When Oceans Rise…

This time last year, I was piled up on the beach. Waves crashing, sand between my toes, kids running and laughing, ocean breeze…you catch my drift. Sounds like fun, huh? Well, it was…other than the fact that my mind and heart were some 335 miles away. Our then 2 year old niece, Anna, had a tumor on her brain. They were going in the next day to do a biopsy. Regardless of results, the tumor would have to be removed eventually. Again, I was 335 miles away. I had been there for every surgery (small and large) she had since she was born. My nieces and nephews are literally like my own. My heart hurts just as bad for them as it does my own kids. How was I going to make this trip back home on such short notice, alone? Or…how was I going to be anywhere near functional and sociable if I stayed? My sister assured me that it was ok, for us to enjoy our vacation and my birthday (which was the same day as the biopsy). After deciding to stay in Florida, I couldn’t really take her advice and enjoy anything…so I prayed. We prayed. Under a beach tent, in our beach chairs, holding hands, we prayed. My father-in-law said the most powerful, heart felt prayer you could ever hear…all for our baby girl.

Early the next morning, the day of the biopsy, I was up with the sun. I am not a morning person AT ALL, but I had worried myself so much I couldn’t sleep. My husband and I decided to walk over to the beach to pray. I’ve said this a million times, but there is just something about looking into the great unknown, seeing the beauty of it all, knowing God made that, and He is in control of it…it’s absolutely breathtaking to me. As we stood there holding hands and praying, I couldn’t control the tears. After praying, I sat down in the sand as my husband tested out the water. I turned on Pandora radio and none other than “Oceans” by Hillsong United came on. If you aren’t familiar with Pandora radio, it just plays random songs from whatever genre you choose to listen to. And…if you aren’t familiar with that song, go YouTube it. My mouth seriously dropped. I knew at the very moment that God had this all under control, just as He has the ocean under control. A peace came over me like never before, followed by a rainbow in the distance. God is an on time God!

A few hours later, I got a phone call that the doctor decided the biopsy was not necessary at that moment. Anna, my sister, my brother-in-law, and everyone back home had already made it to the hospital, expecting the biopsy to be done. They had already prepped Anna. Everyone was as prepared as they could be, BUT, God intervened. The doctors wanted to go ahead and schedule surgery to remove the tumor, and would biopsy it once the tumor was out. Yes, we were still nervous about brain surgery…but one brain surgery was better than two. Especially on such a tiny baby girl, who had already been through so much, health-wise, in her 2 years of life. I, again, couldn’t control the tears. Under that same beach tent, we all held hands and prayed. This time, thanking God for this blessing…for intervening at the perfect time. Our God is an on time God!

Anna’s brain surgery was scheduled for June 17th. My family and I would still be at the beach, but I didn’t care what measures I had to go through, I was going to be there for her surgery. We looked up flights, I debated driving to Memphis alone (this still scares me thinking about it), we thought about cutting our vacation a few days short, etc. I was so confused on what the best decision was, so again…I prayed. Last minute, we decided that my husband and I would drive home the night before, be at the hospital in Memphis that morning, and as long as all went well, we would drive back to Florida after the surgery. The day came, our kids stayed at the beach with my in-laws, and we made our way to Mississippi. My sister, again, told us that it would be ok and for us to enjoy our vacation. I, however, took this as my “second chance”. I was NOT missing this surgery. We surprised my sister and brother-in-law that morning at the hospital. She may or may not have gotten on to me a little bit for coming home, but I know she would do the same if the shoe was on the other foot. Our bond is one I cherish with all my being. She told me when we hugged, “I didn’t want to sound selfish, but I really did want you to be here”. What she don’t know is I probably needed her worse than she needed me. She, besides Anna, is the strongest person I know. 

Surgery lasted a while, but the doctor finally thought they got all of the tumor. She was pretty positive that the tumor was benign, however, they would send it to St. Jude to do the biopsy. After making sure all was ok, seeing our sweet Anna in recovery, and saying our goodbyes, my husband and I made our way back to Florida.

A week or so later, everyone was back to reality, Anna had recovered well–considering, then…we got the dreaded phone call. The biopsy came back that the tumor was indeed malignant. I had always heard stories of that feeling you get when you hear those words, but never imagined it happening to our family. It causes a sick feeling I never knew possible. Here we were again, questioning and wondering. Why? How? What next? God, though. God showed us SO many times that He was (and is) in control! He has held Anna in His arms since day 1. He has calmed Anna’s parents when they needed it most. He has placed people in our paths just when we needed it. He has given peace and comfort to us when we didn’t think it was possible. He never failed us and He wouldn’t start now.

