than on the walls. He just shakes his head at me. But how else am I going to get the farmhouse look?!

    He wears matching Halloween costumes with me every year even though he hates it. He makes me laugh: all the time. He once drove 2.5 hours round trip to make sure there wasn’t a burglar outside the house I was housesitting. He always lets me control the remote. He goes to Walmart to buy me a chocolate cake from the deli section when I just can’t fight the craving. He will sit through a hallmark movie and only complain a quarter of the time. He let me pick our first dog (Jordan looked ridiculous taking a teacup chihuahua for a walk)

    Jordan and I have been on this cancer journey together, every single step of the way. We have had to make so many major decisions that I never dreamed we would be making at this point in our life. Is our life insurance up to date? Will we have to sell our house to pay medical bills? How should we handle our finances? Which hospital system do we trust with to care for our premature baby? Should I have reconstructive surgery? How much should we tell our children?

    Our wedding vows have definitely been put to the test but I think we are passing with flying colors. Our marriage is stronger and more Christ-centered than it has ever been. We have been together since we were 17 and we have grown and matured together spiritually and physically. We have grown through failures and successes. We have tried new things and created traditions. We even took on our own fixer-upper house before the Chip and Joanna were a household name, and I am convinced if you can get through a remodel with your spouse you can get through anything life throws at you.

    We have gone to church camp, Christian conferences, retreats, and bible studies together. He is a perfect example of a Spiritual leader for our family. I think it is so important to pray about decisions in your marriage, to worship together, and to study God’s word together. I pray for Jordan daily and I know he prays for me.

    He has been the rock of this family; especially recently. I don’t have too many complaints about chemotherapy, but I definitely feel more drained as the day goes on. Jordan is here every day in and day out, after working hard all day, doing everything that needs to be done with our house and kids. He gives baths, plays with them outside, changes so many diapers, fixes our air conditioner, does dishes and anything else that needs to be done without uttering a single complaint about the extra load. If Jordan thought chopping of his arm would help me, I know he would do it in a heartbeat. He is the prime example of loving me like Christ loves the church. The love Jordan has for me is a sacrificial love. I do not doubt that if he could bare this disease for me, he would.

    “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

    Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

    I can’t imagine having to go through all of this without the love and support of my husband. I count it a blessing because I know many people navigating their cancer journeys don’t have the support I have. He has lifted me up mentally, spiritually, and physically over the last few months. But I also know that we would have already crumbled under the weight of this disease if it weren’t for Christ’s love for us and His position in our marriage. Jordan and I are both in agreement that the order of importance for our life is as follows:

    1. God

    2. Spouse

    3. Children

    If these get out of order, I believe our life will quickly be in disorder. The Bible is pretty clear about how our life should be prioritized.

    Matthew 10:37 says, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

    If I put Jordan before my love of God, then I will rely solely on Jordan. He is only human and will fail eventually, just as I will. We both need to depend on God more than each other because God is perfect and will never fail us. God wants us to have him at the center of our lives because when we put him first, everything else will fall into place.

    Everything in our life needs to be looked at from an eternal perspective: including our marriage. How is what we are doing as a couple affecting the kingdom of God? Are we being a good example of a Christian marriage? Are we raising our kids in a way that leads them to have a strong love of Christ?

    Our marriage should not just be about the two of us. I want our marriage to be a tool that God can use to bring people to him. If we have a good marriage but keep it to ourselves are we really honoring God with what he has given us? We should be doing the work of Christ together. God brought us together for a reason and I don’t want to get to the end of my life and see missed opportunities.

    “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48

    Jordan and I have been given so much which means we have so much we need to give back by praying for others, offering support, serving together in and out of the church, raising godly children, being examples for a Christ-centered marriage.

    Sure, Joanna Gaines has Chip, but I have Jordan Justice.

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    Identity Crisis

    Up at 5:15. Get ready. Get the kids ready. Drop them off at the sitter. Go to work. Pick up the kids. Clean up the house. Fix dinner. Give baths. Put the kids to bed. Repeat.

    I was so busy. Running around with the kids, running errands, doing housework, and working 40 plus hours a week. Things have been so chaotic since we had kids and I honestly enjoy the chaos. And now…nothing. Since chemotherapy has such a significant impact on my immune system and working in the field of nursing is not the most sanitary of careers, I currently find myself jobless. No, I wasn’t fired, but I am on a personal leave of absence for the time being. My new job, it seems, is to attend an endless stream of doctor’s appointments and treatments. Jordan and I talked it over, and our number one priority is not our finances but instead, my health. We are not taking any chances. I have three sweet babies that need a mother, and I am concentrating solely on beating this cancer.

    I have had a job since the ripe old age thirteen, and my first job was working the concession stands at the Babe Ruth Park. It was definitely not a high tech operation. There was no square app like every single trailer at the county fair has today. We were sans cash register. I definitely built on my math skills that first summer. “Oh, you had 3 hot dogs, 2 drinks, a snow cone, 3 candy bars, and a pretzel and cheese? Hmm… yes, let’s just call it 20 dollars.” Needless to say, I acquired not only better math skills but also people skills. I learned how to deal with angry customers who have been sitting in 105-degree weather, and now some dyslexic girl at the concession stand overcharged them due to her deficiencies with mental math.

