Bon Voyage Boobs

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

It was surgery day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready for surgery with my trusty baseball cap!

The Room I successfully destroyed in less than 24 hours.

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

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

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

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

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

Again with the waiting…

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

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

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

Thanks for following along as I document my journey!!

Ready to break out! Can you spot my drains?


Home Sweet Home

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

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

Our home sweet home

We love our pond!

Our girls: Sweetpea and Queenie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‭‭Acts‬ ‭4:8-12‬ ‭MSG‬‬

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

Matthew 7:13 NKJV

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

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

He committed no sins.

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

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

So we can get into Heaven.

Our list of sins has been blotted out permanently.

Talk about bargain!

He has made a way for you.

Yes, you.

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

YOU DON’T deserve it; NONE OF US do!

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

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

1. Admit you are a sinner

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

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

That’s it.


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

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

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

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chemo According to Kari: Part Deux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The side effects:

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

Bone pain

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

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

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

Hand Foot Syndrome

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

Low White Blood count

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


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

Hair Thinning

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

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

Chemo Brain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    Really Connecting

    Have you ever scrolled through your massive amounts of Facebook friends liking pictures, stories, memes? Posted vague comments on people’s walls saying “we need to get together soon?” Kept checking your Facebook or Instagram to see how many likes you got, as if it validates your existence? In a world, we are so “connected,” why is it that so many people feel so alone? Why does the suicide rate continue to rise even with thousands of Facebook friends?

    I’m not an expert in human psychology, in fact, it was one of the few classes in college that I got a B in. Nevertheless, I think that in a world where it is so easy to get in touch with others with a quick comment or like on social media, we use it as an excuse to not make meaningful connections with others. We use it as a crutch to stay at a shallow level and never build a deeper relationship. We claim we don’t have the time (myself included) but we have time to troll through all of our social media accounts and spent hours looking at cat memes. Don’t get me wrong I love a good cat meme.

    I have seen so many people come into the cancer center and sit in the waiting room, looking defeated and completely alone. I have wondered if they are awaiting test results or if they are waiting to find out their treatment options. It is very humbling and makes me feel so guilty that I always, always, have someone or multiple someones with me. My dad insists on taking me to every single appointment, test or, lab draw I have. I had to talk him out of coming to my six-week postpartum OBGYN appointment, because NO ONE wants there dad there for that. He still insisted on dropping me off at the door. He is definitely a helicopter mom, but I am blessed and wouldn’t want it any other way.

    I have had so many offers of people wanting to drive me to chemo and sit with me during my infusion. This is so wonderful, but it also makes me feel so much sadness for all of the people I see there completely alone. I have heard from many of the nurses how lucky I am to have such a great support system because it is so rare. The nurse navigators at Community are phenomenal and attend all of your appointments to make sure they are entirely up to date on your treatment. They know your plan of care and can answer any questions you have, but that is no replacement for the support of a friend or family.

    I’ve said it before, and I will say it again… this is why it is so important to have a church home. Sure, you can watch a sermon online or do a devotional at home alone or with your family, but that should be supplemental to church membership. There is no replacement for the unity you feel when you worship the creator with people who also love him. When you attend church, no matter how well you know the other members, you already have 2 things in common: Christ died for you, and it is up to you to share that message with others.

    “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

    ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬

    It doesn’t matter your social standing, economic status, race, political belief, or whether you pull your toilet paper from the top of the roll or from underneath. You all make up the body of Christ. If a church is made of members who are identical to one another, then that Church is not doing a very good job spreading the gospel. It is not meant to be a clique but a home base for your collective mission. It is a place to spiritually renew yourself before you go back out into the world.

    And no, for you skeptics, I don’t believe that the church is perfect. Not even close. As a pastor’s kid, I can tell you, I have seen the downfalls of the Church and its members since I was a little girl. That doesn’t change my feelings on the importance of the church. The church is made up of sinners, and we get off track at times when Satan and our sinful human nature intervene. But for every time I have seen failure in the Church; I have seen support, love, and compassion tenfold, because of the undeserved grace shown to us by Jesus Christ.