It’s been almost a year since this all started. It’s been almost a year since Anna started chemotherapy. A year full of ups and downs. A year full of sickness. A year full of figuring out what worked best. A year full of changes. A year full of isolation. But most of all, a year full of blessings!

Coming up the end of this month, Anna will take what we hope is her last chemo treatment. As long as the scans and lumbar puncture are clear, our little trooper will be done! Again, we pray! Always praying, because we know God is still in the healing business. We know what God can do. He’s never failed us, and He won’t start now.

If you, or anyone you know, are going through tough times…perhaps, been diagnosed with cancer. Don’t give up. Hold on. Pray. Believe. Trust God. Put your faith in Him.

“My soul will rest in Your embrace, for I am Yours and You are mine…”

– Aunt A

 

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Disney recap with Aunt A

Sofia the First just came on television, Kason started clapping, and before I knew it, I was getting a little teary-eyed. What in the world?! I’ll admit…I’ve cried during Disney movies before, but this was a first. Just the introductory song got me.

We spent last week at Disney World. It was also a first for me. Jared went when he was younger. Amber went when she was 5, but didn’t remember much of it. Westin, Kason, and I had never been before. It has been on my bucket list for quite some time, but I always thought it would stay there. Honestly, had it not been for my niece getting her Make-A-Wish granted to go…that is a box that I’m pretty sure would have never gotten checked off.

One reason I never thought we would go is because I thought we would never have the money. I mean, it’s Disney World. It HAD to cost an arm and a leg to even get a room. Then, we would have to buy park tickets, food, gas, etc. There was no way! BUT, there was! After researching, lots of Pinteresting (new word), and our cousins recommending an awesome Disney travel agent (FREE!)…we found that there ARE affordable ways!

If you have thought about it before, here are some of my personal opinions and tips:

• Go! Just do it. Don’t think twice.

• Plan ahead. Don’t wait until last minute. Give yourself a year or 6 months. Whatever. This way you can save, and pay payments, also. Not one whole chunk at a time.

• Get a travel agent. Trust me. There are travel agents just for Disney. You don’t pay them a dime, Disney does. I tried to plan myself and it will stress you out so bad. PLUS, you will miss important things you will wish you had known. (I can refer you if you don’t have one in mind.)

• Stay in a Disney Resort. We stayed in Pop Century, the cheapest standard Disney resort rooms. The only negative thing I have to say about it, the beds were not too comfy. Other than that, it was perfect. Atmosphere, pools, food, cast members, everything. You can spend more on resorts, but my view was…to save a little money, we weren’t going to be in our room, but to sleep pretty much. On the other hand…after walking so much at the parks, rest is very much needed. If you need a more comfortable bed to get adequate rest, spend a little more on a resort with nicer beds. If not, Pop Century will do the job. You also don’t even have to crank your vehicle once you arrive. They have a shuttle bus that will take you to each resort, and bring you back, for free. Because Kason’s stroller is so large, we chose to drive everyday, though, so I didn’t have to break down his stroller with each bus trip. Parking is free at the parks if you stay at the resorts, and if you arrive early enough, the walk from the parking to the gate is not so bad.

• Do the meal plans. We just did quick service meals, but it was PLENTY! We had leftovers most every time. You won’t have to wag around a cooler, money, or leave the parks to go eat. Money is on your magic band, the dining plans can be used at your resort, the parks, and Disney Springs.

• Arrive to the parks early. The crowd is not so bad then, meaning less wait time for rides and character meetings.

• Take ponchos and sunscreen. Every day. No matter what the forecast is for that day. It is Florida, you never know. Lol

• Wear tennis shoes. LOTS of walking.

• Get maps of each park so you aren’t wandering around, looking for a specific attraction or restaurant.

• Watch as many parades as you can, and firework or light shows.

• If you are limited on park days, I recommend parks in this order (our most favorite to least favorite): Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios (unless you have an avid Star Wars fan, then I would put this as 2nd), and Epcot. Or, get a park hopper so if you get to one park and don’t particularly like it as well as another, leave and go to a different one. If we ever go back, Epcot would be one that we would skip out on. I’m glad we went once, just to go…but, it’s not one I’d care to go back to (except to do the Soarin’ attraction).

• If you drive to Orlando and plan on stopping half way, book a hotel AHEAD OF TIME! Again, trust me! We were exhausted and by the grace of God, found a hotel with one available room (that was not outrageous). Never again will I wait until last minute. I was in panic mode.