    Despite my rocky beginnings at the diamonds, I learned so much from my first job; like the value of hard work. My parents really instilled Colossians 3:17 into our hearts, ” and whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord, Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” They taught us that no matter what task we are asked to do at our job, do it to the best of our ability. We should do such a good job that others can see Christ through us…even if the job isn’t glamorous. Or should I say especially if the job isn’t glamorous? And I have always had a job since my not so glamorous snow cone crafting Babe Ruth days. I tried my hand at waitressing (Not a pretty sight for someone as clumsy as me!), ticket taking at the pool (Vampires like me can’t sit in the sun all day saving lives), babysitting, movie theater attendant, and student nurse. During college, I managed to work two jobs and still not fail out of nursing school.

    I have always loved working. For me, it is fulfilling. My job makes up such a huge part of my identity. I mean, I spend most of my waking hours there. I enjoy every aspect; from feeling like I have made a difference in someone’s life to the comradery with my coworkers to the gigantic warm cookies in the cafeteria. (Can I get an amen from my surgery people?)

    And now my life has taken a complete 180. When I look in the mirror in the morning, it doesn’t even recognize myself. My hair is gone, no unruly frizz and curls springing out of my head. In fact, no hair at all on my head. My eyebrows are much thinner and lighter than they ever have been. My skin is dry and cracked. Even though I feel great most days, I still look paler (as if that is even possible) with dark circles under my eyes. Is that from the chemo or the 3 children 3 years old and under? You decide. I see this very different person than I am used to greeting me in the Mirror.

    I used to take ZERO medications and now this person I don’t even recognize needs a pillbox!!

    I don’t have to rush the kids to the babysitter like I am used to; which is nice… but I feel like I am lacking the purpose and drive that I am so used to having. Every day is just a countdown. To my next chemo, then to my surgery, then to radiation. I feel as though I am just treading water until the next event in my life. I am so used to always being in a hurry with a to-do list a mile long. Now, I find myself wandering around Walmart to kill time.

    Don’t get me wrong! I have loved spending so much time with my kids, and I have chosen to make the most out of this time I have with them. I mean, who else gets a maternity leave this long? I left my first two babies at 8 weeks to head back to work. I have been blessed with an entire summer to watch all three of my children grow and play. I am trying my best not to let this cancer take complete control over my life either. We go to the park, library, splash pad, and play outside quite frequently. We look like we have escaped from the circus anywhere we go, between the yelling and the general chaos that tends to accompany my family. However, I am not going to sit and sulk about my lot in life when I have babies that need my attention. My summer has been fantastic, and I feel the draw to being a stay at home mom that most mothers probably feel. It is just trying to adjust to this “new normal” in my life.

    My recent identity crisis has caused me to evaluate my life, and I have realized two things…

    Number one

    I have always made excuses in the past for my lack of personal prayer and bible study time. “I’m too busy. I have to be at work too early. I was at work too late. The kids need my attention. The dishes need to be washed.” Sure, these are all real issues that come up, but somehow I still find time to troll Facebook or watch my DVR’d shows. And there are so many avenues to complete a Bible study in this era of technology; between the Bible app, Right Now media, and the Audible app just to name a few. I have the greatest teachers of our generation at my fingertips, and I don’t take advantage of that. The Bible app sends me a reminder every day which is a good wake up call for me. I can literally YouTube an entire sermon from Matt Chandler or Louie Giglio at any time, and yet I don’t. It feels like now God has heard all of my lame excuses and really freed up my time. There is no reason now why I shouldn’t be in my bible more than ever. It just a matter of making it a priority.

    Number two

    I have recently realized how much time we really waste worrying about our calling and spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 says, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:”

    ….For those who don’t know spiritual gifts are often talked about in the church. Most Christians try to determine how God has enabled them to serve him and others. It can be the gift of preaching, teaching, generosity, hospitality, prayer, encouragement, listening, baking, manual labor…the list goes on and on. Basically what things you can do to further the kingdom of God….

    Don’t hear me say that our spiritual gifts are not valuable. I just think we spend too much time “meditating on” and contemplating what they are when God just wants us to put our feet to the pavement and do his work. How did you find out what career you wanted to have? Probably like me… by figuring out what you hate or aren’t any good at. I knew I would never be called to the food service industry after holding the world record for breaking the most lanterns during my stint as a Cracker Barrel waitress. But I never would have known that had I not tried.

    I think it is the same for our spiritual gifts. We are not going to know what area we are gifted in until we try it. How do you know you aren’t called to teach the toddler class at church until you have wiped the snot off of their tiny faces as they sing Jesus Loves Me with more passion than we sing in the service?

    How do you know you aren’t called to lead a bible study until you dive into the word for deeper understanding not just to say that you finished your daily reading?

    How do you know you aren’t called to service until you have seen the appreciation of an elderly church member after you clean out their gutters?

    How do you know you aren’t called to cook until you lighten someone’s load by bringing a meal to a family whose mom is recovering from surgery?

    Your gift does not need to be glamorous to make a difference in someone’s life. “No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty” (I Corinthians‬ ‭12:22-23‬) Even if no one notices what you have done: God does. And one day you will receive an eternal reward.