    I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I had an emergency, there are at least 50 people that I could call who would be at my door within minutes. The church is so more than a building. In fact, it has nothing to do with the building at all. It is all about the people whom make up the church. If Mt. Pisgah burned down tomorrow we would still exist and thrive because the people are the church. I can’t help but wonder if these people in the oncology center have a church family to depend on. Are they just part of a church that is not loving its brother or sister in Christ the way they should or do they not have a church family at all? Either way, I feel the Church has probably failed them.

    At most weddings, you have heard I Corinthians chapter 13 (“Love is patient. Love is kind…”) read so lovingly. What you probably don’t know, is that it is not written in the tone of voice it’s read in at weddings. Paul is ranting, actually yelling, at the church in Corinth because they were fighting amongst themselves, and are not loving each other (Fellow Christians, not even the nonbelievers!) as they should!

    “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, I have nothing.”

    I Corinthians‬ ‭13:2-3

    ‭‭According to my bible commentary, this use of the word love is not commonly used, because it means “self-giving love that is more concerned with giving than receiving” We should have this “self-giving” love for other Christians by more than just a quick thumbs up on Facebook. We should show up for them in their time of need even when it is not convenient for us. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t convenient for Christ to be crucified unjustly for our sins. (Guilt trip intended! I am a mom of three, remember?) I wonder if the people sitting alone at the cancer center had a church family that was just too busy to be there. We should offer our support in person, or through a call, or text.

    Each family in our church has a deacon assigned to them. Our deacon called us in the early stages of our cancer journey when were in the car coming back from an appointment and prayed with us over the phone. That act of love brought us so much peace. We should really pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, not just type it into a comment box on Facebook. (Not that it is a bad thing…if we actually stop to pray for them)

    I have had the incredible privilege of not only my home church praying fervently for me but multiple churches all over the country and beyond. I have churches in El Paso, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, New York, Alabama, and even Turkey praying for me. How blessed am I? This is just one advantage of church membership! You are not only a member of your church body but also the global church body. Do I sound like a salesman yet?

    I was given this beautiful quilt from the prayer ministry at a church in Georgetown, Kentucky. This quilt has several strings knotted all over the blanket and as it says above “Each not represents a prayer that was said for you.”

    Pictured above are some of the members of Olive Branch Baptist Church in Vevay, Indiana. They are praying for me over 2 blankets that they sent to me. I don’t know most of them personally but we have gone to church camp together for over 15 years, and we share a love of Christ. Matthew 18:29 Christ says, “Where two or more are gathered together in my name I am there in their midst.”

    These pictures may not mean much to you, but I believe in the power of prayer and that “love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:8) I know that these people have not just liked a comment on Facebook, but they have taken action and gone to the throne of God on my behalf. This is love. The kind of love that the world will stop and take notice of. We need to love other Christians (even though sometimes they are the hardest people to love!) so that we can show the world that Christ’s love has made us unique.

    I can’t help but think that if we exhibited this love and reached out to those in our church, making an effort to make others feel cherished, that people would extend that love to the world. We could have an impact on the rate of loneliness, depression, and, suicide by loving others the way that Christ loves us. Like my mom says, especially when watching TV commercials nowadays, “This world needs Jesus!”

    So, to finish my sales pitch, I would encourage you to make a meaningful connection with someone this week. Starting with someone in your own church family.

    If you don’t have a church family, I strongly encourage you to find one. There is a church on just about every corner. Mt Pisgah has a 9 (traditional) service and 11 (contemporary) service, and we would love to have you, as would many other churches in town!

    Contact someone you have been meaning to reach out to but have just been too busy to do so.

    Stop and really pray for someone that God is putting on your heart or mind.

    Invite a new church member out for coffee or play date to make a connection with them.