• NEVER venture off the planned road map to explore a beach that is not well known (or that you’ve never heard of). More than likely you will want to kick yourself in the hind end for doing that. Speaking from experience. 🙂

• Dress comfy and throw your hair in a pony tail. Like I said earlier, the amount of walking you do is unreal. You don’t want to be uncomfortable. And, after riding some of the rides…your hair will be a mess. 🙂 You won’t be underdressed. I promise.

• Spring Break is very crowded. Choose another time to go, or be prepared. 🙂

• Wear matching shirts. Even if just the same color, with no design. It’s easier to spot your group/family.

Disney World truly is a magical place! There is no other way to describe it. It’s worth every penny, in my opinion. The amount you spend is up to you. It can be expensive if you go all out, or it can be affordable if you plan wisely. Start saving and go! You won’t regret it!

Walt Disney said it best:

“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.”

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

 

 

Teach, Show and Be…LOVE

Last night, I read about a young girl committing suicide as a result of being bullied.(http://www.fox5ny.com/news/214904117-story) It broke my heart. To think that someone else’s opinion of her worth mattered enough to make her take her own life. I just wanted to hug her and tell her God created her, and HE thought she was beautiful. HE thought she was to die for. But…for one: I didn’t know her, and two: it was too late. This young girl was just eleven years old. A year younger than my daughter. I can not imagine what her parents must feel right now.

Bullying is absolutely unacceptable. The sad thing is, it isn’t just kids doing this. It is grown adults, too. I hear stories, on occasion, from my kids that seriously make me cringe. Part of what makes me cringe, is the fact that I can’t do much about it. I can pray. I can show love to that individual when I see them. But, I can’t go stomping in the school, demanding something be done when everything is so hush hush now days. We are afraid we will step on toes, or cause a big stink. We are afraid that we will be talked about for “trying to parent someone else’s child” when we have our own child/children to parent…or, afraid our child will suffer the consequences for something we said. Can you imagine the guilt we would feel if someone committed suicide here at home over being bullied, we knew about the bullying, but just sat quietly? After reading this story, I refuse to sit quietly. It’s sad that it took the life of an eleven year old girl for me to say that, but it did. I am not saying my children don’t do this. I have always taught my children to treat others how they want to be treated. I once caught my son laughing about someone being called “four eyes”. This infuriated me. After scalding him, I said, “Do you remember when you came home in tears one day because someone made fun of your hearing aid?” That is the same thing. I am not with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I can assure you, though, if I ever find out about them doing it, they will get the “old fashioned discipline”…a belt to the hind end.

It is our job, as parents, to teach our children to be kind and to love one another. The best way to teach them, is to show them. John 13, verses 34 and 35 say, “A new commandment 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.”

You are loved. You are worthy. We all are worthy. Do away with any thoughts that you aren’t. You are God’s creation. He makes all things beautiful and unique. He adores each of us. He makes no mistakes.

I love the saying: “Smile, God loves you and so do I!” Enjoy your day and show some love! Even to those who seem unlovable…

For this child I prayed…

Have you ever been reading your Bible, something you’ve read and heard a million times in your life, but this one day you are like, “ahh! So THAT’S what that means”?! It hits you like a ton of bricks. God is speaking to you. Well…that happened to me this morning.

In Genesis, chapter 25, starting in verse 19, it tells about Isaac and Rebekah. Rebekah was unable to bare a child, Isaac prayed, they conceived, and Rebekah gave birth to twins. As I am reading this, I glance over at my sleeping baby boy and that’s when it hit me. “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:27 & 28) “For this child I prayed” – indeed I did!

We thought we were done having children. We had two; one girl and one boy. Jared was actually certain that we were done. I, however, deep down, wanted one more. (Which is strange for me, because I always said I wanted an even amount of kids so no one was left out.) I felt complete as a family of 4, and would have been totally satisfied if that was how our life played out…but, it wouldn’t hurt to pray. My prayer for a few years was, “if it’s Your will, Lord, for us to have another child…I am ready when You are. I will do my best to teach him/her about You.” Even though I didn’t run this prayer by Jared first (haha), I still prayed it almost every night. Little did we know, this time last year, God was answering my prayer. I’ve thanked God for this blessing every day since that little stick read “Pregnant”. After the initial shock wore off, of course. 😉 Now my prayer is one of thanksgiving, and hope that we will raise all 3 of our children in a way that is pleasing to Him. After all, they are His to begin with.

The study notes in my Bible says it best: “God wants to grant our requests, but He wants us to ask Him. Just as Isaac learned (in Genesis, chapter 25), God may decide to withhold His answer for a while in order to 1) deepen our insight into what we really need, 2) broaden our appreciation for His answers, or 3) allow us to mature so we can use His gifts more wisely.”