    So stop stalling by saying you don’t know what God is calling you to do and volunteer to do whatever needs to be done. Think of all of the opportunities you are missing while you are trying to “figure out” God’s will. One of my dad’s favorite saying is “God can’t steer a parked car.” There is no reason why you can’t be praying for God to show you his will for your life while you are already serving others.

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    If you give a toddler clippers…

    I’m sure you have heard it said: “You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Well, that was definitely how I felt approximately 16 days after my first chemo. I have always, ALWAYS complained about my hair. It’s too curly. It’s too frizzy. It doesn’t cooperate. It’s a dull brown. Why couldn’t I have Holly’s shiny, perfect hair? My mom has told me my entire life, that if I have a problem with it I can, and I quote “Take it up with God when I get to heaven.” I must have complained too many times. I am now bald.

    The purpose of the chemotherapeutic drugs is to attack and kill fast-growing cancer cells. Well, it kills all fast-growing cells in the body. And can you guess what some of the fastest growing cells in the body are?

    That’s right.

    Hair Follicles.

    Honestly, losing my hair hasn’t bothered me too badly. For me, it is proof that the chemotherapy is working. I can’t see the drugs working on the cancer inside my body but I can see my hair falling out, and that is proof enough for me that treatment is working.

    Maybe it’s all of the free time on my hands, but I can’t help but compare my diminishing hair to identifying a Christian in the world today. I’m not saying that I can tell who is and who isn’t christian. Only God knows who has truly accepted Christ into their heart, but there should be outward signs of an inward change. The world should be able to identify that we are Christians.

    John 13:34-35 says,

    “A new commandment that I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    Just as hair loss is a byproduct of my chemotherapy; we should have byproducts of Christ living in us. These are characteristics that you have probably heard more than once: the fruits of the spirit. They sound simple enough, and yet we (or maybe just me) seem to fail to display these attributes daily. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

    These traits are rare in the world that we live in. A world where we argue nastily with strangers in comment threads on social media. A world where we are in such a hurry all of the time we scream at the person driving the speed limit in front of us. A world we complain about not having the nicest house, or car, or phone when there are people across the world that would be ecstatic with a tiny portion of our material possessions.

    If we can display the characteristics in our daily lives, we will stick out like a sore thumb. Just as I am a walking billboard for cancer with my very bald head, if we live in such a way displaying the fruits of the spirit, we will be a walking billboard for Christ in a dark and jaded world.

    Don’t worry I was preaching to myself on that soapbox too.

    Back to my hair; or lack thereof.

    It is a bizarre feeling when your hair starts to fall out. It started out with my head tingling. (weird, but I could deal with it) The next few days it turned into a slightly painful tingling but still manageable. I had some options. I could pull my fairly long, curly hair out in clumps, I could cut it short, or I could shave it completely. My sister talked me into to cutting it short so that I had an idea of what it would look like when it came back in.

    Exhibit A

    I had my cute little pixie cut almost two weeks when one night while Jordan and I were watching tv, I had pulled and picked at my hair until there was a feline-sized ball of hair next to the couch. The painful but manageable tingling had turned into a feeling of someone yanking my hair out. It was giving me a huge headache… so I caved. It was an amazing and peculiar phenomenon; once my head was shaved the pain went away immediately.

    One of my biggest fears going through this whole process is how to will affect my children. I don’t want them to see me as sick. I don’t want them to be scared or worry about their mommy. They are only two and three. Reed is a smart kid but still not quite at an age that he can grasp the whole picture. We have told him only that mommy has to take some medicine to make her better, but it will make her hair come out.

    Much to my surprise, the kids haven’t been fazed at all by the Brittney Spears circa 2007 mental breakdown hairstyle. They look at me the same. They still want to cuddle with me. They do not seem the least bit concerned about my appearance. They know that I am still the same person that I was yesterday and the day before, and they trust that my love for them is the same.

    If my children can trust me, a human who makes mistakes daily, so willingly, why do I have issues trusting a perfect God.

    Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” It doesn’t matter if my circumstances change. He still the same God.

    I got a little bit ahead of myself. Let me rewind.

    I decided I didn’t want to freak the kids out by walking in bald one day. We decided to let the kids be a part of my transformation. I was about to face the scariest part of my cancer journey. No, not being bald… giving my two-year-old and three-year-old a set of clippers and letting them help shave my head. I really wanted to try to make it fun. (I mean what toddler wouldn’t have fun when they are given a set of clippers and told to go to town)

    The pictures that follow are not glamorous. They weren’t taken by a professional. I have no makeup on…holding my kids’ fruit snacks…in front of our bathroom. This is not staged to be Instagram perfect. This is documentation of our REAL life experience with cancer.

    Jordan making the ceremonial first pass of the clippers

    Ryanne’s turn!
    Reed getting his turn. (Notice the bald spot on my right side)

    The aftermath.

    I would consider our head shaving party a success. The kids had fun!

    Once we were done Ryanne even shouted it was her turn to shave HER head!

    So naturally, we have locked up the clippers.