    Invite someone new to your church.

    Stop watching your cat memes and figuring out which Harry Potter house you belong to and make a real difference in someone’s life.

    ***If you are curious about my study bible here it is. Half of the page is scripture and half is commentary. I find it very helpful to understand fully what the text is saying. It helps me read scripture in context.


    The Gift of Giving

    As I child, around Thanksgiving my favorite thing to do was to walk around Dollar General picking out a toothbrush, a bar of soap, washcloth, candy, a baby doll, crayons, and coloring book. I mulled over all of these items carefully, trying to picture the recipient opening up the lid and enjoying all of the gifts that I could cram into one shoebox. It was for an organization called Samaritan’s Purse, and one of their many ministries is called Operation Christmas Child. They deliver shoeboxes full of gifts to children all over the world, who otherwise would not have a Christmas and they include the gospel message in that child’s language. OCC

    I absolutely loved being able to give to someone who genuinely needed it. The joy I felt in my heart knowing that I was making a difference in someone’s life, even at a young age was wonderful. I have felt the same way every time I have gone on a mission trip. I know that I have always gotten more out of the mission work than the people we are supposed to be helping.

    In 2 Corinthians 9:7 Paul says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or out of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

    Well, now it was my turn to be the recipient of the cheerful giving of others…

    And let me tell you, it is not easy.

    It is tough to accept charity especially knowing there is no way that I can ever repay the amazing things our church and community have done for us. I have wanted to turn down the assistance many times, but my sister and mom told me if I decline the help that God has laid on someone’s heart, then I am sinning. God gave people the compassion and the urge to help us, and I shouldn’t rob them of the opportunity to minister to us. Not matter how uncomfortable it is for me to accept.

    I always said that I would move away after high school and I would never live in Indiana, much less Shelbyville. Well, that didn’t happen. I went to college at the University of Indianapolis and loved it. When I was in nursing school, I swore I would never work at Major Hospital; where I have worked for five years, and I have loved it from day one. I never saw myself going to the same church as an adult that I was raised in, but we love our church, the teaching and have made the the most meaningful relationships there. After Jordan and I were married, we “moved away” to Greenwood, but quickly realized, we spent all of our time driving back to Shelbyville. Much of my life, I have taken all of these things for granted. Sure, maybe my life would look much more glamorous if I have traveled the world, but I now see the value in community.

    Everyone has been so kind to us since my diagnosis. The outpouring of help has been UNREAL and extremely humbling. I am sharing this list of things people have done to help us during our time of need. I do not do this to brag about the assistance we have received but instead, I hope this will give ideas of how you can help others going through the similar hardships. (Also, this is not a complete list. We have received so much help it is hard to keep track)

    Philippians 4:19 says, “and my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Jesus Christ.”

    And that is just what HE has done. He has met all of our needs through the generosity of the people in our community.

    It is the end of June, and I literally have not cooked a meal since April 5th. We have had dinner and/or pantry items brought over every single night since then. April and May my church and Jordan’s parents’ church provided meals and the month of June has been my coworkers providing meals. One of my sister’s best friend brought over at least ten freezer meals. Another mom from church, who I have been friends with for a lifetime, made us freezer breakfast meals. She has three small children of her own and no spare time. I tried to decline the offer, but she insisted they were making them for her family, so she just doubled the batches.

    Jordan’s granny knows I love to make cookies with my kids so she stocked our freezer with homemade cookie dough that I can pull out and bake anytime we want!

    A lifelong firefighter friend who has a wife and two small children, PLUS a mowing business has been mowing our grass every week; asking for nothing in return. Jordan doesn’t have to worry about yard work on top of everything else. How kind is that? He has two jobs and a family, and he is giving up his valuable time to help us. I feel like many of the things that people have done for us are to help ME out but him mowing our grass takes some of the burden off of Jordan. There have been many nights where Jordan has played mom and dad when I have been feeling crummy, and he can do both jobs without the stress of knowing the yard hasn’t been mowed. Every time I pull in the driveway I almost burst into tears thinking about his kindness to our family.