Prayer is a beautiful thing. Be patient. Be understanding. Know that God’s timing is perfect and His plans are greater than ours. Be thankful.

Oh..and for the record, Jared is thrilled that God’s plans are greater than ours. 😉 Kason was just what our family needed.

 

The Love of a Small Town

The past year and a half, it seems every time we turn around, tragedy hit our community. Each tragedy was different in its own way, but tragedy is just that. It shakes you from the inside out. It hits home, whether it be your immediate family or a total stranger. Whether it be a terrible disease/health issue, death, or a natural disaster. It causes an ache in your heart for those that it affected directly, and a knot in your stomach from the reality that it can happen to you.

I’ve seen cancer attack babies and adults, I’ve seen mothers and fathers grieving over losing a child too soon, I’ve seen the aftermath of a tornado that tore apart a whole community. Amidst all of this, I’ve seen people show up to lend a helping hand, I’ve seen people hit their knees in prayer, I’ve seen lanterns floating in the sky, I’ve seen different denominations come together as one, I’ve seen enemies comforting one another, I’ve seen memorial floats in our hometown parades, I’ve seen shirts and bracelets being worn to honor or remember someone (even in different states), I’ve seen firefighters come from a fire department at the bottom of our state to donate a fire truck to our very own, I’ve seen people gather together to put on different events for families that tragedy has hit, I’ve seen pure LOVE shown in SO many ways.

I may be a bit partial, but our little community is amazing. Small towns have their disadvantages, I know, but the good outweighs the bad by a long shot. Our town may be smaller than most, but the love is definitely bigger! No doubt!

We will never, on this side of Heaven, understand why tragedy happens. It’s hard not to question “why?”, “why did this happen to such good people?”. 1 Corinthian 13 verse 12 says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I am also known”. Someday we will see from God’s perspective, but in the meantime we have to remember to trust Him. Keep our faith in Him, and know He will carry us through. Even when we may not realize it, He is there. Carrying us through by the love of others in our small hometown.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving with Cancer

An American, family tradition. Thanksgiving Thursday at Grandma’s house, food galore, family you’ve not seen in a while, and SEC football. One of our most favorite days of the year. The one day we can pig completely out and not feel ashamed for going back for seconds…or thirds. Half of the room is red and blue, while the other is maroon and white.

Every year, before we say grace, we all gather in a circle, hold hands, and take turns saying what we are thankful for. We have a pretty big family, so our circle is more like a ginormous….shape….not sure what kind. Ha. Nonetheless, we are thankful for our big family. I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with this part of our family gathering, though. Not necessarily hate, but I dread it, because I know I will cry. Every year. It never fails. I am an emotional person. I get that from my Momma. Her Daddy always told her it just meant she had a big heart. So….I’ll not complain. My Granddaddy was a wise man. 🙂

Last year, my niece–Anna–had open heart surgery. It was April 2014. Long story short, she is the toughest little gal I know. She came through her heart surgery and recovery like a pro. I knew right away what I would say when it was my turn to tell what I was thankful for that Thanksgiving. God healed our baby girl’s heart!

Fast forward to June 2015. Anna had a brain tumor, and surgery was scheduled at LeBonheur. The surgery lasted a while, but once the doctor came out, she seemed pleased. They were sure they got all of the tumor and we’re almost positive it was benign. The tumor was sent to St. Jude for biopsy, though, to be certain. Again, Anna was a trooper. She recovered amazingly. A week later, our world was turned upside down. The tumor was not benign. It was a high-grade, agressive, malignant tumor called Anaplastic Astrocytoma. I don’t care how much you try to put yourself in that predicament, you are never prepared to hear those words.

I’ve always heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”. When one child has cancer, that same village helps her fight. That village is ever so faithful prayer warriors. That village is our strength to stay positive when we feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. That village is family, church family, and friends. That village is an amazing community. That village is Anna’s Army.

Thanksgiving 2015 is definitely one for the books. Yes, cancer is a horrible disease that I despise with all of my might. I hate so many things about it. I will pray for a cure until the day I die. However, it has made me be thankful for so much more than I ever have before. It makes me be thankful for the “small things” that I used to take for granted. It makes me thankful for that gray hair I found on my head. It makes me thankful for those nights my kids are driving me crazy. It makes me thankful that those doctors and nurses chose the career path they did. It makes me thankful for a niece that is tough as nails.

One of my favorite Bible verses is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

In EVERYTHING give thanks!

This Thanksgiving, I challenge you all to hold hands with your family, make a shape, and tell what you are thankful for. Think outside the box. God is faithful to us, we should be thankful to Him. Not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

-Aunt A