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    Granny’s Card

    When you think of a grandma probably think of lady baking up a storm in the kitchen, sharing secret family recipes, maybe canning fresh food from the garden or quilting marvelous blankets you can pass down to your children. Well, this was not exactly my experience. One of my grandmas had a stroke when I was very young, and I only knew her personality post-stroke. My mom tells me she was a brilliant and strong woman. I knew her as witty, funny, sarcastic, and sometimes socially inappropriate Grandma Jean. I loved spending time with her because she was so much fun! With my other grandma, I learned the proper way to set a formal table and arrange guests for a dinner, to properly organizing your clothing and jewelry, but she could also destroy me in Words with Friends.

    My relationships with my grandmothers were probably not what most experience, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. They were both college graduates in a time when that was uncommon. Both were strong, intelligent women who were passionate about teaching. They both loved me fiercely. The one thing that I never really appreciated until after they passed on, was the fact that I always knew they were praying for me. Everyday. Sometimes more than that. My grandma Joy called my sister and me frequently to ask how she could be praying for us. My Grandma Jean was pretty limited after her strokes, but even she had a prayer list on her kitchen table (a mile long) that I was always on, and she told me she prayed for me every day. No, they didn’t pass down any baking or sewing skills, but they passed on their strong faith in Jesus Christ by being excellent examples of strong God-fearing women.

    In the New Testament, there are really only a handful of women mentioned by name, but it actually mentions a Godly mother and grandmother. Paul says in his letter to Timothy, ” I am reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded now lives in you.” (2 Timothy 1:5) Now, don’t hear me say if your grandma was a devout Christian that it somehow carries on to you and makes you a Christian. Each person has to make a personal decision to accept Christ as Lord and savior of their life to be saved. But how awesome is it that Timothy’s mother and grandmother were such strong women of faith that Paul mentions them by name and we know who they are so many years later?

    My grandmothers have since gone to heaven, but God has blessed with two wonderful grandmothers-in-law that love me as their own. Jordan’s granny is the portrait of everything I picture when I think of the word granny. She is amazing at sewing, baking, cooking, gardening, and canning. She is everything I want to be when I grow up. She knows when to hold her tongue and when to speak up gracefully. Both traits I am lacking! But the character trait of hers and my grandmothers that I am striving for the most is their rock-solid prayer lives. I have said it before, but my goal for this time of my life is to go from a worrier to a prayer warrior, like so many of the women in my family.

    On top of all of these other wonderful things she is known for, Granny is also known for her gift with greeting cards. She has a card for everyone in the family and for every occasion; birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. She always handpicks the perfect card for every person, and she underlines the words she thinks are most meaningful for emphasis. I have been the recipient of many granny cards, but she recently gave me a card that nearly took my breath away.

    The weekend we found out I had cancer, Jordan’s brother and his wife were down from Illinois, and we were having a birthday party for their son Wes and our daughter Ryanne, who were born only 16 days apart. We ended up canceling the party and just having a small family gathering with cupcakes at Granny and Pap’s house. (I ruined 4 different birthday celebrations that weekend including my own. Talk about being a party pooper!) Granny took me aside after dessert and gave me a card that I didn’t open until we got home. The card had a quote from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. It read:

    “In every circumstance, God is working on our behalf. His heart is moved with compassion; his purpose is guided by love, his ways are paved with grace. We can rejoice even in the tough times because we have hope and because we know that God is working in our lives.

    You are part of a perfect plan designed by a God who loves you completely. You’re in his thought every moment–and they’re filled with the desire to bless you.


    Jordan’s mom came over the next night and asked if I got granny’s card. I had actually put it on our refrigerator because I liked it so much. This is a miracle itself because I am the opposite of a pack rat: I hate clutter, and I throw everything away. I am not very sentimental with physical things. I have no paraphernalia from Jordan and my wedding, much less any of our dating history. When we moved from our old house, I found my wedding dress in the back of our garage under the lawn mower! Clutter gives me anxiety, so most cards I get go into a drawer before I trash it on my next clutter attack purge. I absolutely love getting cards, and it is wonderful to know that people are praying for me, but I usually don’t feel the need to keep them…except this one. His mom went on to tell me the story of Granny’s card.

    Granny keeps all of her cards together and has had this particular card for what she is guessing 10-15 years. She told me she doesn’t usually buy a card unless she has a person in mind (except this one) and she doesn’t give a card to a person unless she thinks it fits them perfectly. So time after time, she has gone to her cards and prayed, and when she pulled out this particular card for someone, she could feel God telling her, “No, this card isn’t for them.” So for 10-15 years, she has been praying for the person who would receive this card.

    So that Saturday, Granny went to pull a birthday card out for Wes, and she saw this card. She said God laid it on her heart that this card had been meant for Jordan and me all along. How amazing is that? Jordan’s granny, one of the strongest prayer warriors I know, had been praying over this card and the person who would receive it for the last decade! She had been praying over our current situation for so many years without even knowing it. At this point, we were only 2 days into this journey and had no idea what my prognosis was. Knowing that she had been praying for us, for this time in our life, before Jordan and I had even started dating was staggering. Knowing that I was being front-loaded with prayers even before I knew I needed them was overwhelming. Knowing that God’s plan is so intricate, I can’t even begin to try and understand how he is orchestrating every aspect of our lives. The thought of it gives goosebumps, and I can be a pretty hard person to impress sometimes.