    A group of teachers from Shelbyville Central Schools, many of whom I don’t even know personally, collected diapers for us. So. Many. Diapers. I honestly do not think I will ever have to buy diapers for Robbyn. These diapers filled up the back of my mom’s pickup truck. TWICE! Another teacher friend has kept us supplied with formula from her personal stockpile and couponed to buy the special kind of formula Robbyn needed.

    Major Hospital employees have been so amazing to us as well. My coworkers in the surgery department had a bake sale and raffled off gift baskets as a fundraiser to offset the cost of our bills. They even collected an absurd amount of gift cards, monetary donations and gifts for me. They know my extremely unhealthy obsession with Dunkin’ Donuts, and have bombarded me with DD gift cards to buy my iced coffee! (Just a hint when gift giving to people in need sometimes the best pick me ups are not necessities. Like the DD cards!)

    HR sent a request out on my behalf asking for PDO donation assistance and people from all over the hospital donated their precious and hard-earned vacation days so that I can still receive a paycheck. Talk about generous giving!

    Someone even had shirts printed off and sold for me saying “God is able, We are faithful.” I have loved working at a hospital that values their employees and has such a strong sense of community.

    Our family friends, who are really more like an aunt and uncle to me, drove 3 hours to stay with my parents the week after I had Robbyn. They cleaned my parents’ house from top to bottom and help set up a room in my parents’ house that I have as a refuge if need be. She also baked me her famous “Rita bread,” gave me cans of food from her garden, and bought me a kindle so I would have something to occupy my time during chemo.

    Jordan’s mom takes me to get fluids every other Friday and comes to our house every Tuesday and Thursday after she works all day to give the kids baths so I don’t have to worry about it. (We made an occasional trip to the NICU to see the sweet girl pictured above!)

    I have even received cards in the mail that have no return address and are filled with gift cards. One said only, “I hope this helps.”

    Bass Farms sent me a gift basket of skin care products, mouth sore ointment, and burn cream for my skin issues during chemotherapy and radiation and I have to say these products are amazing! Apparently, they frequently send these to cancer patients in Shelby County!

    I have been gifted, chemo hats, robes, slippers, hard candies (for the gross taste chemo leaves in your mouth) devotionals, journals, skin care products, gift cards for gas and groceries, and so many other things.

    Someone at church filled the back of our car one Sunday during church with paper goods and cutlery so I wouldn’t have to do dishes. Another couple was doing their regular shopping and picked up extra paper towels, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies just so we would have extra.

    Almost every Sunday at church I have someone hand me a card with a gift card or check in it. Many times people just quickly slide a twenty into our hand after church.

    We have received offers of babysitting, house cleaning, driving me up to chemo, from many, many of our church family. One lady has even offered to do my laundry.

    This is one of the MANY reasons I think it is so important to be a part of a church family. They are just that; family. You have the support of so many people at your fingertips. (But I am saving my ramblings about my church family for another post!)

    Matthew 25:35-40 says,

    “for I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer, LORD, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you drink? Or when did we see you a stranger and take you in or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and came to you? And the king will answer and say to them, I say to you, what you did to the least of these my brothers you did to me.”

    So hopefully you have some ideas here about how you can help others going through difficult times. Just know that you are being the hands and feet of Jesus. Everything that you do out of love for others, is as if you are doing for Jesus Christ himself. What joy you will feel with helping others! I know moving forward I am going to be more aware of the needs of others and I have been given some great ideas on how to help. Any assistance we have received, big or small; monetary or giving of time, we have appreciated.

    We have been so blessed by all of the support we have been given. It is humbling to look back on the generosity of our community. We may not have traveled the world but we have been showered with love from so many people in our county. And I think that is much more glamorous.

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you.