    James 5:13-16 says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call on the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the LORD will raise him up… the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

    My Bible commentary says “the energetic, passionate prayers of godly people have the power to accomplish much.” I can’t think of many people more passionate about Christ or more Godly than Granny; so how lucky am I that she is praying to Christ Jesus on my behalf! I took her aside and told her that I knew that my grandmothers prayed for me every day and with them now gone, I needed her to pray for myself, Jordan, and our family every day. She said she would pray “constantly.”

    I don’t know how people experience things like this and choose to believe that there is no God or God sits in heaven unconcerned with our daily affairs. I firmly believe he didn’t just create the world just to wash his hands of us and watch us fumble. I truly believe he is invested and concerned about our everyday life and our problems no matter how big or small. Psalm 139 says,

    “You have searched me LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You perceive my going out and my lying down; you’re familiar with all my ways…where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast.”

    These verses make it clear that he has his hand in every part of our lives. Even in the tiny, mundane decisions, such as buying a greeting card. God put it on Granny’s heart to buy that card so many years ago and again to pray for the recipient of that card. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and in complete control over every detail of my life. Over and over again during this journey, God has shown he is working in even the smallest details of my life. Granny’s card is just one more piece of proof.

    Granny delivering the devotional at a mother-daughter tea. As always wonderful!
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    Chemo According to Kari

    Chemo #1

    This post is a little different. I want to explain my thoughts on the ins and outs of chemotherapy so far, especially for people who haven’t had much experience with cancer treatment before.

    As a disclaimer: I AM NOT AN EXPERT. I am 100% sure this is not everyone’s experience, and all cancers are different!

    ***I repeat, I by no means consider myself an expert on the subject, this is just how my treatment have gone so far.***

    Sunday, April 15th, we had Robbyn and Monday April 23rd I had my first chemo. It was the first out of 8 treatments. I go every other Monday; so it’s a total of 16 weeks for chemotherapy to be completed. I call them my chemo “on week” and “off week.” Basically, I get a dose of chemo on Monday and spend the next two weeks recovering until my next dose. The first four treatments that I received we’re Adriamycin (AKA the “Red Devil” because it is literally bright red and TOXIC, it even turns your urine bright red) and Cytoxin. The second half of my chemotherapy treatment will be a drug called Taxol; which I will start next week.

    (That’s right! I’m halfway through chemo as of now!)

    Below is a text from my brother’s good friend and coworker. As a cancer survivor himself, he has been a wealth of knowledge and support for us during this process. He sent this text through my brother for my first day of chemo.


    My knowledge of oncology was very limited before I started this journey. Nursing school really only touched on it here and there. It’s astonishing how much I have learned over the last month and a half. In my limited knowledge of cancer treatment, I assumed I would have to sit there all day receiving my infusion when in reality that is not the case. It’s mostly a lot of prep work!

    When I go in for treatment they immediately get my weight and labs to make sure I am healthy enough to get the chemotherapy that day. They check to make sure my white blood cell count is high enough along with a plethora of other labs.

    After the labs come back, the oncologist looks them over and comes to examine me. She sees me before every chemotherapy treatment; listens to my heart and lungs, completes a breast exam, and asks how I am doing overall. (She is absolutely fantastic in case you were wondering!)

    Once she examines me, she verifies that it is ok for the pharmacist to mix my infusion. The infusion is weight-based and made for me specifically, so it can’t be mixed until they know for sure I will be receiving it that day. Once pharmacy starts preparing the infusion, my nurse gives my “premeds,” which is a cocktail of long and short-acting drugs to combat the nausea that is caused by the Red Devil. Those premeds run over 30 minutes.

    Next up!

    The main event: my chemo!

    The Adriamycin is pushed in 3 separate syringes over 15 minutes by my nurse. The cytoxin is next and it runs on an IV pump over 30 minutes. So its a ton of set up time for a short infusion! I usually get to the cancer center at 11:00 and leave by 2:30.

    All of these medications go into my port which I had surgically placed the day of my second chemotherapy treatment. They can also draw my labs out of my port so I only have to be stuck one time. They kindly gave me numbing cream to put on it before I arrive, so it doesn’t hurt.

    The port is quite possibly the greatest medical innovation in my opinion!

    This is my port when it is “accessed” or being used.

    One of the side effects of Adriamycin is mouth sores, so to combat that, the logic is to fill your mouth with ice chips to vasoconstrict (shrink the blood vessels) in your mouth to keep the medicine from causing sores.

    So, I can’t talk very well while the medication is going in. Not to mention, I look completely ridiculous.

    I’m not sure if it actually works or if the staff thinks it funny to watch me try to talk with a mouthful of ice.

    Also, after the completing four treatments of this, I will never be able to eat ice chips again. I associate the taste with the horrible taste of adriamycin in my mouth. For the past week, it has tasted like I have a wet dollar bill in my mouth… mmm.

    Another huge side effect of Adriamycin is a drop in your white blood cell count putting the body at increased risk for infection. I get a pump that looks like an insulin pump placed on the back of my arm. It has a medication called Neulasta, that automatically injects my arm 24 hours after chemo with a drug that kicks my bone marrow into overdrive to make more white blood cells.

    I have to call if my temperature is above 100.9 because it is considered a medical emergency. My oncologist said she didn’t care if it was 3 am I needed to call her immediately. If you know me, I usually have to be on my deathbed to call for a doctor’s appointment, so this would take some adjusting to.

    One more significant side effect of Adriamycin and Cytoxin is hair loss, but you will have to wait for another post to hear all about that!

    As you can see from the top picture, the nurse is all garbed up head to toe with protective equipment. A gown, special chemo gloves, goggles, mask, and a special bag to dispose of it in.

    It’s very comforting to know that the medication going into my body is that toxic!!

    In reality, I don’t care what they are putting into my body as long as it kills the cancerous tissue.

    I am also supposed to drink a TON of water. The goal is to keep hydrated and flush all of the byproducts of the chemo out of your system to make you feel better.

    This is easier said than done when you are already queasy!

    Just a word of warning: drinking that much water especially if you have just delivered a baby a week earlier, make sure you are close to a bathroom because your bladder has NOT recovered from childbirth.

    I go back to the cancer center every Friday of my chemo “on week” to get a liter of normal saline to rehydrate my body. I don’t really notice how dry I really was until Saturday morning when I feel like a new person from the extra fluid.

    I start Taxol on my next visit, and this regimen will be different. The Taxol is a 3 hour infusion. So, the prep work (labs, pharmacy, and exam) will be the same but with a longer infusion time. So, I am told I should plan on being there 5 hours. I haven’t quite figured out how I am going to sit still that long. All I can say is thank goodness for Netflix and my Kindle.

    I cannot complain because God has been so good through all of this and my side effects have been so minimal compared to what many others go through. One nurse even asked if she could clone me! My nausea has been manageable and my white blood cell count has remained within normal range for the first half of treatment. I think most of my fatigue is due to the newborn and 2 toddlers at home!

    Chemo #2

    Chemo #3


    Chemo #4 HALFWAY!
    (Another chemo side effect: hyperpigmentation or darkening of my skin. Notice my knuckles)

    I have been a nurse for 6 years and a student nurse before that for 3 years. Having no significant health issues my entire life, I have realized that I’ve never fully understood the impact good nursing care can have.

    I have taken care of many patients and many of those were cancer patients, but being on the other side of the healthcare system now has turned my world upside down. I am seeing things from the patient perspective that I have never considered before.

    Until recently, I had never been in the fragile position of awaiting critical test results, being unsure of my treatment options, or have very little understanding of the treatment I would be receiving. The teaching my oncology nurse has given me has been vital and could save my life.

    Feeling the nurses’ genuine compassion and having them taking the time to ask how I am really doing, has made all of the difference. Seeing these nurses care for me makes me proud to be a part of the profession, and makes me want to work harder to be a better nurse and patient advocate in the future.

    ”Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

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    Lights. Camera. Action.

    People were offering to help us left and right. They were praying for me and “officially” announcing my situation at church in front of so many people. I had heard talk of tee shirts, wristbands, badge holders. All things that people were doing out of the absolute goodness of their hearts, but the thought of being the center of attention on such a large scale, sort of made me want to vomit.

    I have always been slightly socially awkward. My dad and siblings can talk to people with such ease, and I usually end up standing awkwardly to the side, hoping people forget that I’m there. It takes a few times of talking to me to realize I’m not quite as awkward as I first seem. Only slightly!

    Don’t get me wrong; once we get to know each other, it’s hard to shut me up, and I have actually gotten much better than I used to be.

    I swear I did not order my own food at restaurants until I was well into high school; always having my parents or siblings order for me.

    To this day a waiter could bring me the complete wrong meal with a giant hair in it, and I would accept it with a polite smile.

    After this week, it was clear that God was going to pulling me kicking and screaming out of my comfort zone.

    I was going to be in the sympathetic limelight, and there was nothing that I could do about it.

    I wanted to keep my lousy news quiet until we had some answers, but that ship had long sailed. I was so worried people would bombard me questions I didn’t have the answers to, and I was not mentally prepared for that.

    Much to my surprise, it wasn’t people prying or drilling me with questions, but people graciously offering prayers and support, both physical and emotional.

    I had two options. I could keep everything a secret and decline all of this help people were offering so freely, or I could be upfront and accept these sincere acts of charity with as much grace as I could muster.

    Every time I saw someone from my family they were telling of another person or organization that had plans to help Jordan and me. It was so overwhelming. I didn’t want to put people out or have them think I was abusing the charity they had offered.

    I’m sure it has a lot to do with pride. I didn’t want to be the “sick” one needing help. I want to be the one helping others.

    In light of all of these people coming out of the woodwork to offer their help and my ever growing anxiety over all of this, the night before my PET scan I bargained with God, big time!

    I was so concerned that my diagnosis would turn into a spectacle with my name being plastered all over Facebook or my face on posters for benefit dinners. (These are an introvert’s WORST nightmare).

    I prayed and begged God for good PET scan results, and in turn, I would let him make as big of a spectacle as he wanted. (Not the most spiritually mature thing to do, I’m sure) Shoot! I would print off the posters with my face on them myself! I would accept the help offered to me, not turn people away, tell everyone what God had done for me, if he would just heal me.

    Well, the next day, as you know, yielded fantastic news from my scan and the morning after that…God made a pretty funny joke.

    We dropped the kids off at our babysitter pretty early that next morning. I hadn’t been able to see Robbyn the day before because of my slightly radioactive status and wanted to be there in time to feed her.

    We had not been in the room 15 minutes when a tall man in a suit walks in from ”marketing” and says they are shooting a video for nurses’ week and wanted to get shots of a NICU nurse with a family. Our family.


    It was quite a production. Lights. Camera. Action.

    Well if you think I’m not a fan of being in the spotlight, then you should meet my husband! Compared to him, I have the social graces of Miss America. I’m pretty sure most people think he is in physical pain during social gatherings based on the RBF plastered on his face.

    We are a great deal alike though, in that once you get to know him he doesn’t stop talking, and he is loud. Seriously loud.

    He yells all the time in the same tone whether he’s happy, mad, funny, or quoting a movie (which is a well-honed skill of his).

    I swear, he is so loud that all of our children knew his voice better than mine at birth.

    So, this marketing guy really didn’t know how horrible of a situation he was putting Jordan and me in.

    I’d done it though. I told God I would gladly be made a spectacle of and he delivered, very quickly I might add.

    Now, God has blessed us with free will and I had every opportunity to say no, but I was serious when I bargained with him.

    I wanted to be obedient, and see the plan he had in store for me.

    I have failed in the past when God has given me opportunities to share my faith and chickened out; using my God-given awkwardness as an excuse. I didn’t want to fail him again.

    There is a man in the Old Testament, in Judges Chapter 6, named Gideon. He lived in occupied Israel, and when God appears to him, he is cowardly threshing wheat in hiding, so his food isn’t stolen by the country’s enemy, the Midianites. God is coming to Gideon to tell him to raise up an army to rebel against Israel’s captors. God arrives on the scene and says “The LORD is with you mighty man of valor!” 

    God is calling this man to do something extraordinary. A man who is clearly not acting very bold or mighty. A man who is a farmer, not a warrior. A man who knows “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15).

    He is the smallest man, in the weakest clan, from the smallest tribe of an enslaved country.

    He has some legitimate concerns if you ask me.

    Gideon and I have a lot in common. Mainly, we are cowards, and we come prepared with excuses.

    But thankfully, another thing Gideon and I have in common is that we serve a God who sees us not as we are, but as the extraordinary people HE created us to be.

    God came to cowardly Gideon and called him a mighty man of valor. God saw Gideon as the marvelous creature he designed and gifted with the ability to do great things for God. Gideon didn’t even want to believe it when God himself told him.

    I could feel God calling me to be brave.

    To step outside my comfort zone.

    He has a job for me to do and I have been hiding. I’m not special. He has given the same calling to me as all Christians.

    Love God.

    Love People.

    SPREAD THE GOSPEL.

    (So if you don’t think you know what God is calling you to do, start there!)

    I have been so cowardly in the past. I have missed so many opportunities to share the love of God with people. To share how great my life is because of Jesus Christ. That I have peace and hope because he died for me.

    How could I experience this magnificent love and not want to tell everyone I meet?

    I mean, seriously, when I can tell the cashier at Walmart how to get great discounts at Dunkin Donuts but am too scared to tell them Jesus loves them… That is a problem.

    I think God used this nurses’ week commercial as a way to pull me a little further out of my comfort zone before he pushes me head first into the waters of something great.

    I don’t know exactly what that is, and to be honest, it makes me nervous but as Judges 6:14 says “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”

    He has sent me. So I will go.

    blogs

    Testing, Testing

    It was a blessing that Robbyn was in the NICU, because there was no way we would have been able to care for a newborn with all of the testing and appointments ahead of me that week.

    I would have loved to sit in the NICU and rock her 24/7, but I had a job to do: fight this cancer.

    I was discharged as early as I could be; 24 hours on the dot after delivering Robbyn. I called my nurse navigator at community. (She coordinates all of my appointments, testing, scripts, and financial assistance and she is AMAZING). I called to tell her I had delivered Robbyn the morning before, and was hoping some of my testing could be moved up so we could start chemo ASAP. Not that I was in a hurry or anything.

    Well, she moved heaven and earth and got almost everything moved up. I was discharged from St Francis on the 16th and had my mammogram, clip placement, and cardiac echo done on the 17th. Talk about service! The night of the 17th, the night before my PET scan, I was an anxious mess.

    I prayed what I have been for what seems hourly the last two weeks, “God give me peace!”

    For me, this scan was the most significant piece of missing information. It would tell us if the cancer had started somewhere else, or if it had already spread to other areas of my body.

    The next morning, I woke up at 6 am to pray, no, beg God for good results. Ryanne had wandered downstairs sleepy-eyed with tousled hair, crawled in my lap, and slept while I prayed.

    I begged God not to leave this little girl without a mommy, and for God to allow me the privilege of watching my three beautiful children grow.

    I also prayed for peace if I didn’t hear the results that I wanted and for the strength to keep my eyes fixed on God.

    Reed was clingy and could sense probably something was off. Jordan looked like he hadn’t slept in a week. How lucky I am I to have so many people concerned and love me so much?

    We got to the cancer center where I was registered, and taken back to a tiny room with nothing but a recliner and a small table. The technician started an IV, then left and came back in the room with a small lock box. She explained that I would be injected with a radioactive tracer that would attach to sugar because fast growing cells use a lot of sugar. Cancer cells are very fast growing; so they would light up on the scan and show if there were cancerous spots anywhere else on my body.

    She opened it up the small lock box and inside was a menacing looking metal syringe that resembled something they inject into the villain in a superhero movie to give him super-human powers. She explained that the tracer would stay in my body for 6 hours and advised me not to be near children.

    Well great, no seeing Robbyn today unless I want to turn her into a Marvel character.

    She went on to tell me that the tracer takes an hour to circulate through my body before they could complete the scan, so I would have to sit in this tiny room until then.

    It was then I realized that I had left my purse with Jordan, and asked the technician if she could get it from him. She came back to say, “Um…He and your mom went to the NICU when we told them it would be a while before you are finished.”

    Well, I couldn’t be upset that he was so smitten with a certain little gal in the NICU. She was so sweet and had the roles been reversed I would have done the same thing. He is an amazing dad with so much love for our kids.

    But with him at the NICU with my purse, I now had to sit in this tiny room in complete silence for an hour.

    So I sat.

    And prayed.

    And begged.

    Again.

    I begged God with everything inside me to take this illness from me. To let this cancer be confined in my breast. To keep me with my husband and kids.

    It was then, that I had the biggest epiphany of my 28 years. I was having a tiny glimpse into what Christ must have felt in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified. I was sitting in this room, in physical pain, worrying about being separated from my husband and my small children should this cancer kill me.

    The pain that I felt had nothing to do with the fear of dying, but rather it all had to do with the separation from my family.

    How much more awful must it have been for the holy, perfect, Christ to know that he would willingly take on the sin of the whole world (past, present, and future). On the cross, He took our place as the holy sacrifice, so that we could go to heaven but in the return he had to be separated from God the father while doing so.

    God the father is so completely just and holy that he cannot be in the presence of anything unholy (aka: all of us). Because God is so just, someone had to pay the price for our sin. So, Jesus Christ came to earth to live a sinless life, because we clearly cannot and died on the cross to “settle the bill” for our sin so that we can be in the presence of God for eternity.

    It has always baffled me why Jesus was so upset in the garden the night before he was crucified. He knew what was about to happen. He knows everything, for pete sake. It was the whole point of him coming to earth, and he knew exactly how the story would end. He knew that he would rise from the dead after three days conquering death like no one had or ever will. So why was he so distraught?

    “Father, if it is your will take this cup from me; nevertheless not my will but yours be done. Then an angel of the LORD appeared to him from heaven, strengthening him, and being in agony he prayed more earnestly. Then his sweat became great like drops of blood falling on the ground.” Luke 22:42-45

    I have been told this story in church over and over again but it had never “clicked” with me until now.

    He was so distraught because he was going to be separated from his father.

    The pain of knowing that he would have the sin of the world on him and would not be able to be in the presence of God, tormented him.

    Jesus knew the ending but that didn’t make the separation any easier.

    Just as we know the ending; as Christians we win. Jesus Christ has defeated death and Satan. We will go to heaven and be with God for eternity, but that doesn’t make the idea of being separated from our loved ones any easier.

    The pain of knowing if I died I would not be near my husband and children was crippling.

    It makes it that much more absolutely humbling to know that Christ took on that kind of pain…FOR ME, so that I can have eternal life.

    It was at this point, I began to worry since the tracer was attracted to blood sugar and hyperactive cells and maybe I should calm down before I have a panic attack and my whole body lights up like I Christmas tree on the can! (I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works but I didn’t want to take any chances.)

    I then prayed for peace…again. I wanted that peace that passes all understanding.

    It was then something happened that has never happened to me before. God started bringing bible verses to the front of my mind. No, that’s not a miracle and they are all verses that I have heard before but one right after another they were filling my head.

    First I heard, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10

    “The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still.” Exodus 14:14

    “I have told you these thing that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble but take heart for I have overcome the world” John 16:33

    “Be anxious about nothing but in everything with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

    (Disclaimer: I did not know the exact chapter and verse of these at the time)

    And then… I fell asleep in the chair, even though minutes earlier I was ready to bolt from the building. It was amazing the overwhelming calm that God had given me.

    This was peace, real peace.

    I had no idea if he would heal me but I had peace.

    The kind of peace that cannot be described.

    The actual scan was uneventful and very much like and MRI. As we left, my navigator said she would call as soon as she had the results. We went to eat lunch, then Jordan was going back to the NICU with his sister, since I had been banished due to my radioactive status.

    My mom had a few things to pick up, so I was going to ride with her to Meijer. On stop 11 road right by St. Francis, my phone rang.

    It was my navigator.

    She said she had the results of the PET scan.

    My immediate response was to throw up.

    I didn’t.

    She said the PET scan was clear! I asked about my lymph nodes and she said they were clear too! Praise God! He heard my cry! I could breathe. Really breathe. For the first time in two weeks.

    I called Jordan and he whooped and shouted “Babe we’ve got this! Are you ready to fight?”

    I love that man so much.

    My mom was immediately calling my dad, bawling at the intersection of stop 11 and Emerson…while driving, or at least attempting to drive.

    I yelled “YOU HAVE TO DRIVE!”

    This cancer might not kill me but my mom’s driving may.

    There can be no denying that she is my mother because the first words she said to me when she got off the phone with my dad were, “We need ice cream!”

    So by golly, we got ice cream!